Comparing Software on Difficult Hands — Part I of II

This week’s article explains how WinPoker and Video Poker for Winners help you in different ways to become a competent player. Next week covers a new piece of software called Pro Training that’s available on the website for a monthly or annual fee.

I’ve had a lot of discussions with “Kal.” Kal played successful blackjack for years, but is relatively new to video poker. We bring different “beating the house” skills to the table and enjoy learning from each other.

Recently Kal told me, “On hands where three or more relevant combinations are in the same hand, my accuracy rate is much lower than on hands where only two combinations exist.” This seems sort of obvious when you think about it, but this isn’t the way I’ve been studying.

In the past year, I’ve learned four new games as opportunities have changed. When I’m trying to learn a new game, I frequently use WinPoker (Yes, I still use that product on occasion) and set “Hard Hands” to 0.02 or so. This deals me hands where the difference between the top play and the second-best play have an EV difference of 2¢ or less for the 5-coin dollar player. I figure that if I can learn the hard hands, the easy hands surely won’t be a problem.

Sometimes just being close in EV isn’t the same as being difficult. In 9-6 Jacks or Better, for example, from AJ542 “rainbow,” the best play (AJ) is worth less than a penny more (for a 5-coin dollar player) than the second-best play (J by itself). For those of us who have learned the rule “Two high cards, suited or not, are ALWAYS preferred to one high card in this game,” this is a no-brainer type of hand, even though the difference between the top two hands is fairly small.

What Kal was talking about is different. He’s talking about hands such as: A♥ K♥ Q♣ T♣ 8♣, where you need to consider the 2-card royal flush AK (the correct play in 9-6 Jacks or Better by 18¢), the 3-card straight flush QT8 (the correct play in 9-7 Triple Double Bonus by 6¢), and the 4-card inside straight AKQT (the correct play in 9-7 Double Bonus by 25¢).

In none of these three games would this hand show up when I was checking for hands where the top two plays were within 2¢ of each other. And since each play was correct in one of the games, and a number of players use the same strategy for all games, it’s a 100% lock that some players will misplay the hand in one or more of the games. Since I wouldn’t be concentrating on this particular hand, it’s possible that I personally would mess it up. My accuracy rate is very high if I have recently reviewed a particular game. But if I haven’t, and I’ve played a lot of different games recently, sometimes I’m not 100% positive of the correct play.

In the Triple Double Bonus game, it’s a “penalty card” hand, because you play A♥ K♥ Q♣ T♣ 8♣ differently than you play A♥ J♥ Q♣ T♣ 8♣, where AJ is the better play by less than a penny. A play this close would definitely show up during my practice of hard hands, but I’d need to be on my toes to realize that the play was different depending on whether the lower heart was a jack or a king. It would be easy to reach the wrong conclusion — at a rather major cost of 25¢.

In Video Poker for Winners, the computer software I helped design, the hands discussed here show up regularly when you have the “Level of Difficulty” set to “Advanced.” When designing which types of hands should be displayed when this feature was turned on, I included a number of possibilities where you had 3-card straight flushes of various stripes mixed and matched with many different inside straights. Many other combinations were included as well.

Setting the “Level of Difficulty” to “Intermediate” gives you a different mix of hands. I always check them as well when I’m trying to master a new game. Sometimes this uncovers a situation I would otherwise miss. I never set it to “Beginner,” because there are so many easy hands that for me it’s a waste of time.

While there were dozens of criteria used to determine what the advanced hands should be, “dozens” isn’t very many. You’ll find that you get the same types of hands listed over and over again.

Still, the difficult hands presented to you in WinPoker are different from the difficult hands presented by Video Poker for Winners. Which is why owning and practicing with two or more software products is advisable. Although there is a lot of overlap in doing the basic things, each computer trainer has features the other ones don’t. Considering the money many of us run through the machines every year, the price of these products is small compared to the potential value. Since I originally wrote this article, there is new software available that I use when learning a new game. It’s the Pro Training software at the website You must be hooked up to the Internet to use it, and there’s a recurring monthly or annual fee, but there are features on it that are found nowhere else. I’ll be explaining the features of this software next week.

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