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The best video poker strategies

1 December 2013

QUESTION: We play Double Double Bonus Poker and Triple Double. Recently we discovered Super Double Double at Revel, which has been very lucky.

Sometimes, you talk about perfect strategy, expert play and average players. Can you explain expert strategy versus average play in playing video poker?

We use same strategy in all three games and Jacks or Better as well. Is there different strategy for each of these?

Can you recommend any books on video poker strategy or have you written one?

ANSWER: Expert strategy is the play the math of the games tells us will yield the highest average return. Dealt 4-5-6-7-7 of mixed suits, the average player will hem and haw over whether to hold the 4-5-6-7 and hope to draw a straight, or hold the pair of 7s. I heard a couple discussing just such a decision the last time I played, with a husband urging his wife to go for the straight because of the higher payoff than on two pair or three-of-a-kind.

That ignores other factors such as the frequency of winners and the possibility of drawing better hands such as four of kind or full houses. In almost all video poker games, the expert play is to hold the pair of 7s.

However, there is a different expert strategy for every game, and for every pay table. In the hand above, if we were playing 10-7-5 Double Bonus Poker where straights pay 5-for-1 instead of the 4-for-1 you’d get on Jacks or Better, Bonus Poker, Double Double Bonus Poker and most other games, the expert play would be reversed. The math is different in Double Bonus Poker, and the best play for that hand is to hold 4-5-6-7.

If you’re going to play video poker seriously, you need to learn the differences between the games and the strategies to best take advantage of what they offer. The book I currently recommend is Linda Boyd's "The Video Poker Edge." I also recommend practicing on the computer. "Video Poker for Winners," "Frugal Video Poker" and "WinPoker" all can be set for different games and will alert you when you make mistakes.

QUESTION: I’m told that if I play blackjack online, cards are shuffled for every hand. When I go play in a casino, nobody does that. Can you tell me why? Does it make a difference in strategy?

ANSWER: It comes down to time and technology. An online casino can have a randomly shuffled virtual deck ready to deal as soon as the previous hand is completed. A brick-and-mortar casino would need to take time to shuffle the cards, whether by hand or shuffling machine. Even when a shuffling machine is used that shuffles a second deck while the first is in play, it takes time to take the second deck out of the shuffler and put the first back in.

In the casino, time is money. Any delay in dealing means fewer hands per hour, and fewer hands per hour mean less profit opportunity for the casino.

Some casinos try to mimic the “fresh shuffle every hand” effect by using automatic continuous shufflers. After a hand is completed, cards are fed back into the shuffler and available for play.

Neither fresh shuffles online nor automatic shufflers in brick-and-mortar casinos change the odds nor the strategy for basic strategy players. They do change the game for card counters. You can’t gain an advantage by counting when every card is available for every hand.
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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.