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Best of Elliot Frome

Gaming Guru

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Average or Home Runs?

29 July 2004

I'm not talking about Helton vs. Bonds. Although I'm sure I could draw many analogies to baseball beyond the title of this column, I'm talking about Video Poker. How's that? The question is, when you play Video Poker, are you playing to maximize your long term average or are you swinging for the fences? Perhaps a simple test will give you an idea of which type of player you are.

Assuming a full-pay jacks or better machine, how would you play the following hand?

AH
10H
3C
5D
8S

Hopefully, you're only seeing 2 realistic ways to play this. You can either hold the 2-Card Royal or just the single Ace. Let's take a close look at each of these possible plays.

Outcome
2-Card Royal
Single Ace
Total Draws
16,215
178,365
Royal
1
0
Straight Flush
0
1
Quads
2
52
Full House
18
288
Flush
164
329
Straight
63
383
Trips
281
4102
Two Pair
711
8874
Jacks or Better
2955
45456
% Winners
25.87%
33.35%
Total EV
0.4605
0.465

Looking at the above table, it appears to be almost a toss-up in terms of which one to play. Of course, according to expert strategy, we would play the single Ace because of the slightly higher expected value. But, looking into the numbers a bit more deeply, we realize that the A-10 Royal has more than 10% of it's expected value coming from the Royal Flush. It's a 1 in 16,215 shot, but it's going to pay big when it happens. It's our Home Run!

The single Ace on the other hand spreads out its wins a bit more evenly. 55% of the wins will actually be pushes. 20% will come from Two Pairs. 15% will come from Three of a Kind. In the long run, the single Ace will return a little more and it will be far less volatile than the more risky 2-Card Royal.

So, have you decided if you're out there looking to lead in batting average or Home Runs? Do you want to hear the crowd screaming when you hit the big Royal Flush or are you content with a lot of small victories?

As I said earlier, expert strategy dictates how this one should be played. However, this particular play isn't going to bankrupt you if you choose to play it, especially if you're an occasional player. The key, as always, is knowing what to expect and knowing what you are giving up if you choose to take a big swing and always go for a Home Run. For example, there might be some that would advocate throwing a High Pair in favor of a 3-Card Royal. This particular play will cost you far more if you choose to play for it.

As a final note, the above situation only applies to an A-10 Royal. If it were an A-J Royal, the expected value of this Royal would 0.59, and any play aside from the 2-card Royal will cost you significantly.

Elliot Frome

Elliot Frome is a 2nd generation gaming author and analyst. His father, Lenny Frome was considered one of the premier authors of Video Poker books. Titles include, Expert Video Poker for Las Vegas and Winning Strategies for Video Poker, which includes the strategy tables for 61 of the country’s most popular versions of Video Poker. Check out Compu-Flyers website at www.vpheaven.com, or drop Elliot an e-mail at compuflyers@prodigy.net.

Elliot Frome Websites:

www.vpheaven.com

Books by Elliot Frome:

> More Books By Elliot Frome

Elliot Frome
Elliot Frome is a 2nd generation gaming author and analyst. His father, Lenny Frome was considered one of the premier authors of Video Poker books. Titles include, Expert Video Poker for Las Vegas and Winning Strategies for Video Poker, which includes the strategy tables for 61 of the country’s most popular versions of Video Poker. Check out Compu-Flyers website at www.vpheaven.com, or drop Elliot an e-mail at compuflyers@prodigy.net.

Elliot Frome Websites:

www.vpheaven.com

Books by Elliot Frome:

> More Books By Elliot Frome