Cutting errors is best bailout in video poker

Dec 9, 2008 5:00 PM

Winning Strategies by Elliot Frome |

Given that most of us won’t appear before Congress to ask for a bailout, we’re forced to tighten our belts and be wiser with money.

Last week, I tried to put into real terms the cost of playing games with lower paybacks. Now it’s on to the next phase – knowing the right strategy.

Just about every game in the casino requires some form of strategy. Games with no strategy usually have paybacks too low to be seriously considered for regular play. Generally speaking, games with higher paybacks have more complex strategies that make you work to earn those paybacks. Blackjack and video poker routinely offer paybacks between 99 and 100 percent.

Blackjack and video poker has simplified strategies that fall far short to the computer generated perfect strategies. There is no real way to put a real cost on playing ‘sub par’ without knowing exactly what the differences are. Not all mistakes are created equal.

Let’s say that a beginner decides to play all 4-card Straights over a Low Pair. The Low Pair has an expected value of 0.82, while the 4-Card Straight ranges from 0.81 down to 0.68, depending on the number of high cards. The less high cards, the more likely the hand is also a Low Pair.

When the 4-Card Straight has no high cards (the most common variety by far), we would expect that about 10,000 of the roughly 40,000 4-Card Straights with no high cards are also a Low Pair. Multiply 10,000 by the 0.14 difference in the expected value and we will cost ourselves 1,400 units out of 2,598,960 by playing every hand or 0.05 percent in payback.

With the 2-Card Royal (JQ, JK, QK) and the 4-Card Inside Straight with four high cards (JQKA), we would find playing this one incorrectly makes a far smaller impact (0.01) to our payback. On the other hand, mistakes players make routinely can cost big.

How often have you seen someone moan when someone splits 10’s at a blackjack table? Doing this repeatedly will actually take a full 6 percent off the payback.

If you regularly play the Low Pair over a 4-Card Straight, but 1 in 100 times when facing this decision, you miss the Low Pair and play the 4-Card straight, then the impact is only 0.0005%, which is far more negligible.

Learning the right strategy is not always simple, but it generally begins with getting a good book about the game and/or software to teach you to play and to let you practice. In any economic times, it makes sense.