1st rule of Expert Strategy -- know which games to play

Apr 14, 2009 5:02 PM
Winning Strategies by Elliot Frome |

A couple of weeks ago, I discussed how it is important not to focus on the expected value of a wager if the sizes are not equal. In blackjack when doubling down you might be lowering the expected value. However, because the wager is double, you win more dollars.

In the end, this is what matters.

This concept can be applied in other areas of the casino. The first rule of Expert Strategy is to know which games to play. This rule was originally instituted with video poker in mind and has translated into playing the game with the highest overall payback that you are properly bankrolled for and feel comfortable playing.

If you’re a quarter player and like Jacks or Better at 99.5 percent, it’s not likely you will play dollars (or higher) if offered 99.6. You’ll actually lose more money.

Most video poker machines play a hand for a single unit. You can play more units for multiples of the same base paytable, with the exception of the payout on a Royal, which usually goes up at five coins played.

Games require vastly different initial wagers. In Blackjack, you make a single unit wager. Many of the newer table games require a two-unit (or more) initial wager. Let It Ride appears to have a 3-unit wager, but since you’re allowed to pull back two, it’s really 1.

After the initial wager, table games take all sorts of turns as to how much more you need to bet. If you’re playing Pair Plus of Three Card Poker, you don’t make an additional wager. If you’re playing the Ante/Play you do have to make a second wager.

With Caribbean Stud Poker, you make a second wager equal to twice your initial wager. Games such as Ultimate Texas Hold’em may allow or require the Player to bet as much as four times the Ante.

To make the equation all the more complex, take into account how often you make each type of wager and/or fold to know what the average is per hand. The payback of the game is usually given in terms of the overall wager. If two games have a 98 percent payback and one requires an average wager of about 1.2 and the other is 3.6, you’re going to lose three times as much money playing the second game.

You can expect to get back 99 percent of the total amount of money wagered and bet three times as much in the game with the 3.6 average wager size. On a positive note, game developers understand this concept, meaning that ones with high average wagers per hand tend to have higher paybacks. The more complex strategy games offer a greater challenge to learn the strategies to achieve these paybacks.

All three elements of Expert Strategy come together. You need to know which games to play, understand the importance of the payback and play the right strategy in order to achieve these winnings.

Lastly, you need to know what to expect. Know the average wager size to fully understand what the payback means. Knowing only a portion of Expert Strategy is better than none. But you appreciate it much more learning the whole picture.