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# Where's my royal?

17 January 2019

QUESTION: I play video poker once a week, a couple of hours at a time. I can be that specific because my wife and I go with friends every Thursday morning. It’s the eight of us, and we never miss a week. We have breakfast, go play, have lunch and come home.

Last year was the first in a long time that I didn’t get a single royal flush. At the speed I play, that’s something like 75,000 hands without a royal.

Do you think there’s something wrong with the way I’m playing? Something wrong with the games? Am I due for my luck to change? I always get at least one royal a year – the others look forward to me buying lunch when it comes. Sometimes I get two, and one big year I got FIVE. Getting none has me a little discombobulated.

ANSWER: A year and 75,000 hands without a royal doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with your play or with the games. It’s a result well within normal probability.

All video poker players go through streaks like that. I once had a couple of consecutive losing years with no royals, then broke the streak with two in one day. There’s no guarantee such a thing will happen in any limited time frame. Each hand is an independent trial, and a royal is a long shot on each hand.

Video poker players draw royals roughly once per 40,000 hands, depending on game and strategy. In 9/6 Jacks or Better, for example, expert play leads to a royal an average of once per 40,391 hands, while averages are 1 in 48,035 in 9/7/5 Double Bonus and 1 in 40.799 in 9/6 Double Double Bonus.

But those are just averages. Sometimes you’ll get two or more royals per 40,000-plus hands and sometimes you’ll get none. Zero is as likely as two or more.

Zero-royal results remain a significant share of 75,000-hand sets. The real outlier wasn’t your year of no royals, it was your year with FIVE. That’s something to celebrate.

QUESTION: I’m having trouble with my brother-in-law at our home poker games. We have a regular group that gets together once a month, rotates the deal and lets the dealer choose the game. Mostly we play Hold’em, but guys call some other seven-card stud games, the occasional five-card lowball and once in a blue moon five-card draw.

My brother-in-law always wants to call blackjack. I object that blackjack is not poker, but the consensus have been that he can call it once a night and go through a single deck twice.

I don’t want to start a family war, but that still doesn’t really sit right with me. What do you think?

ANSWER: Is your brother-in-law acting as the dealer, banking the game and winning if other players bust before he has to play his hand? Then he’s giving himself a house edge that poker games don’t have.

For that reason, I don’t favor blackjack’s inclusion in home poker games. If the consensus is that it is to be allowed, then you might consider setting rules favorable to players, starting with the dealer standing on all 17s and blackjacks paying 3:2 in a single-deck game in which all cards are dealt. Even then, home poker players not experienced in blackjack basic strategy could face an uphill climb.

How to approach your brother-in-law on the matter is something I can’t tell you. I don’t know how it would affect your relationship with him or other family members. But if I were playing in a dealer’s choice home game, I wouldn’t want anyone calling a game with a house edge.
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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.

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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.