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Best of Elliot Frome

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Knowing What to Expect - The Third Leg of Basic Video Poker Strategy

4 March 2004

Over the past few weeks, we've introduced the concept of the three legged stool for Video Poker. Each leg being an important part of becoming an Expert Player and enhancing your time playing. The first leg is knowing what games to play. The second leg is playing the right strategy. The last leg is knowing what to expect.

How does knowing what to expect enhance our Video Poker experience? If you were a robot, it wouldn't. However, we are all human and prone to human emotions. If we let these emotions distract us when playing, there's a good chance we're going to forget or at least partially ignore legs one and/or two.

By knowing what to expect, we can begin to realize that the hot and cold streaks we go through are actually normal random swings of a machine. With this, we can stay focused on the strategy we have learned and realize that while hot and cold streaks exist, we DO NOT want to alter from our Expert Strategy.

So, what can we expect? Where does one start to answer this question? Because Video Poker uses a known Random Deck (okay 'Pseudo' Random Deck), and uses a known and disclosed paytable, virtually EVERYTHING about the game can be analyzed. Of course, all this analysis is 'over the long run', so we have no way of knowing what the next hand holds for us, or whether or not we'll catch the Royal when we hold Four to a Royal. It can, however, give us some idea of what we can expect when we sit down at a particular game.

The problem is, there is SO MUCH information available, that trying to figure out what's important can actually be the tricky part. I've dug up some numbers that I hope you will find enlightening.

Assuming a Jacks or Better Full-Pay (9/6) machine, the following table shows the frequency of post-draw hands:

 

HAND

FREQUENCY

Royal Flush Once Every

40,120 Hands

Straight Flush Once Every 

9,610 Hands

4 of a Kind Once Every   

423 Hands

Full House Once Every    

87 Hands

Flush Once Every    

92 Hands

Straight Once Every    

90 Hands

3 of a Kind Once Every    

13 Hands

Two Pairs 13 Times Every

100 Hands

High Pair 43 Times Every

200 Hands

Non-Winners 54% of All Hands

Looking at this table, we can see how often we expect to wind up with certain hands. Also key in this table is the fact that more than half our hands will be losers. Roughly 1 in 5 hands will wind up as a High Pair. Straights, Flushes and Full Houses all occur at about the same rate, despite their different payouts. It should be noted that this table applies ONLY to 9/6 Jacks or Better. Every change in the paytable causes changes in the strategy table which in turn changes the frequency table.

As stated earlier, with all the computer programs out there, Video Poker can be analyzed in so many ways. There is no one answer to which numbers are the most important. Whichever figures give you a sense of what to expect and will keep you focused on your strategy are the ones you should strive to find. There are a couple of sets of numbers that I, personally, find helpful to keep me focused, besides the one listed above.

One is the frequency of Pre-Draw hands. This is an extension of the full Strategy Table. It lists how often you can expect each type of hand in a Strategy Table to occur. From this, you can get a sense of how often to expect each hand. For me, most importantly, you get a sense of what are the most common hands to expect. You can also tell how often to expect a Razgu (Draw 5), which of course can be an exasperating hand. Frequency tables can often be found in books and programs that list Strategy Tables.

The second set of numbers, less frequently found published, is the frequency of final hands given a particular pre-draw hand. In other words, how often will a Low Pair turn into a Three of a Kind? A Full House? The numbers are relatively easy to calculate using computers. Of course, listing all the Post-Draw hands for each Pre-Draw hand would take page after page if published. I've put together a few key statistics below. In Jacks or Better, these 2 Pre-Draw Hands make up about 40% of all hands.

Starting with:  Low Pair (EV = .82) Starting with:  1 Jack (HON1) (EV = .47)

Final Hand

Occurs
%

Final Hand

Occurs
%
- Four of a Kind
45
.28
- Royal Flush
1
.00056
- Full House
165
1.02
- Straight Flush
3
.00168
- Three of a Kind
1854
11.43
- Four of a Kind
52
.03
- Two Pair
2592
15.99
- Full House
288
.16
- Losing Hand
11559
71.29
- Flush
326
.18

Total

16215
100.00
- Straight
780
.44
- Three of a Kind
4102
2.30
- Two Pair
8874
4.98
- Jacks or Better
45456
25.48
- Losing Hand
118483
66.43
Total
178365
100.00

 

What can we learn from looking at these tables? First of all, each will result in roughly the same percentage of losing hands. More than half of your non-losing hands with the '1 Jack' will result in a Jacks or Better, returning your bet. A third of all hands starting with a Low-Pair will result in Two Pairs or Three of a Kind. The longer we review these tables, the more numbers we can come up with, and these are just TWO tables! It should be noted that the numbers above are just AVERAGES. It's not uncommon for something that occurs 5% of the time (i.e. 1 in 20) to not occur for 30 or 40 times in a row, or perhaps you'll hit it twice or even three times in a row!

The key to knowing what to expect is to realize that most everything that occurs while you're playing Video Poker is well within 'the norm'. Machines will have 'hot streaks' and 'cold streaks' and these are just the normal ups and downs of random numbers. Once you realize this, you'll realize that the only thing you can do is to keep playing using the Expert Strategy that you have learned, which will maximize your chances to walk away a winner.

Over the past month, we've covered the three key components that my father, Lenny Frome, introduced more than a decade ago, that make up the 'three-legged stool' of Video Poker. I added my own 'comfy cushion' on top, suggesting that you make sure to play games that you enjoy playing as well. All that's left to do is to remember the three keys to mastering Expert Strategy:

  • Practice
  • Practice
  • Practice
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