I love getting together with friends. Invariably, I get asked questions about casino games that becomes fodder for a column. This past week, I got several possible topics based on some questions I was peppered with. One dealt with 3-Card Straight Flushes. Another dealt with which High Cards to hold and when. Lastly, I was 'informed' that Deuces Wild is a bad game to play because of poor payback. Admittedly, these came from friends who will openly state that they are not expert Players. One of these friends also asked me what benefit there was to the casino to offer games with a Player advantage. The simple answer to this is that so few people play these games correctly, that they're willing to allow 1% or 0.1% or maybe 0.01% of the people to make a few dollars at the expense of the other 99+%. The rest of the questions I was asked only proves the point. If you don't know when to hold a 3-Card Straight Flush or which High Cards to hold, the odds are (no pun intended) is that you're not going to play the 100+% game at 100+%.
So, I'll use this week's column to answer their questions and hopefully educate some of you on how to move a few steps closer to Expert Strategy. The first question dealt with 3-Card Straight Flushes. Normally, Straight Flushes are the black sheep of hands. They should occur every 9000+ hands, but because so many people ignore the 3-Card Straight Flushes, they tend to be even more rare. The person who asked the question actually spoke of how often he hit them, which was surprising. But, not after he told me that he tends to throw Low Pairs in favor of 3-Card Straight Flushes. This is not such a good idea.
While 3-Card Straight Flushes tend to be forgotten, you don't want to over value them either. A Low Pair outranks EVERY 3-Card Straight Flush (NOT 3-Card Royals, however). When you consider that in jacks or better, every 3-Card Straight Flush, even Inside and Double Inside ones are playable, this can lead to a lot of mistakes if you throw away the Low Pair. When you consider that a large percentage of 3-Card Straight Flushes are also Low Pairs, this error will prove to be very costly to your bankroll. I don't have the space here to list out all the strategy for 3-Card Straight Flush, but for now, let's go with, they are below a Low Pair and every one of them is playable. You also play 4-Card Straights (not Inside) over the comparable 3-Card Straight Flush. The critical part is that you play even the most awful looking 3-Card Straight Flush over a single High Card, except for the Double Inside with 0 High Cards, which only outranks the Razgu.
Next up in the question bin was how to play High Cards. Generally speaking, the goal is to keep the suited High Cards. So, if dealt 3 High Cards and 2 are the same suit, those are the two we play. If all 3 cards are of a different suit, but one is an Ace, we play the 2 High Cards that are not an Ace. If it is J-Q-K all of different suits, we hold all 3 cards. If you have 2 unsuited High Cards and one is an Ace, then you keep both. That describes which ones to keep. As for when to keep them, see the earlier part of this article and you learn that we frequently keep a 3-Card Straight Flush made up of 3 Low Cards over a High Card, So, if dealt 3-4-5 suited and JQ (off suit), we hold the 3-4-5.
That brings us to the last question regarding Deuces Wild. Should it be avoided due to low payback. I'm not sure where my friend got this notion. Perhaps he some bad experiences playing it. If he tried to use his jacks or better strategy on a Deuces Wild game, things would not be pretty. In reality, Deuces Wild can offer some of the highest paybacks in the casino. However, like all version of video poker, you have to check the paytable. Sometimes, different variations of video poker are given different unique names and sometimes, they just scramble the paytable a bit and still call it Deuces Wild. So, pay attention to the paytable and make sure you are using the right strategy for that paytable.
While I do my best to give tips out in my column, the only way you're really going to become an expert Player is by learning the complete strategy for the games. I continue to offer our 3 best selling video poker books for $5 each (includes shipping and handling) to my loyal Gaming Today readers. You can choose from Expert Video Poker for Las Vegas, which explains everything about the game from start to finish, Winning Strategies for Video Poker, which contains the strategy tables for 60+ video poker variations or Video Poker: America's National Game of Chance, which contains over 200 pages of my father's best columns, stories and quizzes. If you like to learn from anecdotal stories, this is the book for you. Just send a check or money order to Gambatria, P.O. Box 36474, Las Vegas, NV 89134.