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Best of Elliot Frome

Gaming Guru

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Hunting for Royals

17 May 2004

Which would you choose if you had your choice? Winning $500, BUT, you will win this money in small batches of ordinary Four of a Kinds and lots of Straights, Flushes and Full Houses. A prosperous but humdrum victory. The second alternative is that you can go home having won $250, but you'll achieve this by losing most of the week and then hitting a $1000 Royal Flush on your last night. Which do you pick?

There is no correct answer. If you're a Video Poker regular, you'll probably choose the money. If you go to the casinos on vacation once every year or two, your choice will probably to take the Royal. Royal Flushes are a magical hand, especially for the casual player. When you get home from your vacation, telling the story how you won $500 by getting lots of straights probably won't be as entertaining as the story of how you hit a Royal on the last night of your trip. You'll probably remember which suit it was, how many cards you drew to get it, perhaps even exactly which cards and maybe even the cards you discarded!

What is so magical about this hand? Well, obviously, on most machines, it's the highest paying hand. With the introduction of some Bonus Games, it can share this top spot with some Four of a Kinds, but Royals are still the top hand. Additionally, they are still the rarest of hands. Playing Expert Strategy on a non-wild Video Poker will result in a Royal about once every 40,000+ hands. Playing 600 hands per hour, it will take 67 hours (on average) to get one. If you go to Vegas twice a year for a week and play 3 hours per day, it could still take more than a year to hit a Royal. It should also be noted that something that occurs once every 40,000 could easily occur once in 120,000 tries. Is it any wonder that Royals are considered so special?

Is there any way to alter our strategy to increase the frequency at which they occur? The answer to that is yes, and it is the strategy used when we play Progressive Video Pokers. As the Jackpot total increases, the expected value of any hand that has the possibility of a Royal goes up as well. Normal sized Progressive Jackpots will cause only a few minor changes in our strategy. As the size of the Jackpot increases, the strategy table will go through more extensive changes.

For example, assuming an 8/5 Jacks or Better Progressive having a minimum reset of 4000 for a Royal, the overall payback of this machine is 97.3%. As 2% of this comes from the Royal, the payback of the machine without hitting a royal will be 95.3%. On average, we can expect to hit a Royal once every 40,000 hands using the standard strategy for an 8/5 Jacks or Better game. If the Jackpot rises to 8,000 from 4,000 and we continue to use the same strategy, the payback without the Royal will still be 95.3% and the Royal will still occur once in 40,000 hands. With the Royal being 8,000 it will add 4% bringing the total payback to 99.3%

If we alter our strategy a bit with the Progressive Jackpot at 8,000 we can make that Royal occur in an average of only 32,650 hands. The 'cost' for doing this is that the payback of the machine with this strategy WITHOUT the Royal will drop to 94.7%. Making the Royal occur more frequently will add back 4.8% (instead of 4%) and the overall payback of the machine will be 99.5%.

What happens if we continue with this progression? Let's say we have a Progressive Jackpot paying 32,000 coins (not a likely scenario, but this is just for illustration purposes). At this level, the strategy has been greatly altered so that there are only 21 Types of Hands. Pairs are discarded in favor of single High Cards with the main goal being to hit that Royal! Without hitting the Royal, the payback of this machine with this new Strategy is a mere 93.2%. This 'bizarre' strategy, will, however, make the Royal appear once in every 28,201 hands. With the Royal, the payback of this machine will be 115.0% with these strategy changes. If we were to play the same machine using standard 8/5 Strategy, the payback of the same machine would be 'only' 111.3%. These paybacks are all tremendous, but the strategy changes will add nearly 4% to the overall payback by increasing the frequency of the Royal.

For any Jackpot value, an optimal strategy can be developed that maximizes the Expected Value. As the Jackpot goes up, the strategy changes become more pronounced. It is important to use the right strategy for the right size jackpot. Using a too conservative or too aggressive strategy can result in losing the advantage we hope to achieve by changing the strategy in the first place.

Below is a table that shows the paybacks assuming you use the strategy for the Optimum Jackpot Size:

Strategy
Number
Optimum
Jackpot
Royals
Interval
Payback
(No Royal)
Payback with Royals worth:
4K
8K
12K
16K
32K
1
4K
40,159
95.3%
97.3%
99.3%
101.3%
103.3%
111.3%
2
8K
32,650
94.7%
97.1%
99.5%
102.0%
104.4%
114.1%
3
12K
31,811
94.5%
97.0%
99.5%
102.0%
104.5%
114.5%
4
16K
31,533
94.4%
96.9%
99.5%
102.0%
104.6%
114.8%
5
32K
28,201
93.2%
95.9%
98.6%
101.3%
104.1%
115.0%

No one can guarantee you a Royal. If your main goal is to hit a Royal, you could alter your strategy and make it show up (on average) after 28,000 hands instead of 40,000 hands. If you can accept giving up about 2% of your overall payback before you hit the Royal and 1.4% even if you do then strategy number 5 is the one for you.


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