Casino Scene: Major decision on this video poker hand

2012-11-23T00:00:00Z Casino Scene: Major decision on this video poker handJohn G. Brokopp Times Correspondent
November 23, 2012 12:00 am  • 

A good friend of mine who lives in Las Vegas usually heads for the craps table when he gets the itch to gamble. It's really the only casino game he takes seriously.

He never plays slot machines and only once in a great while will he jump into a blackjack game. There is one game of late, however, that has captured his fancy enough for him to sit down and play with ever-increasing frequency. That game is video poker.

Video poker holds fascination for anyone who takes his gambling seriously. The mathematical probabilities built into the game are the same you would encounter in a kitchen table poker game, unlike traditional reel and video slots which have payout schedules determined by a computer program.

Some video poker machines and video poker games are better to play than others, but this pecking order is determined by pay tables that are visible for everyone to see. All a player has to do is educate himself to learn which machines to play and which ones to avoid. Slot players aren't as lucky. Computer programs which hold the key to better machines are the internal secret of the casino owner.

Anyway, my Las Vegas buddy called me up with a question about a video poker game he was playing one evening. The conversation went something like this:

"It was a nickel 50-times play machine. The game format I like to play is "deuces wild". I was playing maximum coins, which means that even though it's a nickel machine, there's an investment of $12.50 on every deal (25 cents a hand times 50 hands). On one particular play I was dealt three wild deuces on my first hand. My other two cards made the hand a straight flush. This posed a problem for me. I didn't know whether I should hold the straight flush and collect it on all 50 hands, or break it up by holding the three wild deuces and shoot for royals, four wild deuces, and 5-of-a-kind hands on the draw. The pay table was 1,000 coins for four wild deuces, 125 coins for a royal with deuces, 80 coins for 5-of-a-kind, 65 coins for a straight flush, and 20 coins for 4-of-a-kind. I wound up holding the straight flush hand and collected 65 nickels on each of the 50 hands. Was it the correct play?"

It would be easy to take the sure thing. In this case, his bird in the hand came to 65 nickels times 50 hands, or something like $160, a nice little score. On the other hand, holding those three wild deuces and getting 50 chances to make a big hit sure is tempting. What to do?

The pat straight flush is worth 65. Holding the three deuces, there are 819 ways to make a 4-of-a-kind, 110 ways to make a straight flush, 66 ways to make a 5-of-a-kind, 40 ways to make a wild royal flush, and 46 ways to make four deuces.

There are many variations on deuces wild pay tables. Most strategies advise to hold three deuces over a straight flush.

A good general rule is to hold only the three deuces unless you have a wild royal flush or 5-of-a-kind. And you can refine the rule by not holding the 5-of-a-kind when it pays less than 15. The best advice when playing wild deuces is to break everything but a wild royal flush or 5-of-a-kind to hold three deuces.

The opinions expressed are solely the writer's. Reach him at John Brokopp's Beat the Odds tips air Sundays at 8:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 10:42 p.m. on WBBM Newsradio 780.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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