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Best of John Grochowski

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Playing for royals

11 January 2015

QUESTION: I've been studying a “how to play video poker” article you have online. I notice you talk about a two-, three- or four-card royal flush; but you never talk about an inside royal flush. For instance, you don't say anything about 10-J-K-A inside royal.

I think you mean: Don't play any inside royal flushes unless you treat it as an inside straight flush.

Am I reading you right? Or should I play any two-, three-, or four-card royals as royals?

ANSWER: While four-card royals with a gap on the inside – A-K-Q-10, A-K-J-10 or A-Q-J-10 – have lower expected values than the K-Q-J-10, all are valuable enough that we lump all four-card royals together on strategy charts for virtually all games and pay tables. I say “virtually all” because anything is possible with extreme pay tables, but I know of no games in which it’s necessary to distinguish between inside and outside royal draws when we hold four parts.

That includes A-K-Q-J of the same suit, which we count as an inside draw even there’s no gap in the middle. You can pull a royal or a straight only by drawing a 10, just as you can draw a royal or straight only by drawing a Jack with A-K-Q-10. Outside draws are defined by the ability to fill on either end — with King-Queen-Jack-10, you can fill a straight with an Ace or a 9, and if the card is of the same suit as the others, an Ace makes it a royal and a 9 makes it a straight flush.

We’ll hold four parts of a royal instead of most winning hands, regardless of whether the draw is on the inside or outside. The exceptions are that we’ll hold a full royal, of course, and that we’ll hold the straight flush K-Q-J-10-9 instead of discarding the 9 and trying to pull the Ace. However, to get the most out of the game, the best play is to hold four parts of a royal while breaking up a straight, flush or high pair.

With three parts of a royal, we split hairs a little. I’ll use 9-6 Jacks-or-Better as an example here; other games vary a bit in strategy. With nearly all three-card royals, regardless of whether they are inside draws, we will discard two and draw to the potential royal unless we have either a paying hand or four parts of a straight flush.

There are exceptions if the three parts of a royal are A-K-10 or A-Q-10 when one of the other cards is a 10 of a different suit or what's called a "straight penalty card" — an unsuited Jack, for example, so that if we throw out the card, it limits the number of possible draws that will bring a straight. In those special cases, we'd add four parts of a flush to the hands we'd hold instead of keeping just three to a royal.

A full expert strategy also distinguishes among specific two-card royals, and explanation would be quite lengthy. I recommend you check out that strategy chart at Michael Shackelford's Wizard of Odds site, http://wizardofodds.com/games/video-poker/strategy/jacks-or-better/9-6/optimal/.


QUESTION: What do you think about betting two columns at the same time in roulette? Each column is 12 numbers, so you cover 24 numbers, and if any one of them comes up, you get a 2-1 payback.

ANSWER: The house edge on betting two columns is 5.26 percent on a double-zero wheel, the same as if you on only one column, or all three, or a single number, or almost any other available wager. The exception is the five-number bet on 0, 00, 1, 2 and 3, where the house edge is 7.89 percent.

There are 38 numbers on the wheel, including 0 and 00, so while you’re covering 24 numbers, there still are 14 on which you lose both of your column bets. Winners pay 2-1, but when you win, you lose your bets on the opposite column. The bottom line is that for every $38 you wager, you lose $2, or 5.26 percent.

Betting so many numbers at once smooths out the rough spots. You’ll have fewer long losing streaks than if you bet fewer numbers. It also tamps down the high points, since you’re guaranteed that at least one bet is a loser on every spin. It doesn’t hurt you in terms of the house edge, but it doesn’t help, either.
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