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Best of Elliot Frome

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Pairs, Pairs Everywhere!

30 April 2004

I recently had a conversation with a friend about Video Poker. He's not a big gambler, but strong on math. We were talking about the frequency of Pairs in the Pre-draw hand of Video Poker. My friend was a little surprised when I said that about 40% of all Pre-draw hands result in a Pair (not necessarily Jacks or Better, of course). To be precise, it's actually a bit over 41% and this includes only pairs that are played as a High Pair or a Low Pair and does NOT include the Pairs we throw away because they are part of a better hand (i.e. 4-Card Flush, 3-Card Royals, etc.)

When we take a closer look, we find that the Low Pair is the most common pre-draw hand in Jacks or Better Video Poker. It will occur almost 30% of the time! The bad news is that in the long run, the hand is NOT a winning hand for the player. The good news is that with an Expected Value of 0.82, it could be a lot worse.

Given the frequency of the Low Pair, it's important to know the proper strategy for Low Pairs when the hand can be played in some other way as well. If you are dealt a Low Pair and any of the following hands at the same time, it is important to make sure you play it the correct way:

Other Hand
Example
Proper Play
EV
4-Card Royal 10D 10C JC KC AC 4-Card Royal
18.66
4-Card Straight Flush 4D 4C 5C 6C 7C 4-Card Straight Flush
3.55
4-Card Inside SFL 4D 4C 5C 7C 8C 4-Card Inside SFL
2.39
3-Card Royal 5C 10C 10D JD QD 3-Card Royal
1.41
4-Card Flush 5C 6C 9C 9D KC 4-Card Flush
1.22
4-Card Straight (3HC) 10C 10D JH QS KD 4-Card Straight (3HC)
0.87
4-Card Straight (2HC) 9C 9D 10C JH QS LOW PAIR
0.82
3-Card Inside SFL (2HC) 2H 9C 9D JD QD LOW PAIR
0.82
2-Card Royal 4H 4D 7S JC QC LOW PAIR
0.82

So, from the table above, we learn that we throw away the Low Pair if we have a 4-Card Royal, a 4-Card Straight Flush (any type), a 3-Card Royal, a 4-Card Flush or a 4-Card Straight with 3 High Cards. All other times, we play the Low Pair.

The High Pair, by contrast, has an Expected Value of 1.54. They account for about 13% of all hands, but about 20% of our total payback. Using the same table above, we see that the ONLY times we throw away a High Pair would be for a 4-Card Royal or a 4-Card Straight Flush (any type). We play the High Pair over ALL partial Straights and Flushes.

So, given the high frequency of these hands, what can we expect as resulting hands? Obviously, once we hold a pair, we eliminate any possibility of a Royal, Straight Flush, Flush or Straight. In the end the distribution of final hands will look like this:

Hand
Low Pair
High Pair
Four of a Kind
45
45
Full House
165
165
Three of a Kind
1854
1854
Two Pair
2592
2592
High Pair
0
11559
Non-winner
11559
0
Total
16215
16215

The first thing to notice from this table is that the number of Four of a Kinds, Full Houses, Three of a Kinds and Two Pairs is the same for both hand types. There are no penalty card situations when holding a Pair, and drawing to the higher hands are not dependent on the Rank of the pair, so it should not be surprising that the numbers would be the same. In the end, the only difference is that 71% of our hands will not improve. In the case of a High Pair this means 71% of the times we push, and with the Low Pair, it means we lose 71% of the time. 16% of the time we will draw a Two Pair. 11+% of the time, we will draw a Three of a Kind. The remaining 1+% of the time will be Full Houses and Four of a Kinds.

High Pair and Low Pairs account for 41% of our hands and 43% of our total payback. As such, proper play becomes critical in order to maximize our payback. Repeated mistakes made with such common hands can significantly alter our results, and not in our favor.

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