Stay informed with the
Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski

# Craps and video poker conundrums

10 September 2015

A couple of messages popped into my e-mail box in early August, both on the theme of “what you’re telling me just can’t be true.” I get these every now and then from players who want to argue odds and strategies.

This time, one came from a craps player who wanted to argue in favor of placing 6 and 8 instead of betting on the pass line, and the other came from a video poker player who couldn’t believe it’s a better play to hold two high cards of different suits than to pick just one card to keep.

Let’s take the craps question first.

“You’ve said pass is a better bet than placing 6 and 8, and that just can’t be right. When you have 6 and 8, you have the best numbers. With pass, you take the chance of the point being a 4 or 10, and they come up less. How can it be better to have worse numbers that pay only even money?”

It’s true that placing 6 or 8 pays 7-6 odds, and that pass winners pay even money. It also is true that 6 and 8 are easier points to make than 4, 5, 9 or 10.

If all you were getting on pass was even money on a mix of point numbers, four of which occur less often than 6 of 8, then placing 6 and 8 would be better bets.

But when you bet on pass, you also get the come-out roll, where you win on 7 or 11 and lose on 2, 3 or 12. With six ways to make 7, two to make 11, two to make 3 and one each to make 2 or 12, there are eight ways to win and only four to lose before a point number is even established.

That’s why pass, at 1.41%, has a lower house edge than placing 6 or 8, at 1.52%.

On to the video poker question:

“You wrote that if you have two high cards of different suits, the best play is to hold them both. Don’t you mean to hold one and discard the other? If you hold both, you have no chance at a royal flush.”

Royal flushes are a huge part of the attraction of video poker. That 4,000-coin payoff for a five-coin bet – \$1,000 for \$1.25 on a quarter machine – can make your day. But there are times it’s more prudent than to settle for a chance at smaller pays that keep you going until a shot at the big one comes.

Dealt jack of spades, queen of hearts, 8 of diamonds, 5 of clubs, 3 of clubs, holding one face card will bring a royal an average of just once per 178,365 hands.

Holding both high cards gives you a better shot at low pairs, two pairs and straights. Overall, 38.3% of your draws will bring some return when you hold both high cards, only 32.5% are payers if you hold just the jack and 32.4% if you hold just the queen.

The bottom line is that per five coins wagered, the average return on 9/6 Jacks or Better is 2.53 coins if you hold queen-jack, 2.36 if you hold just the jack, and 2.33 if just the queen. If your game is 9/6 Double Double Bonus Poker, it’s 2.33 on jack-queen, 2.15 on jack and 2.13 on queen.

Just as with the craps question, there’s an attraction to altering your strategy, but the arithmetic points the way to prudent play.

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.