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John Grochowski

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. Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago.

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A shuffle through the gaming mailbag

19 Jan 2012

By John Grochowski

Q. When playing video poker, if you get a pair of deuces and a pair of 7s in Double Double Bonus Poker or Triple Double Bonus Poker, are you supposed to get rid of the 7s and just keep the 2s for the better payout?

A. No, you're better off holding both pairs. The chances of drawing a full house are a LOT greater when you hold both pairs than the chance of drawing four of a kind starting with a pair.

It's not really a close call. In 9/6 Double Double Bonus Poker, the average return per five coins wagered is 8.4 coins if you hold 2-2-7-7, but only 4.4 if you hold just 2-2. On 9-7 Triple Double Bonus, it's still 8.4 on 2-2-7-7, and 2-2 rises only to 4.7.

Players need to understand just how big a long shot it is to draw four of a kind when you start with a pair. If you hold a pair of 2s, there are 16,215 possible three-card draws. Only 45 of those will bring the other two deuces, and only 12 of those 45 will bring the high-card kicker that enhances the payoff for five coins wagered to 800 coins on Double Double Bonus or 2,000 on Triple Double Bonus. That means you'll draw your four of a kind a bit less than three-tenths of the time that you start with a pair. You'll draw the quads with a bonus kicker less than eight hundredths of a percent of the time.

Not only that, 11,520 of those three-card draws will result in a losing hand. By breaking up the two pair, you're tossing away a guaranteed payback equal to your bet size along with the 4 in 47 chance to improve to a full house to take a risk that will result in a losing hand 71% of the time.

In both games, we break up two pairs only to hold a pair of Aces. If you have A-A-7-7 and a non-matching card, hold just the Aces. It's not just the bigger payoffs on four-Ace hands that makes the difference. The pair of Aces by itself pays as much as the two-pair hand, so you're guaranteed at least getting your bet back despite discarding the second pair.

Q. The casinos in my area don't have much in the way of full-pay video poker. I still like to play some, but what I'm seeing are 9/5 Double Double Bonus Poker, 8/5 and even 7/5 Jacks or Better, 9-6-5 and occasionally 9-7-5 Double Bonus Poker. Is there a rule of thumb for how much each drop in the pay table costs the player?

A. As a rule in Jacks or Better-based games, you lose about 1.1% of your return for each unit decrease in the payoffs on full houses and flushes. That includes Bonus Poker, Double Bonus Poker, Double Double Bonus Poker and other games in which the pay table starts at a pair of Jacks.

Take Jacks or Better as an example. With expert play, the game returns 99.5% with a 9/6 pay table, where full houses pay 9-for-1 and flushes 6-for-1. Drop to a common 8/5 pay table, and the expected return falls to 97.3% — a 2.2 percent drop that represents the loss of one unit in payback on full houses and one unit in flushes. Drop again to a 7/5 pay table — one I see quite a lot on quarter machines in the Chicago area, and have been disturbed to see in Las Vegas — and you lose another 1.1%, down to a 96.2% payback with expert play.

Similarly, in Double Double Bonus Poker, the return with expert play is 98.98% at a 9/6 pay table. Drop the flush return one unit for a 9/5 pay table, and the overall return drops 1.1%, to 97.87 percent. Drop the full house return a unit to leave an 8/5 game, and the overall return drops another 1.1%, to 96.78%.

Players in Nevada need never settle for such shortfalls. You can always take your business elsewhere. In jurisdictions where short-pay games are your only options, be aware of that 1.1% rule when choosing a game.

This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at

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