Practice may not make perfect in video poker, but it can spring some surprises on you.
I got a surprise of my own recently as I was practicing my strategy
on Not So Ugly Deuces Wild. It's a game I hadn't played in some time,
but I was planning a day at a casino that offered it. With expert play,
NSUD pays 99.7 percent with expert play. That figured to be the best
game I'd find on that trip, so I figured I'd better put in a little
practice time on the WinPoker software I use.
Here's the hand I was dealt: Queen of clubs, 9 of diamonds, 8 of diamonds, 4 of spades, 3 of hearts.
High pairs don't pay off in Deuces Wild --- the pay table starts at
three of a kind --- so I wasn't going to hold the low Queen. Straights
in Deuces Wild pay only 2-for-1, so you need four cards before you start
thinking about possible straight draws. The best straight possibilities
here were only two-card sequences. Flushes pay 3-for-1 in NSUD, better
than the 2-for-1 in full-pay Deuces Wild, so we do look for flushes
often. Still, there were only two cards of the same suit in this hand.
Straight flushes pay 10-for-1, another step up from full-pay Deuces,
which pays 9-for-1. But two cards to a straight flush? Not likely.
My conclusion: Toss the entire hand. Take a chance on five fresh cards.
The software's conclusion: A pop-up box, warning me I was making a mistake.
I changed my play to holding the 8-9 of diamonds, the only feasible
play I could see here. At least it would give me starts on possible
flushes, straights, and a long shot at a straight flush.
That, the computer accepted. It played out the draw, and then I
clicked on the "analyze any hand" option to check out the numbers.
Sure enough, the calculations told me that holding the 8-9 of
diamonds would bring an average return of 1.6075 coins per five wagered,
while tossing the entire hand would bring only 1.6074 coins. I was
wrong by one ten-thousandths of a percent.
Not a make-or-break hand obviously, and if you're playing in a casino
and decide to toss the entire hand, well, I won't quibble. In order for
holding the suited 8-9 to be the correct play, all the circumstances
had to be in place.
To start with, the NSUD pay table had to be in place. In full-pay
Deuces Wild, which pays less on flushes and straight flushes than the
Not So Ugly variety, the best play is to discard all five cards. Even in
Illinois Deuces, which matches NSUD in paying 3-for-1 on flushes but
retains the full-pay return of 9-for-1 on straight flushes, the expert
play is to toss the lot. The same hand in Illinois Deuces returns an
average of 1.6012 coins with a five-coin discard, but only 1.5828 when
holding the suited 8-9.
Beyond that, the situation regarding other possible straights and
flushes had to be the same. Remember the hand: Queen of clubs, 8-9 of
diamonds, 4 of spades, 3 of hearts.
If holding the two consecutive diamonds with a straight flush
possibility meant tossing a third diamond, the percentages would shift.
If the 3 of hearts was a diamond instead, the best play would be to
throw away the entire hand. Three diamonds with no straight flush
possibility wouldn't yield enough to hold them, and throwing away a
third diamond would diminish flush possibilities enough that holding the
8-9 would no longer be worthwhile.
Same deal with straight possibilities. The only possible straight
involving three cards in the original hand is 8-9-Queen. There are two
gaps on the inside, so the only combinations that can complete the
straight are 10-Jack, 10-2, Jack-2 or two wild deuces.
What if the Queen of clubs was a Jack instead? Then there would be
only one gap, and the combinations that would result in a straight would
increase to 7-10, 10-Queen, 7-2, Queen-2, or 2-2. Throwing away the
Jack would decrease the chances of building 8-9 into a straight that
here too, the best play would change to discarding all five cards.
It seems by random chance in practicing with the WinPoker software, I
ran into the right hand on the right pay table to learn a little
something. If I'm playing with the Not So Ugly Deuces Wild pay table,
and if I'm dealt a hand with 8-9 suited, no other cards of the same
suit, and no straight possibilities with less than two gaps, I'll be
holding the 8-9.
That's a rare situation, and who knows when I'll run into it again.
But it's a play I'll never forget, and one I'd never have noticed had I
not taken the time for a little practice.