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Best of John Grochowski

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A shuffle through the gaming mailbag

30 June 2009

Q. You have completely tantalized us video poker addicts! You mentioned expert strategy on "certain" video poker games, but which ones? I practice, practice, practice with my little hand-held video game every night — can't go to sleep without playing it. I prefer "Jacks or Better," but are there games more likely to yield goodies?

Please, at least give us a clue! We don't expect a row of royal flushes, but maybe a little something for the bank account. I have the following books: Victory at Video Poker by Frank Scoblete, The Frugal Gambler by Jean Scott and Winning Strategies for Video Poker by Lenny Frome. Whatcha think?

A. It depends on the pay tables. In Double Bonus Poker, games with the full 10/7/5 pay table, meaning they pay 10-for-1 on full houses, 7-for-1 on flushes and 5-for-1 on straights, pay 100.17% with expert play. Drop the pay table to 9/7/5, and the return drops to 99.1%, and at 9/6/5 it's 97.9. At 9/6/4, it's only 96.8.

You see the pattern. Each unit that payoffs decrease make Double Bonus a little weaker game, and it's only with the top pay table that it's a beatable game.

Another one is full-pay Deuces Wild, which you mainly see in Las Vegas. It's the only fairly common Deuces game in which four-of-a-kind pays 5-for-1, and four-of-a-kind is a very important hand in Deuces Wild. Full pay Deuces returns 100.8% with expert play.

Even some games that don't return 100% with expert play can become positive if you take player rewards into account. The basic game of 9/6 Jacks or Better, with full houses paying 9-for-1 and flushes 6-for-1, returns 99.5% with expert play. If the player rewards club at your casino returns cash and benefits in excess of 0.5% of your wagers, you have a positive game. The Deuces Wild version known to players as "Not So Ugly" Deuces returns 99.7% with expert play. On that one, four of a kind drops to 4-for-1, but full houses pay to 4-for-1, flushes to 3-for-1 and five of a kind to 16-for-1 — all a unit higher than on full-pay Deuces. The result is a game that if you play well enough, and player rewards exceed 0.3% of your wagers, you have a positive game.

A couple of cautions. You have to play at expert level to achieve those percentages, and most players don't. It takes practice. I recommend any of three software packages: Frugal Video Poker, Video Poker for Winners or Bob Dancer Presents WinPoker. Any will warn you whenever you're making an incorrect play. That's something the little hand-held units don't do. The books you mention are all very good — they're in my gambling library, too. Read up on the games, but then practice on the computer.

And no matter how good you are, the majority of video poker sessions will be losers. There's a lot of marking time, accepting losses until the royal flushes and other big-paying hands come.

Q. Is playing a 9/6 Jacks or Better video poker machine in Las Vegas the same as a 9/6 Jacks or Better Poker machine in a Native American casino? I would assume that they are the same. If so, then the player would have the same percentage of winning on a Las Vegas poker machine as in a Native American casino.

A. As long as you're dealing with a Class III game, video poker is the same in Native American casinos as in Las Vegas — a 9/6 Jacks or Better machine plays the same in either place. The same goes for any other jurisdiction with Class III games. Whether you're playing in New Jersey or Illinois, Missouri or Colorado, or any state with full-scale commercial casinos, you're getting the same games.

If it's a Class II video poker machine with a Bingo logo, that's a different matter. If you see that Bingo logo, then you're playing a Class II game where strategy doesn't matter. If you make a strategy mistake, the machine will find a way to award you the payoff the bingo numbers say you should get anyway. A leprechaun or genie or some kind of magical icon might appear and change your cards. It's just a bingo machine with a video poker interface.

Q. Now that nearly all slot machines take currency and pay in tickets, can you tell me, is there any disadvantage for the player as opposed to playing with coins?

A. The one disadvantage is that playing with credits speeds play. Dropping coins for each play takes time. Pushing a button to play credits is nearly instantaneous. That leads to more plays per hour, and more chances for the house edge to work against you.

Of course, the casino wouldn't see that as a disadvantage.

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:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> 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