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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Keepers and weeper partial-pay machines

16 December 2011

Dear Mark: I like to play "Jacks or Better" on a 9/6 machine. When dealt three unsuited face cards, or an ace with two face cards, should I hold all three cards and draw two, or what? Fred K.

Before I deal you in on your question, Fred, I am going to need you to review the paytable on your 9/6 machines. Is it as follows? Royal Flush 250-for-1; Straight Flush 50-for-1; Four of a kind 25-for-1; Full House 9-for-1; Flush 6-for-1; Straight 4-for-1; Three-of-a-Kind 3-for-1; Two Pair 2-for-1; pair of Jacks or Better 1-for-1.

The reason behind my probe is that I want to make sure you understand the difference between a full-pay and a partial-pay 9/6 machine. The full-pay 9/6 machines (9 for a full house 6 for a flush) compensate you the maximum for each winning hand; the partials do not.

For instance, if you can find a full-pay Jacks or Better quarter machine that pays 9 coins for a full house, 6 for a flush, and 2 for two pair, you can expect a return rate, if each hand is correctly played, of approximately 99.5 percent. However, if the machine only pays 1-for-1 for two pairs, it is considered a partial-pay machine, and you are giving the house an extra five-plus percent on your play.

Most hands dealt, Fred, have some value and potential of winning you some money. Your hand with multiple face cards and/or an ace is one such hand that can enhance that win capability.

Based on playing a full-pay 9/6 machine, the optimal cards to retain in descending order are:

Three-Card Royal Flush
Two-Card Royal (no ace or 10)
Four High Cards
Two-Card Royal (ace, no 10)
Three High Cards (no ace)
Two High Cards
Two Card Royal (10, no ace)
One High Card

What’s missing here, Fred, are all those hands that rank in between a three-card royal flush and one high card that includes at least one high card, like a three-card inside straight with two high cards, or this mouthful – a three-card double inside straight flush with one high card. That’s where getting a book on video poker, and/or a strategy card is suggested since it is only through perfect basic strategy that you procure the above mentioned 99.5 percent return.

Dear Mark: I really liked your Q&A last week where you discussed video poker tournaments. I recently played in my very first slot tournament. I found it to be a lot of fun, even though I was knocked out in the second round. Any strategies on how I can improve my chances in the future. Jenny S.

Luck aside, Jenny, there isn’t a slot strategy that will make you a long-term winner at the slot tournaments, except one: Get those wheels a-whirling as fast as you can to amass points.

The quicker you get at tapping the max coin button, the better your chances are of moving on to the next round. When you leave available credits on the meter, players who are faster than you at thumping the spin button will have more spins than you will, which make them more likely to have more points.

Being too fast can also work against you in that the machine will not spin until the winning credits have been tallied and displayed on the screen. It’s all about timing, and being prepared to tap the max coin button instantaneously after your credits are computed.

In addition, Jenny, concentrate on your play, and not that of fellow competitors. Wasting time eyeing an opponent’s credit total will cost you precious spins, and they can be the deciding factor on whether you do or don’t advance to the next round.

The upshot here, Jenny, is to get your fingers moving as fast as you can. The more you can keep those reels spinning, the better your chance of accumulating points and moving on to the next round.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “To win you have to risk loss.” — Jean-Claude Killy
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.