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Going Down The Wrong Road

The consequences of following the wrong video poker strategy

By Henry Tamburin

 

A friend of mine asked me what the consequences would be if he used his core 9/6 Jacks or Better strategy, which he knows and plays well, on a different game. I answered him…and my response will be helpful to other players who might be considering doing the same.

 

Several years ago, a friend of mine wanted to learn how to play video poker, so I taught him the playing strategy for 9/6 Jacks or Better. He travels a lot on business, including trips to Las Vegas and cities in the Midwest, the South, and the Northeast.

Usually, he finds time to visit a nearby local casino in each area that he visits to play video poker. However, some of the casinos don’t offer 9/6 Jacks or Better, and he simply doesn’t have the time to learn different strategies for different video poker games (especially games he plays infrequently).

He asked me what the consequences would be if he used his core 9/6 Jacks or Better strategy, which he knows and plays well, on a different game (he emailed me a list of games from some of the casinos he visited).

I answered his question, and afterwards I thought my response would be helpful to other players who might be considering doing the same.

Several video poker gurus have determined the effect of using a “wrong strategy” in a video poker game. (You’ll find a section on this topic in the book Frugal Video Poker by Jean Scott, and Viktor Nacht, and on the web site www.videopokerhelp.net.) I’ve summarized the information I gleaned from those resources below.

Note: JOB refers to the core 9/6 Jacks or Better playing strategy. In each example below, I’m comparing what the Expected Value (EV) is for the base game using the playing strategy for that game perfectly vs. using the core JOB strategy perfectly.)

Using JOB on 8/5 Bonus Poker

The expected value of an 8/5 Bonus Poker game using the correct strategy is 99.17%. If you used the JOB strategy instead, the EV would be 99.16%, a decrease in EV of only 0.01%. This is perfectly acceptable.

Using JOB on IGT Game King 35/8/5 Bonus Poker (35 coins payout for all quads)

The expected value of a 35/8/5 game with correct strategy is 99.66%. If you used the JOB strategy instead, there is no change in the EV. Therefore, using the JOB strategy on this game is acceptable.

Using JOB on 9/6 Bonus Deluxe

The EV for this game with the correct playing strategy is 99.64%. If you used the JOB strategy instead, the EV drops by 0.03% to 99.61%. This would be acceptable for casual players, and for players that play the 9/6 Bonus Deluxe game infrequently.

Using JOB on 8/5 Aces and Faces

You get the same results as 8/5 Bonus Poker; namely, if you use the JOB strategy, the EV drops by 0.01% from 99.26% to 99.25%. This is perfectly acceptable.

Using JOB on 10/7 Double Bonus

This is an interesting case. The playing strategy for 10/7 Double Bonus is more difficult than JOB. If you used the JOB strategy while playing 10/7 Double Bonus, the ER decreases by

0.54%, from 100.17% to 99.63%. However, this is what is interesting. The 99.63% EV is greater than the 99.54% EV for JOB (meaning, you get a slightly higher EV using the JOB strategy playing 10/7 Double Bonus than you would playing JOB.)  I told my friend it would be OK to use the JOB strategy if he only played 10/7 Double Bonus games infrequently. If he plans to play this game more often, then he should put in the time to learn the 10/7 Double Bonus playing strategy to achieve an EV over 100%. (I also cautioned him that the variance for 10/7 Double Bonus is much greater than JOB; therefore, he needs to have more bankroll and be prepared for wider swings.)

Using JOB on Double Double Bonus

The EV for 10/6 Double Bonus Poker is 100.07%, and for 9/6 Double Bonus Poker it’s 98.98%. If you use the JOB strategy in both games, the EV decreases by 0.47% for 10/6 (from 100.07% to 99.60%), and by 0.54% for the 9/6 version (from 98.98% to 98.44%). I would not recommend using the JOB playing strategy on either of these Double Double Bonus games.

Using JOB on All American

The All American Poker pay schedule that pays out 40/8/8/8 for quads/full house/flush/straight has a 100.72% EV. If you used the JOB strategy instead, the EV drops by 3.38% (from 100.72% to 97.34%. I don’t recommend playing All America with the JOB strategy.

The following table summarizes the games that it would be acceptable to use the JOB strategy if your local casino doesn’t offer 9/6 Jacks or Better.

(Note: Max EV is the maximum EV if you use the strategy developed for that game and play every hand perfectly. ER is the expected return using the JOB strategy for the game.)

 

GAME

MAX EV

STRATEGY

ER

8/5 Bonus Poker 99.17% JOB 99.16%
IGT 35/8/5 Bonus Poker 99.66% JOB 99.66%
9/6 Bonus Deluxe 99.64% JOB 99.61%
8/5 Aces and Faces 99.26% JOB 99.25%
10/7 Double Bonus 100.17% JOB 99.63%

 

Tamburin’s Tip of the Month

If you were dealt the following hand, which cards would you hold if you were playing Full Pay Deuces Wild? (And, would you hold the same cards if you were playing NSU Deuces Wild?)

 

 

 

The hand contains two pair (K’s and 6’s). If you were playing Full Pay Deuces Wild (FPDW), you would hold one pair (it doesn’t matter which pair you hold). However, if you were playing NSU Deuces Wild (NSUDW), you should always hold two pair (rather than one pair). The reason the strategy is different for the two games is the full house pays 20 coins (max. bet) in NSUDW, as opposed to only 15 coins in FPDW, making the two pair hold more valuable in NSUDW.

 

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Henry Tamburin is a blackjack and video poker expert. He hosts the smartgaming.com website and is the editor of the Blackjack Insider newsletter (for a free three-month subscription, visit www.bjinsider.com/free). For a free copy of his Casino Gambling Catalog which contains books, strategy cards, and software for video poker players, call toll free 1-888-353-3234, or visit the web store at smartgaming.com.

 

The consequences of following the wrong video poker strategy.

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