This is Part 2 on How To Solve The Video Poker Puzzle, don’t forget to also read Part 1!
Will Things Break Even In Video Poker?
I was reading a column by Mike Caro in a poker magazine several years ago where he argued that in live poker, things will not break even over the course of a year or even a lifetime. When you include abilities and emotions and financial strengths, there are so many variables at the poker table that some situations occur so rarely that they have no chance to even out. Caro is undoubtedly correct.
In video poker, however, there are not so many variables. The machine will ALWAYS play according to a “consistent” random number generator. You don’t have to be concerned about whether the machine is in a good mood or a bad mood or has just won or lost. (Of course some people do take these things into consideration, but these players are not winning players. Winning players ignore such factors.) Surely if you played quarter Deuces Wild for two thousand hours a year (assume one million hands) you’d get what you deserved. Wouldn’t you?
In Deuces Wild, royals happen every 45,000 hands or so. (This is not a typo. The usually given figure of 40,000 hands is approximately accurate for Jacks or Better, but not Deuces Wild. The reason you get fewer royals at Deuces is because of hands such as A♥ K♥ Q♥ 2♣ 5♦. In Jacks or Better you have a 1,080-to-1 shot at the royal when you hold AKQ. In Deuces, you have no chance at the royal because you should hold AKQ2.) In one million hands, you should receive 22 royals. You might, but you probably won’t. You might receive 18 royals. You might receive 27. It will be AROUND 22, but could be a few off one way or the other. Assuming you are a quarter player, the difference between 18 royals and 27 royals in a year is $9,000. That’s quite a swing for quarter players. And, depending on the slot club, you’d earn $10,000 a year with this much play if you played the best game perfectly.
What if you play sometimes for quarters and sometimes for dollars? If you get more than your proper allotment of royals for dollars and less than your proper allotment for quarters, everything would be just fine. You will like your year-end score. But the other way around and you can chalk up a losing year.
Video poker strategies are based on the premise that things WILL average out. But we know they won’t. The question then arises: If we know things are not going to average out, why on earth do we base our strategies on an assumption that we KNOW will be wrong?
The reason is that we need to make decisions BEFORE we know what is going to happen. Those may not turn out best AFTER we have seen the results, but the time to make decisions is when these things are still up in the air. We know things will not average out over the year, or a lifetime for that matter, but we don’t know which things will be high and which things will be low.
Assuming things will average out is probably the best decision to make beforehand as long as we can afford the swings. (Which is a different matter entirely and will be discussed some other time.) So when you are dealt A♥ A♣ A♦ 4♣ 4♥ in Double Bonus, throw the fours away and go for the aces. On average this is the best play, although usually it will cost you! But the twice-in-forty-seven times you get the 800-coin quad aces will more than make up for the shortfalls when you don’t. If you can’t bear to break up the full house, you are either playing for stakes that are too high for you, or you shouldn’t be gambling anyway.
Or maybe you’re playing the wrong game. In Jacks or Better or Deuces Wild the proper play is to hold all five cards.
Bob Dancer is the premier video poker writer and teacher in the world. He has created a number of how-to-win products available at bobdancer.com. He co-hosts a weekly radio show called Gambling with an Edge, which is also archived on his website. (The show is also available on iTunes.)