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A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag
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Video poker game scenarios

A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag

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Q. The best video poker game near me is dollar 9-6 Double Double Bonus Poker with progressive jackpots on royal flushes, four Aces with a kicker, four 2s, 3s or 4s with a kicker and four Aces without the kicker.

I was wondering about hands with 2s, 3s or 4s. If you have two pairs like 4-4 along with 9-9 and a throwaway card like a 5, the normal play is to hold both pairs.

Is it possible for the progressive on low four of a kinds with the kicker to get so large that you would only hold the 4s and discard the 9s.

What about a single low card. In a really garbage hand like 2-5-6-9-10 of mixed suits, is there ever a time to hold the 2 instead of doing a complete redraw?

A. Let’s take your two-pair scenario first. Given 4-4-9-9-5 of mixed suits, the average return per five coins wagered is 8.40 coins per five wagered if you hold both pairs and only 4.40 if you hold 4-4 and discard the rest.

The guaranteed five-coin payoff on two pairs is a powerful incentive to hold 4-4-9-9. The opportunity to improve the hand is the chance to draw one of the other two 4s or two 9s. There’s no chance at four of a kind with or without kicker, but you also can’t play it into a losing hands.

That’s an enormous difference to overcome, but there’s always a breakeven point when the jackpot gets so large the average returns favor taking a risk and chasing the jackpot.

Normally, four 2s, 3s or 4s with a 2, 3, 4 or Ace as the fifth card returns 800 coins per five wagered. The turning point comes between 6,212 and 6,213 coins.

We need to extend a few more decimal places to see the turnover. At any jackpot level, holding 4-4-9-9 brings an average return of 8.4043 coins. At 6,212 coins, the average return on 4-4 is barely shy of that level at 8.4042 coins. At a 6,213-coin jackpot, 4-4 inches up to 8.4049 coins and becomes the marginally more profitable play.

Given an 800-coin starting point, you’re not likely ever to see a jackpot of 6,000-plus coins on four 2s, 3s or 4s with a kicker.

Let’s try the other sample you gave, 2-5-6-9-10 of mixed suits. With jackpots at their starting points, the average returns are 1.62 coins for a five-card redraw, and 1.40 on the 2. The second-best play actually is holding the 10 with a 1.42-coin average, but that’s not affected by growth in the four 2s, 3s or 4s plus kicker jackpot.

The turning point comes with the jackpot at 4,238 coins. Regardless of whether you hold the 2 or discard all five, the average return is 1.6729 coins. With a bigger jackpot, the average is higher for holding the 2; smaller jackpots favor a redraw.

But as with the two-pair hand, the turning point is so high you’re unlikely ever to see a jackpot high enough to favor holding a single low card instead of making a complete redraw...

Q. I played in a charity “Las Vegas night” and blackjacks paid even money. How much more edge did I give the house.

A. Compared with 3-2 payoffs on blackjacks, even money payoffs add 2.27 percent to the house edge. You wouldn’t want to play that game in a regular casino. In a charity game, you might ask, “Am I willing to make a donation?” if the answer is “yes” and you’d have some fun at the games, then go for it.

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