John Grochowski

John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski

A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. When I learned to play Deuces Wild, I used Lenny Frome’s strategy chart and it said that when dealt two pair, you should pick one to hold and discard the other. I’ve been playing that way ever since. But last time I played, some guy next to me said, “You know, you should hold both pairs there.” His friend agreed, nodding her head and saying, “That’s right.” They seemed so sure. Am I doing it wrong?

A. No doubt the strategy you learned was for full-pay Deuces Wild, which once was really common in Nevada but is rare today and non-existent in other states.

Full-pay Deuces pays 5-for-1 on four of a kind and 3-for-1 on full houses. The best games available in most areas today pay 4-for-1 on four of a kind, as well as on full houses.

The payoff differences make it a better play to break up two pair and take a chance on improving to four or five of a kind in full-pay Deuces. But with equal full houses and quad payoffs, it’s a better play to hold both pairs and hope for a full house in 4-4 games.

Let’s use 9-9-5-5-3 as an example and assume a five-coin wager. In full-pay Deuces, the expected value is a 2.81-coin return if you hold one pair and discard three cards, or 2.55 coins if you hold both pairs.

Compare that to the game Frome called “Illinois Deuces,” which some today call “Airport Deuces.” It differs from full-pay Deuces on the quad and full house payoffs and also ups the flush pay to 3-for-1 instead of the 2-for-1 in the full-pay game. The enhanced full house pay brings the EV of holding both pairs to 3.40 while the decreased quad pay drops the value of a single pair to 2.74.

Frome published strategies for many Deuces Wild variations and was the first to note the two-pair strategy difference between full-pay Deuces and 4-4 games. But some who learned Deuces strategy during the full-pay heyday may still need to make the adjustment.

Q. Two quick craps questions: Why is the house edge lower on pass than on placing 6 or 8? When you place, you get the best numbers, but on pass you’re sometimes get stuck with the ones less likely to win.

Also, why do I sometimes see the don’t pass edge at 1.36 percent and sometimes at 1.4 percent?

A. The house edge is lower on pass than on the place bets because of the effect of the comeout roll. On the comeout, you have eight ways to win (six ways to make 7, two ways to make 11) and only four ways to lose (one way to make 2, two ways to make 3, one way to make 12). For that one roll on pass, you have an edge, and you don’t get the advantage of that roll on place bets.

As for the don’t pass house edge, the difference is due to 12 being a push on the comeout for don’t players. If you accept a push as the result of the wager, the house edge is 1.36 percent. However, if you assume that after a push, the money is left in action until it either wins or loses, the house edge is 1.4 percent.

I generally list it as 1.36 percent to maintain an equivalency between the pass and don’t pass bets. The 12 that’s a loss for pass players is a push for don’t pass players, and both strike me as valid outcomes.