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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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More Video Poker Strategy

20 February 2001

Video poker continues to grow in popularity by leaps and bounds among recreational casino gamblers who prefer tackling the so-called "electronic gaming devices" to table games. The reason, as I have emphasized in past columns, is simple: The chances of winning at traditional reel slots are based on a manmade computer program installed at the factory, while the chances of winning at video poker are based on the constant of mathematical probability.

Payback frequency is what distinguishes one traditional reel slot from another. Paytable information is what distinguishes one video poker game from another. The big difference? Payback frequency info is jealously guarded by the casino operators. Paytable information is public information for all to see.

The late Lenny Frome was the father of modern video poker strategy. He was an unabashed devotee of video poker as the game of choice in casinos across the country and mentor to many of today's popular writers on the subject. Lenny's constant admonition to players was: "Learn video poker strategy and you'll kiss those reel slots goodbye!".

I recently received a fax from a longtime reader of this column. He has become enamored with nickel 50-Play video poker. He bets maximum coins on each play, an investment of $12.50 even on a nickel machines (50 hands at twenty-five cents a hand). Recently he encountered a couple of situations which got him questioning his own sense of strategy:

"I would like to go over three questions with you regarding some playing situations I encountered while playing "deuces wild" nickel 50-play video poker at the Empress Casino in Joliet.

  1. On one play I was dealt two wild deuces, the queen of diamonds, the queen of hearts, and the king of hearts. I was debating whether to keep the four-of-a-kind or shoot for the royal flush with deuces. I wound up keeping the four-of-a-kind. I got a few five-of-a-kind hands and made some money, but was it the proper play?
  2. On another hand I was dealt three wild deuces. My two other cards gave me a straight flush. I didn't know whether to hold on to the straight flush or just the three wild deuces. I decided on the three deuces and wound up making a little less than if I had held the straight flush with deuces. Did I do right?
  3. Finally, this was a no-brainer. I was dealt one card short of a royal flush without deuces. I needed only the ten of clubs and had 50 chances to get it. Each one would be worth $200. As luck would have it, I got the ten of clubs on only one hand. As a consolation I did get a couple of royals with a deuce. What were my chances of getting more than one royal flush?"

I contacted John Robison, an East Coast based video poker expert and author, and columnist for Frank Scoblete's RGT Online and Midwest Gaming & Travel magazine.

"To answer the questions I referred to Lenny Frome's "Winning Strategies for Video Poker" (published in April of 1993 by Compu-Flyers)," John revealed. "The answer to the first question is that it's better to hold the four-of-a-kind than the four-card royal according to all "deuces wild"paytables. The answer to the second question is holding the three deuces is better than holding the straight flush. So, your reader made the correct play in each circumstance. The answer to the third question is you expect to get 50/47 (on the average) non-wild royal flushes on each 4-card royal draw on a 50-play machine. That's a little better than one, so you hit the average with your single royal. If only the odds were that good on a single-hand machine!"

If you like to play the new multi-hand poker games such as "Triple Play Draw Poker", Five Play, Ten Play, and of course 50-Play, you may be interested to know that International Game Technology and Action Gaming unveiled a 100-Play machine at the latest World Gaming Congress in Las Vegas. Robison, however, gave a word of caution regarding the video poker monsters:

"I think the mega multi-hand machines are doomed to failure in their current configuration. They're low denomination machines and some players will play only one hand at a time, so slot managers order low-paying paytables. But then you have some max-line/max-coin players who would get a better paytable if they moved up in denomination and played only one hand at a time. For example: An Atlantic City casino has 7/5 Jacks on its nickel 50-Play and 9/6 Jacks on its dollar single hand."

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp