John Grochowski

John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski

A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. I’ve been playing a lot of Mississippi Stud lately. My games had been blackjack and Three Card Poker lately, but I’ve been doing better at Mississippi.

My question is on raising after seeing four cards. You once wrote you should raise three times your ante if you have a paying hand — of course — or if you have four parts of a flush or four parts on an outside straight, 8 high or better.

I assume the four parts of a flush includes four parts of a royal or straight flush. My question is on the straight. Why the 8 or high provision? Why should I raise with 5-6-7-8 but not 4-5-6-7?

A. You are correct on the flush issue. Raise 3x on any four cards of the same suit. Royal or straight flush possibilities make the hand even more valuable.

As for the straight issue, the choice is with the amount of the raise, not a decision between raising and folding. You raise 3x your ante with 5-6-7-8, but you stay in the game and raise an amount equal to your ante with 4-5-6-7 or other low straight draws.

The reason is that the 8-high open-ended straight includes three cards that are 6 or higher, and the 7-high hand includes only two such cards. Mississippi Stud paybacks start at a pair of 6s, so higher straight draws have more possibilities of generating winners than do lower ones.

Q. My father-in-law and I were talking about insurance, and how you win more hands if you take the insurance but win more money if you don’t.

Are there other games besides blackjack where you choose to make plays that win less often because they win more money?

A. Video poker certainly qualifies. One example is the choice between holding a low par or a high card. Holding the high card will bring more winners because of the frequency of high pairs. But you’ll win more money if you hold the low pair.

Let’s use 9-6 Double Double Bonus Poker as an example, assuming a five-coin bet and with a starting hand of 6-6-7-9-King.

If we hold just the King, there are 178,365 possible draws, and 118,540 of them will bring no return.

Of the winners, 45,324 will be pairs of Jacks or better, paying five coins for your five-coin bet, 9,033 will be two pairs paying five, 4,177 will be three of a kind paying 15, 446 will be straights paying 20, 493 will be flushes paying 30, 297 will be full houses paying 45, 49 will be four 5s through Kings paying 250, three will be four 2s, 3s or 4s paying 400, one will be four Aces paying 800, one will be a King-high straight flush paying 250 and one will be a royal flush paying 4,000.

Overall, you’ll win on 33.5 percent of hands and the average payback per hand, including all the losers, will be 2.2 coin.

What if you hold the 6s instead? Then there are 16,125 possible draws, with 11,559 losers. Of the winners, there are 2,592 two-pair hands, 1,854 three of a kinds, 165 full houses and 45 flushes. The presence of two 5s precludes high pairs without it turning into two pairs, and there are no straights, flushes, straight flushes or royals.

You win on only 28.3 percent of the draws, but your average return rises to 3.7 coins.

The high card vs. low pair situation is one of the most important in video poker because it occurs so often. Just as with declining insurance in blackjack, players who get the most out of the game choose the play that wins less often.