Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Best of John Grochowski
Video poker: A game of skill22 March 2011
Video poker, as played in state-regulated casinos or on Class 3 machines in Native American casinos, is a game of chance with strong elements of skill. Your choices in drawing and discarding cards make a difference.
At a seminar I gave not long ago, one younger man was unclear on where the skill makes a difference.
"You can't change the cards, can you?" he asked. "If a 7 of diamonds is the next card, you're going to get a 7 of diamonds no matter what you do, right?"
Of course it's true that you can't change the cards that are dealt. That's up to the random number generator's electronic shuffle, just as the cards you see at a blackjack table or a live poker game are up to the shuffle by the dealer or shuffling machine.
What you can change are the effect that that cards to come have on your hand.
Let's say you're dealt Jacks of diamonds and hearts, 6s of clubs and spades, and a 2 of diamonds. If you keep both pairs, there are 47 possible one-card draws — the 47 cards in a 52-card deck that you didn't see on the initial deal. Two of those are jacks, and two are 6s. Any of those four cards will improve your hand to a full house. Any of the other 43 leave you with two pairs.
You have a 1 in 11.75 chance of drawing a full house. But by keeping both pairs, you give up any chance of drawing three of a kind or four of a kind.
What if you just keep the pair of jacks and toss the other three cards? That's what was advised in some early articles on games such as Double Double Bonus Poker that pay only 1-for-1 on two pairs.
In that case, there are 16,125 possible draws, with 11,250 leaving no improvement to the pair of Jacks or better, 2,629 bringing a new two-pair hand, 1,852 bringing three of a kind, 169 full houses and 45 possible four of a kind hands.
The decision you make won't change what cards come next. It will change the proportion of hands that you improve to a bigger winner, and what winning hands are possible.
So which is better, the one-card draw with a chance at a full house, or the three-card draw, leaving a chance at a bigger four-of-a-kind winner? In 9/6 Double Double Bonus Poker, holding both the Jacks and 6s from the hand listed above will bring an average return of 8.40 coins per five wagered, while holding just the Jacks bring an average return of 7.24 coins.
There are exceptions, especially when high-paying ace possibilities come into the picture. To stick with 9/6 Double Double Bonus, starting with ace-ace-6-6-2 instead of jack-jack-6-6-2 doesn't change the proportion of winning hands. Holding both pairs will still leaves 47 possible draws and four possible full houses. Holding just the aces still leaves 16,125 possible draws, and the number of high pair, two pair, three of a kind and full house draws remains the same as if you were holding two jacks instead. There still are 45 possible four of a kind draws, but instead of the 250-coin return you get on four jacks, you get 800 coins on 34 four-ace draws, and a 2,000-coin bonanza on the 11 draws where four aces are accompanied by a 2, 3 or 4.
That shifts the percentages, so that the average return is 9.58 coins for holding just the Aces, better than the 8.40 for holding both pairs.
Starting with two pairs that include pairs of jacks, queens or kings in Double Double Bonus, we keep both pairs to maximize chances at a full house. If we have aces instead of faces, we just keep the big pair to maximize our long shot at four of a kind.
Shifting strategy to hold a pair of aces isn't to our advantage in every video poker game, just in those with big bonus pays on four aces. In Jacks or Better, which pays the same 125 coins per five coins wagered on any four of a kind, or on Bonus Poker, which pays 400 coins on four aces, we'd never consider breaking up two pair instead for the sake of an outside shot at four aces.
Of course, those games have an overriding concern that's even more important than the four of a kind payoff. Both pay 2-for-1 on two pair, instead of the 1-for-1 two pair pays you'll find on games with bigger quad bonuses. Dealt ace-ace-6-6-2 at 9/6 Jacks or Better, a 10-coin payoff is certain when we hold both pairs, with full-house draws yielding an average return of 12.98 coins Hold just the aces, and the average return drops to 7.70 — less than our starting point on two pairs.
The same cards in different games affect our bankrolls by different amounts, so we adjust what we hold and what we fold. We can't change what cards are coming next, but we can change what those cards can do for our hands.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best of John Grochowski