A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. I’ve heard that in video poker, middle-of-the-deck cards are the most valuable in making straights. It has something to do with the number of straights you could make, right?

Can you put some numbers on that?

A. I’d put a qualifier on your premise. Mid-deck cards are more valuable than low cards because there are more possible straights starting with middle cards. But high cards are more valuable than either because if you don’t make a straight, they can be part of a high pair for a paying hand.

A 7, for example, could be part of straights consisting of 3-4-5-6-7; 4-5-6-7-8; 5-6-7-8-9; 6-7-8-9-10; or 7-8-9-10-Jack.

For 2 to be part of a straight, you hand must be either Ace-2-3-4-5 or 2-3-4-5-6.

But if you want to isolate the value of single-cards, we can use 9-6 Jacks or better as an example.

Imagine a mixed-suit hand consisting of 2-4-7-10-Ace.

If you held each card on its own and discarded the other four, what would be the average return per five coins wagered?

The least valuable would be the 2, with an average return of 1.51 coins. Next up the list would be the 4 at 1.55, barely behind the 7 at 1.56. The 10 is a little better at 1.60 because of the long-shot possibility of drawing the other four parts of a royal flush.

Best of all is the Ace at 2.33 because it can be paired up for a paying hand and can be part of a royal.

The effect is skewed in other games by four of a kind bonus payoffs. Dealt the same hand in 9-6 Double Double Bonus Poker, average payoffs are 1.35 on the 7, 1.36 on the 2, 1.4008 on the 4, 1.4025 on the 10 and 2.34 on the Ace. The 2 and 4 nudge ahead of the 7 because of the 400-coin payoff for four 2s, 3s or 4s and the rise to 800 with an Ace, 2, 3 or 4 kicker.

Straight possibilities do enhance the value of middle cards, but there’s more to consider in video poker than just straights.

Q. I had one of those slot things happen where I won a progressive jackpot, and the lady who had been there before me started complaining about how I stole her jackpot.

I didn’t push her out of the seat or anything. She left the machine all by herself and moved to a different one. I was looking around for a game and sat down.

It wasn’t even like I won on the next spin. It was three or four minutes, and you just don’t know that she would have won the jackpot. And you want to know the real kicker? It was the mini-variety, worth $8.74! She was in my ear with a few choice words over less than 10 bucks.

A. You’re right. There’s no way to know whether she’s have hit the jackpot, but the most likely answer is “probably not.”

On multi-level progressives, one common method awards the jackpot to the player whose wager pushes the jackpot meter to a total determined by a random number generator. The state of the meter would have been different if she’d kept betting and not taken the time to change machines. It would have been different still if you’d not taken the unoccupied seat. It could even have changed if her changing machines caused another player to pause a little longer than usual before making the next bet.

As for the jackpot size, it appears no amount seems trivial to a player denied a payout he or she thinks should have been theirs.

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