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4 October 2015

QUESTION: Recently while playing Double Double Bonus Poker at Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, I noticed a man on my right had four 2s with kicker, then a little later four 3s. Meanwhile I had four 6s and later four jacks.

His wife on my left hit four aces with a kicker. I commented that I must be doing something wrong or don't know how to play since I seem to always have these small four-of-a-kinds and they both are hitting the big wins.

The wife laughed and said, “That's because you're hitting on the sucker bets.” She said that today, you have to think which cards will give you a bigger win. Don't hold the pairs of 5s, 6s, 7s, 8s, 9s or 10s. Discard them and hit on everything else or discard entire hands, that's how you get better wins.

Is she right about this in today's video poker games? I usually keep all pairs in all the poker games.

ANSWER: You are correct to hold your pairs. In no way is holding a low pair a sucker play. It’s one of the plays you have to make to stay in the game and give yourself the best shot to win.

A 250-coin payoff for a five-coin wager on anything from four fives through four kings is nothing to sneeze at, and it does not diminish your chances on other hands. As for discarding the entire hand when you have a low pair, it gives you only a lightning-strikes chance of a bigger four-of-a-kind that’s outweighed by a large hit to the expected value of the hand.

Say you’re dealt dealt 10s of spades and diamonds, 8 of clubs, 5 of hearts and 3 of clubs in 9/6 Double Double Bonus Poker. If you hold the pair, your average return is 3.67 coins per five wagered. You’ll draw four of a kind on 0.27% of draws. That’s not very often, but look what happens with a complete redraw.

Discard all five, as your neighboring player recommended, and your average return plummets to 1.64 coins per five wagered, less than half the return of when you hold the pair. You’ll draw four of a kind on 0.025% of draws, less than a tenth as often as when you hold the pair. And the bigger-paying quads – four aces, or four 2s, 3s or 4s, with or without the kicker, come on a minuscule 0.008% of draws.

Giving away more than half my expected payback for a 1 in 11,891 shot at a four-of-a-kind that pays more than the base 250 coins is not a trade-off I’d even consider.

QUESTION: Years ago, I was playing in one of the big baccarat rooms in Las Vegas, at a table that had a \$20 minimum. They even had \$20 chips that were yellow. I don’t think I’ve ever seen \$20 chips at other games. Come to think of it, I’d have to strain my brain to think of another table with a \$20 minimum when \$25 is such a common chip. Is there reason why baccarat is, or was, different?

ANSWER: I asked that of a Vegas old-timer long ago. Baccarat in the 1950s was exclusively a high-minimum game, and at a time you could find \$1 blackjack on the Strip, \$20 was high minimum – with inflation, \$20 in 1958 is the equivalent of \$165 today. Also, Nevada, unlike most other modern jurisdictions, accepts cash bets at the tables. Making a \$20 bill the minimum bet at a high-minimum game was an easy route.
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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.