The late Lenny Frome was the father of modern video poker strategy. He was an unabashed devotee of video poker as the game of choice in casinos across the country and mentor to many of today's popular writers on the subject. Lenny's constant admonition to players was: "Learn video poker strategy and you'll kiss those reel slots goodbye!".
I recently received a question from a reader of this column. He has become enamored with nickel 50-Play video poker. He bets maximum coins on each play, an investment of $12.50 even on a nickel machine (50 hands at 25 cents a hand). Recently he encountered a couple of situations which got him questioning his own sense of strategy:
"I would like to go over three questions with you regarding some playing situations I encountered.
1. On one play I was dealt two wild deuces, the queen of diamonds, the queen of hearts, and the king of hearts. I was debating whether to keep the four-of-a-kind or shoot for the royal flush with deuces. I wound up keeping the four-of-a-kind. I got a few five-of-a-kind hands and made some money, but was it the proper play?
2. On another hand I was dealt three wild deuces. My two other cards gave me a straight flush. I didn't know whether to hold on to the straight flush or just the three wild deuces. I decided on the three deuces and wound up making a little less than if I had held the straight flush with deuces. Did I do right?
3. Finally, this was a no-brainer. I was dealt one card short of a royal flush without deuces. I needed only the 10 of clubs and had 50 chances to get it. Each one would be worth $200. As luck would have it, I got the 10 of clubs on only one hand. As a consolation I did get a couple of royals with a deuce. What were my chances of getting more than one royal flush?"
I contacted John Robison, an East Coast based video poker expert and author.
"To answer the questions I referred to Lenny Frome's "Winning Strategies for Video Poker" (published in April of 1993 by Compu-Flyers)," John revealed. "The answer to the first question is that it's better to hold the four-of-a-kind than the four-card royal according to all "deuces wild"paytables. The answer to the second question is holding the three deuces is better than holding the straight flush. So, your reader made the correct play in each circumstance. The answer to the third question is you expect to get 50/47 (on the average) non-wild royal flushes on each 4-card royal draw on a 50-play machine. That's a little better than one, so you hit the average with your single royal. If only the odds were that good on a single-hand machine!"