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HOME > > Follow-up on Video Poker Strategy Quiz: Straight, K-J Unsuited, or ??

Follow-up on Video Poker Strategy Quiz: Straight, K-J Unsuited, or ??

11 March 2023

By Jerry Stickman

From Ray in Illinois. He had questions concerning the following dealt hand on a 9/6 jacks or better game:

Jh Ks Td Ad 9d

• Jack of hearts – (Jh)
• King of spades – (Ks)
• 10 of diamonds – (Td)
• Ace of diamonds – (Ad)
• 9 of diamonds – (9d)

To see the original article, go here: https://www.casinocitytimes.com/jerry-stickman/article/video-poker-strategy-quiz-straight-k-j-unsuited-or-68019

Hi Stickman,

There was one hold in the quiz that you neglected. And I only bring it up because it has been a matter of contention with my wife and me.

I always play the hand the way you suggest, holding A K J 10 with unsuited high cards. My wife discards the 10 and keeps the 3 high cards.

I never even considered your other choices, keeping the 9 instead of the Ace or holding only 2 unsuited high cards when there are 3 available.

So, answering your quiz correctly was common sense to me, but what I think would possibly be the 2nd best hold wasn't one you considered.

What is the expected on holding AKJ unsuited?

As always,



Hi Ray,

As you are aware, the article listed the top four holds based on their respective average returns. They are:

1. Jh, Ks, Td, Ad - Long-term return – 2.6596 for five credits bet.
2. Jh, Ks, Td, 9d - Long term return – 2.3404 for five credits bet.
3. Jh, Ks - Long term return – 2.3679 for five credits bet.
4. Ks, Ad –or– Jh, Ad – Long term return – 2.3235 for five credits bet.

The article also went into a relatively detailed explanation of all the possible outcomes for each hold.

Rather than list all the possible holds and returns, the article stopped at the top four.

Let us continue the list and see where your wife’s favorite hold ends up.

Here we go starting at hold number five.

5. Jh – Long term return – 2.2752 for five credits bet.

• One possible royal flush
• Three possible straight flushes
• Numerous other paying hands also possible, but the total return is less than any of the top four holds mentioned in the original article

7. Ks – Long term return – 2,2407 for five credits bet.

• Also, one possible royal flush
• Only one possible straight flush (K, Q, J, T, 9)
• Less than half of the previous hold’s possible straight hands
• Numerous other hands possible with nearly identical occurrences.
• Because there are fewer possible straights and straight flushes possible with this hold, the return is slightly less than holding the lone jack of hearts.

8. Td, Ad, 9d or Jh, Ks, Ad – Long term return – 2.2063 for five credits bet. (Ray, your wife’s choice is included here)

• Interestingly, three suited cards including one high card returns the same as three totally unsuited high cards

• The differences are:
o Jh, Ks, Ad: 348 high pairs, 0 flushes, 12 straights
o Td, Ad, 9d: 126 high pairs, 45 flushes, 0 straights


The problem, Ray, with trying to rationalize the best plays is people tend to think of only one thing (such as holding three high cards is better than holding two high cards).

While this type of thinking works well in many instances, it does not work for all situations.

The player must also consider the total number of possible outcomes from the hold and the relative return for each.

Holding three unsuited high cards which includes an ace allows for only 1,081 possible outcomes – 12 straights (4-for-1), nine 3-of-a-kind (3-for-1), 27 two-pairs (2-for-1), 348 jacks or better (1-for-1), and 685 garbage hands.

Holding two high cards – one of which is an unsuited ace – allows for 16,215 possible outcomes – two 4-of-a-kind (25-for-1), 18 full house (9-for-1), 36 straights (4-for-1), 281 3-of-a-kind (3-for-1), 711 two pairs (2-for-1), 4.981 jacks or better (1-for-1) and 10,253 garbage hands.

The ace is a weak high card since has limited straight possibilities. Combining that with the fewer possible outcomes for three unsuited high cards including an ace, drops the total return significantly.

As you properly play the hand, holding the four highest cards has the highest return.

Ray, the only way to know the best hold for sure is to use math to determine it. Use a mathematically developed strategy card, if available for your game and pay table.

Better yet, get a video poker program or app that not only produces strategy charts, but also monitors your practice play. That way you can practice at home and feel confident that you are playing properly when you go to the casino.

As always, may all your wins be swift and large, and your losses be slow and small..

Jerry “Stickman”

Jerry “Stickman” is an expert in craps, blackjack and video poker and advantage slot machine play. He is a regular contributor to top gaming magazines. He authored the video poker section of “Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo, and Pai Gow Poker!” You can contact Jerry “Stickman” at stickmanjerryg@gmail.com

This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at fscobe@optonline.net.

Jerry Stickman
Jerry "Stickman" is an expert in dice control at craps, blackjack, advantage slots and video poker. He is a regular contributor to top gaming magazines. The "Stickman" is also a certified instructor for Golden Touch Craps dice control classes and Golden Touch Blackjack's advantage classes. He also teaches a course in advantage-play slots and video poker. For more information visit www.goldentouchcraps.com or www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 1-800-944-0406 for a free brochure. You can contact Jerry "Stickman" at stickmanGTC@aol.com.

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