A strategy for 2-Card Royals

Apr 24, 2007 3:00 AM

Last week I started the discussion about 2-Card Royals. These account for between 7 percent and 8 percent of all hands, so learning how to play them is very important.

This is not the same as saying that high pairs make up about 13 percent of all hands, so you need to learn how to play them. The rules about high pairs are pretty easy.

Two-Card Royals, can easily be overlooked or overplayed. Before I go into the detailed strategy, I’ll do a quick review about how royals are categorized.

Essentially, there are four types of 2-Card Royals. Those that have the highest expected value are the ones that do not contain a 10 or an Ace.

Two-Card Royals that contain only Jacks, Queens and Kings have a higher likelihood of turning into a straight than ones containing an ace, yet still consist of two high cards. These are called V3 (2-Card Royal V3 or ROY2V3).

The next type contains an Ace, but not a 10. These are less likely to wind up as straights, but still contain two high cards. These are V2 (2-Card Royal V2 or ROY2V2.

The third type contains a 10 but not an ace. These are more likely to wind up as a straight, but contain only one high card. These are V1 (2-Card Royal V1 or ROY2V1).

Last, but not least, are the 2-Card Royals that are comprised of a 10-ace. These are the least likely to form a straight and have only one high card. These (big surprise!) are called V0 (2-Card Royal V0 or ROY2V0).

It is important to recognize the cards dealt to you and to categorize as shown above. There is not a huge gap in expected value between the V3 and V2, but one hand does slip in between — the 4-Card inside straight with four high cards. This is a Jack thru ace 4-Card inside straight.

If the Jack-Queen, Jack-King or Queen-King are of the same suit, then you play the 2-Card Royal, otherwise you play the 4-card inside straight.

Obviously, if ANY three of the cards are of the same suit, you play the 3-Card Royal.

Another key point for these two types of royals is that if you have a 3-card straight flush (even double inside — 8-Jack-Queen), you play the 3-card straight flush.

The last important strategy point is that if you are dealt thee high cards and two of them are suited, you always keep the two suited cards as the 2-Card Royal. You’re giving up too many chances at the royal, the straight flush and the flush to keep the off-suit card.

The drop off to the 2-Card Royal V1 is significant. By holding the 10, the expected value drops by about 0.1, which when you are talking about some of the lower hands can be as much as 15-20 percent.

A 2-Card Royal containing a 10 can be considered to be a last ditch effort hand. If you have two unsuited high cards, you throw the 2-Card Royal away.

If you have any type of 3-card straight flush (except a double inside one with no high cards), you throw away the 2-Card Royal. Holding the 2-Card Royal V1 is just marginally better than holding the single high cCard.

Since you would be throwing away the only chance you have of the royal, you hold the 10 as well and then hold your breath. Your odds of making the royal are the same as any other 2-Card Royal, but with only one high card, you’re going to need to hit straights and flushes with this hand.

Of course, a 2-Card Royal V1is still a lot better than a 2-Card Royal V0, which is considered NOT PLAYABLE in full-pay jacks or better video poker. Having only one way to complete the straight, combined with only one high card is simply too much of a handicap. You’re better off just holding the ace.

It should be noted that 2-Card Royals are not considered very good hands to be dealt. In the best case scenario, the expected value is about 0.60, which puts them in the bottom third of our strategy table.

However, in order to achieve the paybacks that video poker can provide, it is important to learn how to play the bad hands as much as the good hands. In fact, it may be even more important to learn how to play the bad hands, because the strategy can be much more complex.

Remembering how to play a 4-card flush is easy. Learning how to play 2-Card Royals can separate the average player from the expert player.