In video poker, form a strategy

Oct 14, 2008 5:01 PM

Winning Strategies by Elliot Frome |

There is about three weeks to go before Election Day. By the time you read this, you’re probably sick of all the negativity.

I’ve spent the last few weeks discussing what not to do, so I guess I got caught up in it as well.

• Don’t go to the casino mad.

• Don’t think you’re going to break the bank.

So, I think it is time for some positive campaigning for video poker. For those who have been reading my column for a while, you know that I constantly refer to Expert Strategy. It consists of three main parts:

• Know which games to play.

• Know how to play.

• Know what to expect.

While they are all important, it is the middle one that takes the most work before you are ready to play with real money.

In video poker, the "know how to play" aspect comes in the form of a strategy table. It is a simple table of about 30-40 playable hands ranked by their expected values, which tells us how much we can expect back on average if we choose to play the hand in that fashion.

Obviously, it is to our advantage to play the hand in the way that maximizes the expected value. Thus, in theory, the idea is to look at the cards you are dealt, start at the top of the strategy table and scan downward. The first time you find a hand that matches the one you are dealt, that is the way you play the hand.

Some casinos will actually let you carry the strategy table into the casino with you, but you’ll find that the best solution is to memorize the order of the strategy table. While most strategy tables list the expected value as well, it is not necessary to memorize this value.

Memorizing a strategy table is not as daunting as it may sound. While there are usually 30-40 rows on the table, the first dozen or so are usually very easy to remember and consist mainly of "pat" hands (those that required no draw) or ones which don’t take a mathematician to figure out how to play.

Over the next 2-3 weeks, I’m going to walk through the strategy table for a full-pay Jacks or Better machine.

The first three entries couldn’t be any more obvious. They are as follows:

Hand Expected Value

Royal Flush 800.00

Straight Flush 50.00

Four of a Kind 25.00

There is not a lot of decision making here. If you’re dealt one of these hands, just make sure you hit the "hold" button(s) and collect your payout. The next three are not much more challenging, but we do begin to learn some very important lesson from them:

4-Card Royal Flush 18.66

Full House 9.00

Flush 6.00

As I said earlier, the way a strategy table is used is that you start from the top and scan downward looking for something that matches your dealt hand. Doing this, we may find that we are dealt a Straight Flush that is also a 4-Card Royal (i.e. a suited 9-10-J-Q-K).

From these portions of our strategy table, we find that we will "settle" for a Straight Flush and not discard the 9 hoping for the Royal. In similar fashion, we find that if we are dealt a similar hand that is only a flush and a 4-Card Royal, we will discard the fifth card, leaving us with a 4-Card Royal and take our shot for the Royal.

The next part of our strategy table is as follows:

Three of a Kind 4.30

Straight 4.00

4-Card Straight Flush 3.55

No major surprises still as two of our hands are pretty obvious. Again, we have a lesson to be learned about a partial Straight Flush. If dealt a Straight or a Flush which is also a 4-Card Straight Flush (but not a 4-Card Royal), we do not discard the sure winner to go for the Straight Flush. The risk is not worth the reward.

For those who do not wish to wait, or cannot wait, for my multi-part article, I’ll offer you an opportunity to buy one of the best bargains I know of for video poker. My father’s (Lenny Frome) first ‘tipsheet’, 50+ Tips for Video Poker still sells for just $2.95 which includes postage and handling.

I believe it is still one of the best guides for the beginner and will walk you through the entire strategy table for a full-pay Jacks or Better machine. If you are interested in ordering this incredible tipsheet, please send $2.95 for each copy to Compu-Flyers, P.O. Box 132, Bogota, NJ 07603.