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Casino Answer Man: What's the best high pair in video poker?

Casino Answer Man: What's the best high pair in video poker?

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John Grochowski

John Grochowski

A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q: In video poker, is one high pair more valuable than another? Are you better of with two Jacks, Queens, Kings or Aces? Are two Jacks with 9-5-3 better or worse than two Kings with 9-5-3?

What if you have two high pairs, something like King-King, Queen-Queen and a 9? If two pairs just gets me my money back and a high pair also gets me my money back, I’ve been holding just one pair. But which one should I hold?

A. On most games, there’s a higher payoff on four Aces than on other quads. That makes a pair of Aces more valuable than other high pairs.

With a five-coin wager in the ever-popular 9-6 Double Double Bonus Poker, four Aces bring an 800-coin return that jumps to 2,000 if the fifth card is a 2, 3 or 4. Four Jacks, Queens or Kings bring 250 coins.

Holding Ace-Ace and discarding 9-5-3 of mixed suits brings an average return of 9.57 coins, while averages on four Jacks, Queens or Kings are 7.23 coins.

The disparity disappears in Bonus Poker Deluxe, where a five-coin bet brings a 400-coin return on all four of a kinds. In 8-6 BPD, the average return is 98.49 percent with expert play, close to the 98.98 on 9-6 DDB.

If you hold a high pair and discard 9-5-3 in 8-6 BPD, the average return is 7.60 coins regardless of whether you’re holding four Aces, Kings, Queens or Jacks.

Unless there’s a difference in four of a kind payoffs — or, in rare cases, three-of-a-kind pays — one high pair is as valuable as another.

As for breaking up two high pairs, you need to re-think. It’s almost always better to hold both pairs and hope the draw brings a full house. You forgo the shot at four of a kind, but the one-card draw to a full house pays off a lot more often.

If you hold one pair, you’ll complete four of a kind 45 times per 16,125 possible draws. That’s a 0.28 percent chance at quads. If you hold both pairs, you have four chances per 47 draws at a full house. That’s 8.51 percent.

That’s not the full story, of course. If you hold just one pair, you have a chance at improving to three of a kind or full houses in addition to quads. But with all that taken into account, the better play is usually to hold both pairs. In 8-6 Bonus Deluxe, holding Ace-Ace-Jack-Jack will bring an average return of 7.98 coins compared to the 7.60 for holding one pair.

Double Double Bonus is an exception, with its 2,000-coin bonanza on four Aces plus a 2, 3 or 4. There, holding Ace-Ace brings an average payoff of 9.48 coins, better than the 8.40 on Ace-Ace-Jack-Jack. With no Aces involved, it’s better to hold both pairs. King-King-Jack-Jack brings 8.40 coins, but the average on either King-King or Jack-Jack is only 7.24.

Q. A work acquaintance told me he was playing craps in Reno, and said that on the field bet, there’s a 3-1 payoff on 2 and 2-1 on 12, with the other field numbers paying even money. That’s the opposite of when I’ve played. I see 3-1 on 12 and 2-1 on 2. Does that make a difference?

A. The house edge is the same 2.78 percent regardless of whether it’s 2 or 12 that pays 3-1. It’s more common to have the higher pay on 12, but some casinos go with 2. Either was is better than having both 2 and 12 pay 2-1. Then the house edge is 5.56 percent.

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