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A Rose by any Other Name

by Frank Kneeland

Frank Kneeland was the manager of the largest progressive video poker team in Las Vegas, and has authored a book about his adventures entitled, "The Secret World of Video Poker Progressives". You can get the book as well as some extra info about Kneeland on his website You can listen to his weekly radio show in Las Vegas "Gambling with an Edge" (Bob Dancer co-hosts) at 7PM Thursday nights on KLAV Talk-Radio 1230am.

For more info go to:

Sometimes we all need a little advice to get through life. In the best self-help book I ever read—all the pages were blank!

~Frank Kneeland 2002

The Team Strategy System

In the upcoming months, I will be publishing some video poker strategies for progressives. As I'm sure you all know, the use of some form of shorthand is an absolute necessity for making a concise VP strategy. Every time you want to refer to a set of related hold cards with identical values, you do not have to write all of them out, unless your next obligation is dinner with the in-laws. You use a label to describe them, such as 4FL to stand for the roughly 700 different "Four to the Flush" hands. I've decided to go with the team's system that I've been using for nearly 22 years because it's most familiar to me. However, it won't be familiar to you unless you worked for me, but it is very logical and at least as easy to learn as the others are. The labels are different but the underlying logic is the same. It is, after all, math.

There are some major differences between the team methods and those used by other independent authors. All the systems have their strengths and weaknesses; keep in mind that the team system I’m going to share with you predates the other nomenclature in use today.


Some General Definitions

High Card: Any card in the highest straight; Ace - Ten

This term comes to us from live poker, where it refers to a hand whose value is defined only by its highest card. Since the term is relative, hand specific, and borrowed from live poker, any other meaning assigned to it is system specific. Some methods use "high card" to refer to a card which, when paired, pays you your money back. This can be confusing in games where pairs of jacks or queens, are not paying hands. We adopted this convention: A "high card" is any card that is part of the highest straight. We use "high card" to refer to these cards: A, K, Q, J, and T. We use the label even in Deuces Wild where there are no paying pairs. For example, 2RF Ah could be AKs, AQs, AJs, or ATs. There is no distinction between using a lower or upper case "H/h" to indicate a high card (purely cosmetic).

Pay Card: Any single card which, when paired, pays you your money back

In Jacks or Better, aces through jacks are Pay Cards. In Kings or Better, only kings and aces qualify. In Tens or Better, all five high cards pay even money on a pair. Simply stated, if you are paid for a pair of them they are pay cards for that game. Whether they are high or low is not relevant in this strategy system. If included in a series of cards to symbolize any of several possible pay cards, we use an upper case "P", as in "AKP off" to stand for AKQ & AKJ. If used as part of the abbreviation pc (pay card), it is lower-case, and is always accompanied by a number (0-4pc).

Face Cards: In Jacks or Better games, this refers to K, Q, J—usually reserved for RF holds

Though "Face Card" and "Pay Card" are essentially interchangeable terms in Jacks or Better games, the term has come into widespread use because it sounds better when spoken. Here's an example: for the hold Ah Qh Th—Try saying, "Ace pay-card Ten". Then say, "Ace-Face-Ten". The latter clearly rolls off the tongue better. There are two things to remember about the use of the word "face": It's only used to refer to pay cards in games that return your bet for single pairs of jacks or better, and it's usually reserved for labeling Royal Flush holds.

Ways: a numerical count of the number of straights a hold can make

The "way method" of labeling Straight & Straight Flush holds has been in use by the video poker teams from day one and has also leaked out to the general populace. Rather than focusing on gaps, it uses the number of possible straights as the label. There are two important rules to remember with the way system and they must be remembered in this order.

  1. Every "gap" subtracts one way
  2. A hold can never have more ways than the numerical value of its lowest card.

3-Way = Three cards to the straight flush that can make three possible straights when you fill in the hand with two more cards. It is noteworthy that to have 3-ways, the cards you are holding must be sequential and have no "gaps". We don't ignore gaps, but we don't use them as a labeling system. An example of a 3-Way would be, 456s.

456s can make: 456-78 | 3-456-7 | 23-456

2-Way = Three cards to the straight flush such as 457s that can make 2 different straights.

457s can make: 457-68 | 3-457-6

1-Way = Three SF cards with only 1 way to make a straight. One possible would be 357s,

357 can make: 357-46


Counting Ways—Questions you can answer with the number "3"

What comes after 2? "3"

In Jacks or Better, what is the minimum number of cards you'll hold to the Straight Flush?...

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