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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: When less is more, more or less

22 October 2010

Dear Mark: If dealt two pair at Deuces Wild, do you keep both pairs (no deuces) or only one? I have kept two in the past for an easier chance at the full house, but I was told by a fellow player who seemed to know what he was talking about to hold just one pair, then draw. I believe I am right, but I thought I would ask you to confirm. If wrong, are the odds affected much? Dave G.

Whether you play in a brick and mortar or an online casino, two things play a sizable role in video poker success: game selection, and how you play that game.

If you notice, Dave, there is always a small pay table located under the glass of all video poker machines. This is very, very important to you as a player. Identifying a good Deuces Wild machine is actually quite simple. Look to see what they return for four-of-a-kind. I recommend finding a machine that returns five coins for four-of-a-kind, because with maximum coin play and perfect strategy, a five-coin return for four-of-a-kind gives you a slight edge against the house — a 100.76 percent return versus 94.34 percent if the machine returns just four coins.

Note though, Dave, that the machine is "theoretically" preprogrammed to return $100.76 for every hundred dollars inserted if you use "optimum play" — that is, play every hand perfectly. Plus, "theoretically" means over the long haul, not each and every time your posterior is warming the seat in front of the machine.

Perfect basic strategy at video poker makes you discard certain cards to optimize the "expected value" (win potential) of your hand. This, Dave, is secret No. 2 to winning at video poker.

And what is "expected value"? Expected value is the average value of all the wins attainable (after the discards are replaced), assuming that the optimum cards are retained and each unique possible draw occurs. In your example, the pre-draw expected value of two pairs is 0.51 and one pair is 0.56. Consequently, the expected value of holding just one pair is slightly higher than that of holding the two pairs.

Yes, it's slight, and sure, holding both pairs might make it easier to get a full house, but drawing deuces increases your odds of winning more video poker jackpots by making more combinations possible, and you don't automatically eliminate the possibility of hitting a four and five-of-a-kind. So next time, Dave, remember, playing it "perfectly" is sucking it up and dropping one pair.

Dear Mark: I was told that there are clocks within slot machines. If that is true, am I to assume that these clocks can trigger jackpots at different times of the day? Hugh R.

Yes, there is a time device within each slot machine, but not for triggering jackpots, on cue, for Hugh.

All slot machines maintain a time-stamped history of activity of that machine. The machine needs this housekeeping function so when Hugh hits the "Big Kahuna," the machine knows what the current time was when that event happened.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "The gambler is apparently the last optimist; he is a creature totally unmoved by experience. His belief in ultimate success cannot be shattered by financial loss, however great. He did not win today? So what? Tomorrow will be lucky. He's lost again? It doesn't prove a thing; someday he's bound to win." - E. Bergler, Psychology of Gambling, 1957
Deal Me In: When less is more, more or less is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
Recent Articles
Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.