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================================================= Thursday, April 19, 2001

Video Poker – Straight Flush Draws             

 Hello everyone,

We haven’t touched the Video Poker subject for quite a while.  Video Poker is my friend Tony R. Frank’s speciality.  Here is what Skip Hughes has to say about Straight Flush Draws:

 “The straight flush draws can be one of the most confusing issues to deal with when switching between Jacks or Better and Double Bonus.  Let’s try to simplify this issue, although it may not seem so at first. 

 Let’s deal with the least valuable hand and progress to the most valuable ones.  It’s not surprising that a two-card straight flush is not playable in either Jacks or Better or Double Bonus.  It’s a playable hand in some other games, but not these two.

So, the first hand to be considered is the “double inside straight flush with no high cards.”  The characteristic of this hand is that there is exactly one combination of two cards that must be drawn to make the straight flush. 

1) 2,3,6 of hearts, King of spade and 8 of diamond.
2) 5,7,9 of club, 2 of diamond, and Queen of spade.

In all these examples, the three cards we are interested in are placed as the first three cards dealt to make it easier to follow.  Unfortunately, the machine you’re playing will not be so kind.  One of the tricks of playing these hands correctly is spotting them in the first place.  Scan the hand you are dealt carefully.

In the first example, the 4 and 5 of hearts must be drawn to fill the straight flush; in the second, the 6 and 8 of clubs are required.  This is the worst playable hand in Jacks or Better.  Even a single high card is significantly better.  An Ace, for instance – the worst single high card (because of the reduced straight chances) – is about 19 cents better than this when playing dollar Jacks or Better.

The next hand to consider is the “three-card inside (or single inside) straight flush”.  This hand is characterized by the fact that there are two sets of two cards that will complete the straight flush. 

1)     2,3,4 (or 2,3,5) of hearts, King of spade, 8 of diamond
2)     5,6,8, of club, 2 of diamond, Queen of spade.

If you study these examples and compare them to the double inside draws, you’ll quickly see the difference.   This type of hand is significantly better than the double inside draw.

Before discussing where this hand ranks exactly, let’s go on to the next one.  That is the “double inside straight flush with one high card.”

1)     Ace, 2, 3 of hearts, king of spade, 8 of diamond;
2)     9, 10, King of club, 2 of diamond, 6 of spade;
3)     7,8, Jack of club, 2 of diamond, 6 of spade.

Note especially the first example.  Variations of this hand occur often and are among the most missed hands by even the better than average player.  Any hand that has an Ace and any two cards, 2-5, of the same suit, fall into this category.  Watch for them.

So what is a double inside straight flush with one high card worth?  Well, it’s worth slightly more than the single inside, no-high card version we just covered, and since the two hands can’t coexist, you can consider them to be exactly the same in value!  They are better than any unsuited high cards or two-card royal with a 10, but not as good a two-card royal with no 10 or a four-card inside straight with three or four high cards.

As we move up to the better three-card straight flushes, we have the same situation – they are so close together, we can consider them all to have basically the same value.  For those who like to calculate out several places past the decimal, penalty cards can figure in here, but they are not necessary.  We use no straight flush penalty card situations at all and only one penalty card situation overall on our Jacks or Better strategy card, and that strategy has been determined to have a return within .001% of the “perfect play” return.

In any case, we will identify the hands and then we’ll see where they stack up in value.

First of all, we have the “open straight flush with no high cards.”  An open three-card straight flush is characterized by the fact that there are three combinations of two cards that will fill the straight flush.

Example:  7,8,9 of club, 2 of diamond, 6 of spade.

Next we have the “(single) inside straight flush with one high card.”

1)     8,9,Jack of club, 2 of diamond, 6 of spade
2)     8,10,Jack of club, 2 of diamond and 6 of spade;
3)     9,10,Queen of club, 2 of diamond and 6 of spade.

Then, there is the “double inside straight flush with two high cards.”

1)     8, Jack, Queen of club, 2 of diamond, 6 of spade;
2)     9, Jack, King of club, 2 of diamond, 6 of spade;
3)     9, Queen, King of club, 2 of diamond, 6 of spade.

Again, we are using very similar hands (and the same discards) to make it easier for you to see the similarities and differences in these hands. 

Finally, let’s consider the best three-card straight flush hands.  Obviously, the very best ones we can’t (and don’t) even consider as being a straight flush draw (although they are), because they are also royal flush draws.  For instance, a suited Ten, Jack, Queen is an excellent straight flush draw, but one of the three combinations of cards that will fill it is Ace, King, which turns it into a royal flush!  So our best three-card straight flush-only hands are these:  An “open straight flush with one high card: (9, 10, Jack of club, 2 of diamond, 6 of spade) and an “inside straight flush with two high cards” (9, Jack, Queen of club, 2 of diamond, 6 of spade).

 All of these variations are mutually exclusive with each other and they all rank basically the same (although their theoretical values differ).  They are all better than an inside straight with three of four high cards and better than any two-card royal flush draw, but none of them are as good as a four-card open-end straight with one or two high cards and none of them are as good as a small pair.

But what about the four-card straight with no high cards?  Well. Only one of these straight flush draws can coexist with that hand and that’s the “open-end straight flush with no high cards.”  Take the four-card open straight over that one.

 As I mentioned Tony R. Frank has documented everything you need to know about video poker and click here to find this information.

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That’s all for this week.

All the best,
Until next week,


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