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Best of John Grochowski

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Pay Tables Are Key to Best Poker Strategy

19 April 2000

My brother, Jay, has a new favorite toy. That's been apparent ever since Christmas Day, when I presented him with a copy of Bob Dancer Presents WinPoker, software to help him brush up on his video poker in advance of a Las Vegas trip he, my dad and I are taking together.

Every few days, the phone rings, and he has a new set of questions about what the software is telling him.

"John, it's telling me to hold inside straights," he told me last week. "I've never held inside straights before. Why is it doing that?"

I asked what game he was playing.

"Double Bonus Poker. The Ten Play, so I get 10 hands at a time. That's all I've been playing lately."

I told him to look at the pay table. Most Double Bonus Poker games pay 5-for-1 on straights. That's a step up from the 4-for-1 on straights in Jacks or Better, Bonus Poker, Double Double Bonus Poker or most other Jacks or Better-based games. That extra unit payback makes it worth our while to make inside draws to four-card straights.

"Even with a high card? It told me I should hold an inside straight instead of a Jack."

That's true if the Jack is part of the inside straight. If you're dealt 7-8-10-Jack, and it takes a 9 to complete the straight, we go ahead and make the inside draw. However, if we have a Jack plus a lower four-card inside straight, such as 3-5-6-7 of mixed suits, we'd just hold the Jack and discard the inside straight.

"I see. That's because the Jack gives us another way to win if we don't hit the straight, right? We could pair up the Jack instead."

Now you've got it.

"But not in Jacks or Better."

No, only in Double Bonus Poker with that 5-for-1 straight payoff. To hold a four-card inside straight in Jacks or Better, we need it to include at least three high cards, Jack or higher, to make it worth the effort.

"You know what else is strange? When I have two parts of a royal flush and another card in the same suit, it tells me to hold all three. I thought you were supposed to go for the royal."

Here again, the pay table is your clue. The best versions of Double Bonus Poker pay 7-for-1 on flushes, while other Jacks or Better-based games pay only 6-for-1 or 5-for-1. We hit a lot more flushes with a three-card start than we do royals with a two-card start. That extra payoff on flushes in full-pay Double Bonus sometimes makes it worth our while to pass up the long shot at a royal and hope for a flush instead.

"Sometimes?"

Right. With a Queen and a Jack of the same suit, we have enough other chances to draw a straight that holding those two cards is a stronger play than a three-card flush.

We hold a third card of the same suit when our two-card royal includes a 10, because the pay table starts at a pair of Jacks, and pairing the 10 would not give us a paying hand. We hold a third suited card with two-card royals that include an Ace, because the Ace limits straight possibilities.

King-Queen and King-Jack are the tricky ones. If your discards include a card that could be part of a straight, then you're better off with the three-card flush. With King-Queen-6 of hearts, 9 of spades and 2 of clubs, we'd hold all three hearts because discarding the 9 diminishes the value of the King-Queen. But with King-Queen-6 of hearts, 4 of spades and 2 of clubs, we'd hold just the King and Queen.

"That sounds complicated."

It's probably a bit much for the average player. Most players will be better off simplifying to hold a third card of the same suit when a two-card royal includes an Ace or a 10, but holding just the two-card royal in other cases.

"I noticed that it likes three-card flushes. It told me to hold three cards to a flush instead of just a Queen."

If the Queen is part of the three-card flush, we hold all three cards of the same suit. But if our flush consists of three low cards, we hold a Queen of a different suit instead.

"But you do sometimes hold three-card flushes without high cards."

Sure. If your hand has no pairs, no high cards, no four-card straights but has three cards of the same suit, then you hold the three-card flush.

"And that's because flushes pay 7-for-1."

Exactly. You've hit on one of the keys in video poker. Watch the pay tables, and learn to adjust your strategy accordingly.


For more information about slot machines and video poker, we recommend:

The Slot Machine Answer Book by John Grochowski
Break the One Armed Bandits: How to Come Out Ahead When You Play the Slots! by Frank Scoblete
Slot Conquest Audio Cassette Tape (60 minutes) with Frank Scoblete
Victory at Video Poker and Video Craps, Keno and Blackjack! by Frank Scoblete
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