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Gaming Guru

 

Holding Kickers is Never Correct in Video Poker

30 March 2005

One of the biggest advantages of gambling with Video Poker is that every bit of statistical data about the game is known in advance. In table poker, only the rudimentary probabilities can be expressed in absolute terms. For example, nobody knows for certain what advantage (or disadvantage) can be associated with holding a kicker, since it depends heavily on the characters of the participants and what cards they are holding.

In Video Poker we can assess the average effect of the kicker with great precision. For those who never hold them, a kicker is defined as an extra card held on the superstition that somehow, this will enhance the draw.

Some people hold an eight with a pair of Aces, based on the legend that Aces and Eights go together; others are inclined to believe old wives' tales about their machine "always making" tens and fives or some other similar poppycock. Of course some hold kickers solely to imitate the table poker players, figuring that if it helps them, how bad can it be?

The fact is that it is very bad overall. Consider the simple case where a kicker is held along with a low pair, such as:

8§ 8¨ 4ª 9ª Aª

in a full-pay Jacks or Better game. Here are the possible outcomes for playing the pair alone and for holding the Ace as a kicker.

Hand
No Kicker
Hold Ace Kicker
Four of a Kind @ 25
45 (1,125)
1 (25)
Full House @ 9
165 (1,485)
9 (81)
Three of a Kind @ 3
1,854 (5,562)
84 (252)
Two Pairs @ 2
2,592 (5,184)
186 (372)
Non-Winners
11,559
801
Total Draws
16,215
1,081
Total Pays
13,356
730
Expected Value
0.82
0.68

With a high (winning pair) such as A§ A¨ 5© 7ª 8©, the possible draws reflect the additional winners.

Hand No Kicker Hold 8 Kicker
Four of a Kind @ 25
45 (1,125)
1 (25)
Full House @ 9
165 (1,485)
9 (81)
Three of a Kind @ 3
1,854 (5,562)
84 (252)
Two Pairs @ 2
2,592 (5,184)
186 (372)
High Pairs @ 1
11,559 (11,559)
801 (801)
Total Draws
16,215
1,081
Total Pays
24,915
1,531
Expected Value
1.54
1.42

When we consider that about 28% of all pre-draw hands are of the low-pair type, on which the kicker reduces the payback by 0.14 bets, the effect is seen to reduce our overall payback by
a shocking 4 percent. Playing with kickers on the High Pairs, which constitute 13% of all pre-draw hands, will reduce our pays by .12 or our overall payback by 1.5 percent additionally.

In DEUCES WILD players inadvertently hold kickers when they keep both pairs in a two-pair, like 4§ 4¨ 7© 7ª 10¨. The correct play is to discard either pair as shown by this table.

Hand
One Pair
Two Pairs
Five of a Kind @ 15
20 (300)
0
Four of a Kind @ 5
615 (3,075)
0
Full House @ 3
385 (1,155)
8 (24)
Three of a Kind @ 1
4,572 (4,572)
0
Non-Winners
10,623
39
Total Draws
16,215
47
Total Pays
9,102
24
Expected Value
0.56
0.51


 

Lenny Frome
Lenny Frome spent 40 years in the aerospace engineering business before moving to Las Vegas. During the ensuing 10 years, he became one of the most prolific gaming authors, having written 8 books, countless tip sheets and nearly 1000 articles for a variety of gaming magazines.

Lenny's ground breaking work in the area of Video Poker earned him the title of the 'King of Video Poker'. He also wrote on a variety of other gaming topics including Spanish 21, Let It Ride, Keno and others.

Besides being an author and columnist, Lenny was the premier Gaming Consultant at the time of his passing in 1998. He helped develop paytables for Let It Ride and Three Card Poker, and consulted on literally hundreds of other gaming projects.

His son, Elliot, now follows in his footsteps, as a gaming author, analyst and consultant. Their website, and a complete catalog of all their products can be found at www.vpheaven.com. Feel free to drop Elliot an e-mail at compuflyers@prodigy.net.

Lenny Frome Websites:

www.vpheaven.com
Lenny Frome
Lenny Frome spent 40 years in the aerospace engineering business before moving to Las Vegas. During the ensuing 10 years, he became one of the most prolific gaming authors, having written 8 books, countless tip sheets and nearly 1000 articles for a variety of gaming magazines.

Lenny's ground breaking work in the area of Video Poker earned him the title of the 'King of Video Poker'. He also wrote on a variety of other gaming topics including Spanish 21, Let It Ride, Keno and others.

Besides being an author and columnist, Lenny was the premier Gaming Consultant at the time of his passing in 1998. He helped develop paytables for Let It Ride and Three Card Poker, and consulted on literally hundreds of other gaming projects.

His son, Elliot, now follows in his footsteps, as a gaming author, analyst and consultant. Their website, and a complete catalog of all their products can be found at www.vpheaven.com. Feel free to drop Elliot an e-mail at compuflyers@prodigy.net.

Lenny Frome Websites:

www.vpheaven.com