Chasing royals

Apr 16, 2007 4:01 AM

What is the most common way to wind up with a royal flush? How many of the cards are you dealt initially?

I have to be honest, as I sit down to write this column, I really don’t know the answer to this question. So, naturally, I set out to calculate the answer. I rushed the work, so hopefully I didn’t make any careless mistakes.

According to my calculations, the most common way is to be dealt a 3-card royal and to draw the final two cards. The second most common way is to be dealt a 4-card royal and to draw the final card. The third most common way is to be dealt a 2-card royal and to draw the final 3 cards. This all assumes a full-pay jacks or better game and assumes that you are using expert strategy.

I was hoping that the 2-card royal was going to be the most common because I really set out to write about it. It would’ve made the column all the more appealing if turned out that way. At the same time, there really isn’t that much to write about 4-card royals or even 3-card royals. The strategy for both is pretty straightforward.

Two-card royals have the most complex strategy of any type of partial royal. Playing them incorrectly can cost in terms of overall payback as well as reducing your chances for hitting the jackpot.

Two-card royals are categorized like no other hand. There are two factors that go into their categorization. The number of ways the Straight can be completed and the number of High Cards.

In regular poker, the Ace is a very powerful card. In video poker, the Jack is in many ways the most powerful card. If you were to hold only an Ace, you could make two possible Straights (A-5, 10-A). If you were to hold only a Jack, you could make FOUR possible Straights (7-J, 8-Q, 9-K, 10-A). The same would be true for Straight Flushes. In every other respect, the possible outcomes would be identical. Thus, the expected value of the single Jack is higher than that of the Ace.

This carries over to the 2-card royal. A 2-card royal containing an Ace is less valuable than one that does not have one. At the same time, because a 10 is NOT a High Card, its value is below that of an Ace as it cannot be paired up to make a High Pair.

So, in the end we have four different categories of 2-card royals. The highest-ranking one, we call V3 and it is made up of a JQ, JK or QK. Next, V2, is made up of a two High Cards with an Ace (JA, QA, KA). The 2-card royals that contain a 10 but no Ace are called V1 (10J, 10Q, 10K).

Finally, there is V0, which is comprised of a 10, and an Ace (10A). It is not surprising that the higher ranking 2-card royals allow us to make more Straights and Straight Flushes than most of the lower counterparts.

While the 10-J 2-card royal actually allows for the most possible Straights (and Straight Flushes), the fact that the 10 is not a High Card still makes the hand rank below even the J-K 2-card royal. The lowest ranking 2-card royal, the 10-A can only make one straight and only has one High Card. This hand is not even considered playable in many versions of video poker.

Next week, I’ll cover the details of how these 2-card royals should be played. The first step is knowing how to recognize each type and acknowledgement that a significant number of your Royals will start from being dealt only two parts of one and drawing the remaining three cards.