Royal Alterations

            Last week’s column discussed how by altering your strategy, you can make Royals appear more often.  Let’s face it, by altering your strategy, you can make any hand you want to appear more often.  Just because Royal Flushes are the highest paying hand does NOT mean that by getting more of them you will automatically win.  If your goal is the bragging rights as the King or Queen of Royal Flushes, it might be worth it to you.  In reality, however, you’ll also be ‘flushing’ your bankroll by doing this.

            That isn’t to say that there isn’t a right time to alter your strategy in order to make a Royal appear sooner.  The obvious case of this is when you are playing a Progressive, where the meter is considerably above the normal 800 for 1 payout.  The intriguing part about playing Progressives is that the strategy keeps changing as the meter increases.  Even under normal circumstances it would be unusual for the meter to get to double the normal payout, but nowadays with some professionals monitoring progressive payouts, the likelihood is even less.  As soon as the meter gets to the point where the game is positive, a team of Players can hit a bank of machines and just keep playing until the jackpot is hit. 

            The Expert Player realizes that as the jackpot goes up, the strategy changes and the frequency of a Royal Flush can increase, which can push the payback up even more.  Using Expert Strategy for a full-pay jacks or better machine will result in a Royal (on average) every 40,400 hands.   If the Royal is paying 1600 for 1, we alter our strategy to make a Royal appear (on average) every 32,700 hands.  This increase in frequency allows us to extract an additional 0.9% of payback out of the Royal Flush hand.  Of course, this change in strategy costs us about 0.7% of payback on all the other hands.  The net increase is 0.2%, however.  So, you can play the Progressive using the altered strategy at 99.5% or you can use standard (8-5) strategy and play it at 99.3%.  It doesn’t seem like much of a choice to me.

            So, what are some of the changes we use when playing a Progressive paying 1600 for 1 on a Royal?  One of the biggest is that the 3-Card Royal now outranks a High Pair.  Yep, this one is going to hurt.  You going to throw away a sure winner (High Pair) and go for the Royal Flush.  Your odds of hitting that Royal is a bit more than 1000 to 1.  But, it’s paying 1600 for 1!  Throw in the fact that you still have many chances to hit a Straight Flush, a Flush, a Straight, Trips, Two Pair and a High Pair and quite frankly, the math isn’t even close.  The 3-Card Royal has an expected value of more than 2, while the High Pair is down at 1.5.

            Another significant change in our strategy is that the A-10 Royal is now playable.  Normally, when playing jacks or better, we do NOT hold a 2-Card Royal consisting of A-10.  We only have 1 way to fill it for Straights and/or the Royal Flush (with the JQK), which greatly reduces its expected value.  However, with the Royal Flush’s payout pumped up to 1600, we’re still better off holding the 2-Card Royal vs. holding just the Ace.  Keep in mind, however, that this hand is just barely playable.  This means that many other combinations of cards might be held instead (such as a 3-Card Straight Flush), so don’t forget to look at your WHOLE hand before getting overly excited about a suited A-10.
            Besides learning some of the changes to the strategy for a Progressive, another key point is learned.  Every change to the paytable can impact the strategy.  Now, if you sit down and play a full-pay bonus poker game using jacks or better strategy, I’m not saying you’ll get wiped out in 10 minutes.  But, what is the point of learning strategy if you’re just going to wing it when you change which type of game you’re playing.  0.1% or 0.2% might not seem like a lot to give up – but in reality, this may increase your loss rate by 20-50%!

            One of the best ways to learn how to play all the different games out there is to learn the strategy tables from a book like Winning Strategies for Video Poker and then practice what you’ve learned on your PC using Masque’s Video Poker Strategy Pro.  For a limited time, we’re offering a package of both the book and the software for only $14.95.  For an additional $5 ($19.95 in total) we’ll also include Video Poker: America’s National Game of Chance which is 200 pages of Lenny Frome’s best articles, quizzes and stories.  If you’d like to order, please send a check or money order to Compu-Flyers, P.O. Box 132, Bogota, NJ 07603.