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Best of John Grochowski

Gaming Guru

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A Shuffle Through the Gaming Mailbag

10 July 2007

Q. When you write about a video poker game paying a certain percent with expert play, how much does it pay if you don't play like an expert?

Also, how do you go about learning expert play? How did you learn?

A. A casino slot director once told me his video poker games were holding about 3 percent more than the math says they would if all customers played at expert level. An average player who just plays by feel without learning strategy for the game costs himself at least a couple of percent.

Some of that is because not all players bet maximum coins. In video poker, that's a particularly costly mistake. In 9-6 Jacks or Better, where full houses pay 9-for-1 and flushes pay 6-for-1, experts can expect to get back 99.5 percent of their wagers in the long run. But a player who bets only one, two, three or four coins on a five-coin max game gets back only 98.4 percent, even if he makes all the right holds.

That's because of the jump in the royal flush jackpot when you bet the fifth coin. Royals typically pay 250 coins if you bet one coin, 500 for two, 750 for three and 1,000 for four. But they jump to a 4,000-coin bonanza with five coins wagered. We get about 2 percent of our overall payback on royals, so when we settle for short payoffs by not betting that fifth coin, it pads the casino's bankroll.

Some video poker strategies are not intuitive, and some change from game to game and pay table to pay table. What cards should you hold if you're dealt Ace, 3 and 7 of clubs, Jack of spades and King of hearts? Answers: If you're playing 9-6 Jacks or Better, hold King-Jack; if you're playing 10-7 Double Bonus, hold the three clubs, Ace-3-7, and if you're playing 8-5 Super Aces, hold just the Ace.

Every video poker game has its own quirks and strategies, and I strongly suggest you pick out the games you'd like to play in the casinos you visit, and practice strategies for those games?

How do you do practice? It's a lot easier than when I first learned. There are a wealth of books, strategy cards and computer programs ready to help. One of the latest and greatest among the books is Linda Boyd's "Video Poker Edge" ($17.95, Square One Publishers), which takes you from the basics of how to play right through strategy, including detachable strategy cards. On the software side, Bob Dancer Presents Win Poker and Frugal Video Poker both allow you to change games and change pay tables to match those you see in the casino, and they'll warn you when you make a mistake.

When I first learned to play, I didn't have a computer, much less software to drill me. The late Lenny Frome had published some of the first strategy sheets, and I dealt myself countless hands with a deck of cards, trying to match my strategies to those on the sheet. It improved my play immensely, but it was A LOT slower than practicing on the computer. I'm still learning, adjusting to new games and refreshing on the old, but today I use the software for strategy drills.

Q. My brother-in-law have been talking about this. What if we played at the same table, and I always played the pass line, and he played don't pass. I'd win when he lost, and he'd win when I lost. The wins and losses would cancel each other out, so we could bet pretty big and get the high roller comps.

I don't think I've noticed anyone else doing this, and it seems like such an obvious thing that if it worked, someone would have thought of it before now. So tell me, what's the catch?

A. It IS an obvious idea, and many people HAVE thought of it before, and yes, there IS a catch. There are 36 possible combinations when you roll two six-sided dice, and 35 set up a sequence in which one player will win while the other one loses.

The exception is a pair of sixes --- 12. When the shooter rolls a 12 on the comeout, it's craps. The pass line player loses. But what happens on the don't pass side? It's just a push. The don't bettor gets his money back, but there are no winnings to cancel out the loss on the pass side.

That leaves a system where there is never a net win, because every win is canceled out by a corresponding loss, but there IS a net loss, whenever the shooter rolls a 12 on the comeout.

The players will get their comps all right, but at the cost of playing a system in which losses are not only possible, they're certain. If anyone ever suggests you try to pull one over on the casino by betting opposites and playing for comps, forget it. It doesn't work.

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski