Hit, stick, duplicate or divide whichever you must do

Last week, I volunteered at my son’s school at their book fair. During the slow period, the parents shot breezy while getting to know each other. My work is relatively unique, so it tends to get a lot of attention.

This must have led me to tell the story of how my father started analyzing casino gaming. It started one day when he walked into a casino and saw a video poker machine. This is the late 1980’s (maybe early 1990’s?).

It wasn’t long before he walked into a different casino and saw a similar video poker machine. The two machines advertise very different returns. My dad doesn’t understand how two machines with identical paytables can have different returns visit Warkoppoker.

In blackjack, you make an initial bet and get two cards. Now you have to decide whether to hit, paste, duplicate or split. You have different decisions in video poker but the concepts are very similar.

As in blackjack, multiple hands require very little thought. You were dealt a pair of aces, together with 2-6-9? That’s as clear as what to do with Hard 19 vs 6. Change that to Pair of 4’s and have a 2-6-9 match and the same settings as one of the 4’s and now you have something to think about. Install a 4-card or 4-card Flush?

As in blackjack, what decisions to make are calculated mathematically. In blackjack the calculations are a little easier as there are only two choices (at most) in most cases. The decision to hit or stick is determined by the one that gives the player the bigger return.

In the case of a 4-card vs. Low Pair, we looked at 47 possible withdrawals for 4-card Flush and added the possible payouts of all 47. We did the same for 16,215 possible withdrawals for Low. Couple.

To be able to compare apples to apples, we divide the total by the number of possible draws for each. We then compare the results, which we call expected values. The one with a higher expectation value is the right strategy.

In fact, we use a computer program to do this job and we look at each of the 32 possible draws that players can make. Most of the time at least 29 of these will never be considered, but it’s hard (but not impossible) to tell the computer how to get rid of a choice that’s clearly wrong.

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