Judd, an East Coast reader who contacted me recently, suddenly has a companion for casino jaunts: his father.
“I’ve been playing off and on for close to 30 years, ever since my bachelor party in Atlantic City,” he said. “In all that time, I’ve never been able to get Dad to come with me.
“It changed when he went on a day trip with his seniors group. He’d played poker with friends all his life, but he’d never been in a casino. But after that trip, he wanted to go with me. The reason was video poker.”
I asked Judd if he was a video poker player.
“Not at all!” he said. “On my bachelor party all those years ago, all the guys played craps, and the die was cast, so to speak. I’ve been a craps player ever since.”
But in this case, like son, unlike father. So the reason Judd contacted me was for a little video poker advice.
“Dad is just starting to learn video poker strategy. I got him the software, but it’ll take time. If you could sum up three general rules for video poker that maybe aren’t obvious at a glance, what would they be?”
I asked Judd a few questions and it turned out he was looking for advice on playing strategies. That’s a difficult task because strategies are different in different games. You can’t attack Double Double Bonus Poker in exactly the same way as Jacks or Better.
Most of the time, my advice to new video poker players centers around learning how to tell a good pay table from a poor one, then using that information to look around a casino to find the best games before playing.
It’s also important to decide what you want from the video poker experience. Do you want a game that offers extended time on device like Jacks or Better, or a more volatile game more big wins like Double Double Bonus?
But what Judd and his dad were looking for was strategy advice that applies to all games — or at least all non-wild card games.
So, I’ll caution that what follows are a few general principles for games with no wild cards and with pay tables that start at a pair of Jacks or better. Deuces Wild and Joker’s Wild are different species that need special handling.
Don’t undervalue low pairs. In just about any game, you’ll win more hands if you keep a single high card than a low pair, but you’ll win more money if you keep the low pair. A greater percentage of your winners will do more than just get your money back if you start with low pairs rather than a high card.
Learn the difference between open-ended straights and inside straights. In any non-winning hand, you’ll want to draw to a four-card open-ended straight, but strategies vary from game to game when the draw is on the inside.
Keep your eye on the big prize. If you’re dealt four cards to a royal flush, the only time you wouldn’t discard the fifth card is if it completes a straight flush. Lesser flushes, straights and high pairs all should be discarded in pursuit of the royal. Even with three to a royal, depending on composition, you’ll discard some high pairs in some games.
Beyond that, Judd and his father should find what games he likes to play, what pay tables are available in the casinos they visit, and set his software so he can practice strategy on the games he’ll really play.
Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).
Terrence J was Saturday's star at The Pool
Actor and TV personality Terrence Jenkins, better know as “Terrence J,” hosted and performed at the Pool After Dark on Saturday.
Photos: Tom Briglia/PhotoGraphics