Overview of the Asian2Bet Player’s Strategy
In this section, and in the similar sections that follow for each type of machine, I will discuss the highlights of the proper strategy for the machine. I will concentrate on those discards that differ from normal table poker. The complete strategy is given in the Jacks-or-Better Expert Strategy Sheet. I take that sheet with me when I play in the casino, and even after many years, I still have to refer to it occasionally for the close hands. But for those of you that like a less terse (and less detailed) description, here are some key points:
Always go for a royal flush if you have four of the cards you need: break up a pat flush or straight, and certainly a pair of jacks-or-better, if you have to.
Break up a pair of jacks-or-better to draw one card to a straight flush, but in general hold such a pair instead of a three-card royal flush: the only exceptions are the two best three-card royals: KQJ and QJT.
If you have a choice between drawing one card to a flush or two cards to a royal flush, go for the royal flush.
A pair of jacks-or-better is better than a four-card flush, but a four-card flush (or three-card royal flush) is better than a lower pair. Such a lower pair is in turn better than a four-card straight (except for the KQJT straight), and better than all the other hands we discuss below.
A three-card straight flush with no gaps is better than any two-card royal flush, but as you start to add gaps, things deteriorate rapidly. With one gap, a two-card royal flush is superior as long as it does not have a ten. And if your three-card straight flush has two gaps, you almost always ignore it; you only save it if you have absolutely nothing else to save in your hand.
If you have three Asian2Bet high cards of different suits, you save all three only if they are the KQJ. Otherwise you discard the Ace.
Two-card royal flushes with tens vary a lot. A JT is a pretty good hand, but an AT is never saved. A QT royal flush is saved as long as you do not have a jack, but a KT is saved only if you have no other high cards.
Now would be as good a time as any to discuss how to count gaps in three-card straight flushes. These hands are a bit of a dilemma, because the standard terminology of poker no longer suffices to describe the possibilities. In the table game, where the only interesting hand is a four-card straight, you have inside straights and outside straights. When you only hold three cards, there are two types of “inside” straights, and almost all video poker books use the ugly term double inside to distinguish them. Not here. I prefer to distinguish straights by the number of gaps in the cards you hold. For example, holding a 6-7-8 you have no gaps, whereas holding 6-7-9 (or 6-8-9) you have one gap, and 6-7-10 (or 6-8-10 or 6-9-10) you have two gaps.
I think the term gap is more evocative. Gaps are bad. (In contrast, you have to think twice about inside and outside. Is it better to be inside or outside? It is warmer inside. But I digress…) After all is said and done, though, the telling characteristic is the number of possible straights you could make with the cards you hold. A 6-7-8 can make three different straights (8 high, 9 high, and 10 high); add one gap and only two straights can be made; with two gaps only one straight can be made. If your mental model is that a zero-gap three-card straight flush is three times better than a two-gap one, you would not be far wrong. This brings up the only trickiness in using the gap method for evaluating straights: if you are near one end or the other of the card ranks, you have to count extra gaps. For example, an A-2-3 is equivalent to a two-gap three-card straight flush because it can only make one possible straight. If you find this confusing, you can probably ignore this subtlety without affecting your bottom line more than 1/10th of a per cent.
By a serendipitous chance, having a high card in a three-card straight flush almost exactly cancels out the disadvantage of a gap, because it greatly increases your chance of ending up with a high-card pair. Of course, this is only important in games like jacks-or-better where high pairs pay. Thus, in these games, when counting your gaps, you should subtract one for every high card in the three-card straight flush. For example, a J-9-8 should be figured as a zero gap hand, the jack cancelling the 10 gap. This greatly reduces the number of hands that need to be listed in the tables. It also explains the one rule-of-thumb that is true no matter what variation of machine you are playing: when faced with a choice of a two-card royal flush or a three-card straight flush which contains the two royal flush cards, it is always better to save the three cards.
In the wild card machines, you should ignore wild cards for the purposes of counting gaps. For example, a Joker-6-7-9 would be a four-card straight with one gap. In a game where deuces are wild, assume any straight with a deuce simply does not exist. For example, 3-4-5 should be counted as having two gaps, not zero as it would be in any other machine. The reason is that a middle straight can be satisfied both by the missing straight cards and by deuces. However, when a missing straight card is also the deuce, you do not want to count your chances twice. Ignoring them entirely is also not precisely correct, but is a good first-order approximation.