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Best of Henry Tamburin
I’ve written about my father-in-law Pete’s exploits in video poker. At age 87, when most folks take it easy, Pete wanted to learn video poker so I taught him everything he needed to know to play skillfully. He was a very good student and it didn’t take him long to learn how to play like a pro. In fact, over a period of four years he’s been on quite a tear, including hitting two royal flushes within 24 hours on his 90th birthday. His video poker bankroll had quintupled over four years (no, I’m not kidding) because of his skills.
Pete used to play single-line Jacks or Better machines. He knew the playing strategy for this game cold and he knew which casinos offer this game at full pay (meaning machines that offer the highest payoffs for winning hands). He visited us one fall to Vegas for two weeks and I thought it would be a good time to introduce him to multi-line Jacks or better games, since the full pay version is readily available in several Las Vegas casinos.
Multi-line video poker games are available in Triple, Five, Ten, Fifty, and even One Hundred Play. I decided go slowly with Pete so my plan was to teach him how to play a Three Play multi-line game.
For those unfamiliar with multi-line video poker games, here is how they work. I’ll use a Three Play game as an example, although the concept is the same for Five, Ten, etc. Play games.
With a Triple Play game, you must wager three times as much as you would on a single-line game because you will be dealt three hands instead of one. Normally, Pete plays a quarter denomination machine and with max coins bet per hand, his total wager per hand is five quarters or $1.25. On the Triple Play machine, you should also wager five quarters per hand, so for three lines, the total amount you wager per hand is $3.75 (i.e., three times as much as a single line game).
Once you load the machine with cash and hit the deal button, three vertical hands will appear on the screen. The bottom hand is the main hand and the cards are exposed (the cards are not exposed at this point on the other two hands). The machine is actually using three separate decks of cards to deal the three hands. You look at the bottom main hand and decide which cards that you want to hold. Suppose your bottom hand contained a pair of Aces and three unrelated small cards. When you hit the hold button for the first Ace, the same Ace will also appear in hands #2 and #3. Likewise, when you hold the second Ace on the bottom line, it will appear in the second and third hand. Essentially, at this point you have three hands on the screen, each one containing a pair of Aces. Now the fun begins when you hit the draw button. The computer will deal you three new cards from the first deck of cards to hand #1, then three cards to hand #2 from the second deck, and ditto for hand #3 from the third deck. The draw cards will usually be different for each of the hands. You might wind up with only a pair of Aces on the first hand, two pair on the second hand, and four Aces on the third hand. It all depends on the luck of the draw for each hand.
Players enjoy playing multi-line video poker games for this reason: if you get a solid winning hand on the initial deal on the first hand, this will carry over to hand #2 and #3 (and you wind up with three winning hands). For example, if the computer dealt you a five-card straight on hand #1 and you held all the cards, you would wind up with a paying straight on all three hands. The ultimate dream hand, of course, is to be dealt a royal flush on the first hand because now you would have an automatic royal flush on all three hands.
Playing multi-line video poker has its advantages (and a few disadvantages) compared to a single-line game. On the plus side, with training you can look at the pay table of multi-line games and know what the expected return is for the game (similar to single line). The playing strategy is the same for multi-line as it is for single line and because you will be playing more hands per hour, you’ll be playing more coin-in per, which is important for getting more cashback and comps (also you will get to the “long run” a lot quicker with multi-line game). The one negative of multi-line games is you will need more bankroll compared to a single line game although it’s less than you think: for Three Play you should have roughly 1.5-2 times the single line bankroll. In addition, your bankroll swings (i.e., variance) will be greater for Triple Play than for a single line game.
Back to the story with Pete. I had him practicing a Triple Play 9/6 Jacks-or-Better game on my computer using video poker software that keeps track of his playing accuracy. Pete had no problem getting use to playing three hands and his playing accuracy was, as expected, very good (99%).
When we got to Vegas, I took him to a casino that had Triple Play 9/6 Jacks or Better game plus they gave players enough cash back and comps to get his overall return at slightly above 100%. He enjoyed playing Triple Play machines, although the first couple of days he was in the red. Then he hit his first royal flush on one of the lines, and a few days later, he hit another royal flush on the same Triple Play machine. He was really getting the hang of Triple Play machines and he enjoyed playing them. Pete, left Vegas with more than money than he came with and his bankroll continued to grow.
Now, for the rest of story. I kept up with Pete and hit two royal flushes playing a Triple Play 9/6 Jacks or Better machines. Pete was joking with me when he said, “Let’s see if you can do one better.” Little did he or I know what was about to happen.
We were playing side by side when all of a sudden out of the corner of my eye I watched as the computer dealt me a 10-jack-queen-ace-king of spades in that order for a royal flush. In a mini-second, the machine locked up, and up popped the same royal flush on the second and third hands. It took me a second to realize what had happened and then it hit me: I just hit three royals on the initial deal! The odds of being dealt a royal are about 650,000 to 1.
Needless to say, hitting seven royal flushes between the two us in about a week was quite an accomplishment and one we never forgot.
Henry Tamburin is a blackjack and video poker expert. He hosts the smartgaming.com website and is the editor of the Blackjack Insider newsletter.
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