Dealing with those losing hands in video poker

Oct 28, 2008 4:02 PM

For the past two weeks, I have been walking through the strategy table for a full-pay Jacks or Better video poker. This week, I begin working on the hands with an expected value below 1.0, which means these are in fact losers in the long run.

This doesn’t make them any less important. Hands with an expected value of greater than 1.0 make up about 25 percent of the total. That means the majority of our hands are below this mark.

The single most common hand, the Low Pair has an expected value of 0.82. Because of its frequency, learning how to play it properly is even more important than if it was a winning hand in the long run.

The next 10 hands in our strategy table are at right.

I can’t possibly cover everything that can be learned about the above table in this column, so I’ll try and hit the highlights. The most important thing that can be learned from this is the position of the Low Pair. As the single most common, accounting for nearly 30 percent of all hands, it is critical that this hand be played correctly.

It ranks ahead of virtually every 4-Card Straight and 3-Card Straight Flush, while below all 4-Card Flushes. The only exception to this is the relatively rare 10-J-Q-K-10. In this one case, we discard the 10 and go for the Straight.

There is also a new concept that is brought to light with the above piece of the strategy table. This is the importance of High Cards, which play a role in all Straights and Flushes. The more High Cards, the higher the expected value because of the increased chances of catching a High Pair.

We don’t bother counting them with hands like a 4-Card Flush. While they do impact the expected value, they don’t impact the way we play the hand. With the lower hands, we need to count exactly how many High Cards we have because they may change how we want to play our hand.

A critical point here is that we are only counting the number of High Cards in the way we may choose to hold the cards. For example, if dealt a 9-10-J (suited) and a 4-A, the 3-card Straight Flush has two high cards, even though there were a total of three dealt.

What is also important to learn from this portion of the table is what is not here. We have yet to see any 4-Card Inside Straights or 2-Card Royals. Some of these will show up in the bottom portion of our table (next week). This tells us that these hands are rather weak and rate below 3-Card Inside straight Flushes and 4-Card Straights.

So, if dealt 9-J-K suited, we hold all three and do not discard the 9, hoping for the top prize.

 Hand Expected Value 4-Card Straight w/3 High Cards 0.87 Low Pair 0.82 4-Card Straight w/2 High Cards 0.81 4-Card Straight w/1 High Card 0.74 3-Card Inside Straight Flush w/2 High Cards 0.73 3-Card Straight Flush w/1 High Card 0.72 4-Card Straight w/0 High Cards 0.68 3-Card Double Inside Straight Flush w/2 High Card 0.64 3-Card Inside Straight Flush w/1 High Card 0.63 3-Card Straight Flush w/0 High Cards 0.63

Next week: I’ll go into the rest of the strategy table.

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