K-man's pogo.com Informational Pages

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Turbo 21

Be sure to check out this scoring update that happened around the end of 2010.

Turbo 21 is a fun game offered by pogo.com that has been around for a long time, since about November 2000. I strongly encourage all new players of this game to read pogo's help pages ("how to play") associated with this game. The help pages will tell you how to play the game and will also give some good tips for doing well in the game.

Since rules and tips are already provided by pogo, this page will deal primarily with some of the mathematics of the game and will suggest how to play the game to earn the most possible tokens.

Many of the token-earning games on pogo are geared more toward pure luck (like bingo, roulette, keno, and slots), while others are geared slightly more towards skill games (video poker, poppit). Turbo 21 is even more of a skill game in that if you understand the game well, you can make decisions while playing that will help you earn the most tokens in the shortest amount of time.

There are two goals in the game:

  1. Make 13 or more 21's in order to reach the "jackpot spinner" level
  2. Earn as many tokens as possible
(If you earn over 500 tokens in a single game, you will get your name "in lights", which might be a goal for you as well).

Both of these goals require playing the game skillfully and making as many 21's as possible.

Some quick-start tips

Some of you reading this page might not be particularly interested in going into much detail. If you just want to get started with some quick tips, check these out (most of these were contributed by pogo.com player steev0. You can see the entire text of steev0's letter to me by following this link.

  1. READ POGO.COM's HELP PAGES! I can't emphasize this enough! The tips they have on their help pages are quite useful and will aid you in getting lots of 21's. You can access pogo's help pages by clicking on the "?" question mark while playing the game, or by selecting "How to Play" from pogo's main Turbo 21 page.
  2. Don't worry about counting to 21. Instead, just try to count to 11 and then match the 11 up with a face card or a ten to make 21.
  3. If you are forced to bust a column, first try to bust a "duplicate" column (that is, if your columns total 15, 16, 19, 16, you should bust one of the 16's).
  4. If you are forced to bust a column and you don't have any duplicate columns, bust a 20
  5. If you can't make a 21 or an 11, make a 10 (see steev0's email for more information)
  6. Try to keep different totals in each column (for example, try to avoid two columns totaling 13)
  7. Play fast
  8. Make frequent use of the "New Game" button (see below for more information on this)

Game area diagram

turbo21 screen image

Some General info about the game

Turbo 21 is played with a standard deck of 52 playing cards. As in blackjack, each 10 and face card counts as a 10. The object of the game, of course, is to "make" as many 21's as possible by placing each card in the deck in one of 4 columns on the playing field.

The maximum possible number of 21's you can make out of a single deck is 18. If you make 13 or more 21's, the "Jackpot Spinner" will be enabled at the end of the game; this will give you chance to win the current jackpot (the jackpot spinner is purely random, and while I don't know the precise odds of winning the jackpot on a spin, I do believe that the odds are quite small. Of course, the more often you make at least 13 21's, the more often you'll get a chance to spin for the jackpot!).

While you play, there is a "bar" in the playing field that keeps track of how many 21's you have earned so far. As you earn more 21's, the bar will turn green up to the level of how many 21's have been made so far. The bar is somewhat confusing since each number is preceded by a "+" sign. What this actually indicates is the total number of tokens you will earn based on how many 21's you have made. These numbers are additive, meaning that as you progress up the bar, you'll additionally earn the number of tokens indicated. Here's a table showing the bar level, the number of additive tokens for that level, and the total number of tokens you therefore have earned for that game so far.

21's Made Tokens won
at that level
Total tokens
won so far
18 +1000 1942
17 +500 942
16 +250 442
15 +75 192
14 +50 117
13 (jackpot spin level) +25 67
12 +10 42
11 +7 32
10 +5 25
9 +5 20
8 +3 15
7 +3 12
6 +2 9
5 +2 7
4 +2 5
3 +1 3
2 +1 2
1 +1 1
Table 1: 21's made vs. tokens earned

Some notes about the above table:

Scoring update, end of 2010:

For some reason, in 2010 pogo changed how scoring works in many of its games, including Turbo21. The basic idea is that the numbers you see in the scoring bar no longer reflect the number of tokens you will win in the current game, but rather they represent "points". These points then translate into tokens won at the rate of approximately 1 token won per 10 points.

Now high score windows (last hour and last 24 hours) reflect points scored, not tokens won.

In addition for Turbo21 in particular, the points in the scoring bar do not correctly reflect the points you are awarded. Here are two images demonstrating this:

New scoring as indicated by score bar               New scoring: actual points awarded
Two scoring charts: above left: advertised points within the game.
Above right: actual points awarded.

The above image on the left indicates the points to be awarded per 21. However, it's not correct! The image on the right shows what points you are actually awarded per 21. The difference is that in actuality you are awarded 70 additional points for your 11th 21 instead of the 100 points indicated. Then, all other scores are pushed up one level until you get to the 17th 21, which awards 5000 points. Your 18th 21 does indeed award 10,000 points, but there is no level that awards 7500 points: it has been removed.

You can win or lose a few points here and there based on getting blackjacks for 21's, playing fast, or busting a column. The point totals on the right side of each image indicate the cumulative number of points earned. But a perfect game of 18 21's will only put you at around 19,500 points, not 26,000+ points indicated by the scoring column that you currently see while you're playing. Pogo should fix this either by adjusting actual points awarded, or correcting the scoring column image.

[I have no idea why pogo has made the change of using points instead of tokens in many of its games. Personally, I think this change adds another scoring model that just makes play more confusing to the player. Awards on the play field should be based on number of tokens won rather than some other scoring system.]

Let's now take a look at our next goal in Turbo 21, which is:

Mathematics: How to get all possible 21's

As mentioned above and indicated in the table, the maximum number of 21's that you can make in a single game is 18. Since this gives us the maximum number of token earnings, it is desirable to figure out how we can make 18 21's as often as possible. This section describes how to do so.

Since the game uses a standard deck of 52 cards, and since the game follows blackjack rules for card values (tens and face cards have a value of 10 and aces have a value of either 1 or 11), we can use this information to figure out how to get the most number of 21's in a game.

There are 16 ten-values in the deck (four 10's, four jacks, four queens, and four kings) and of course exactly four aces. As a basic rule, you can only get 18 21's if you (a) use each ace with a single ten-value card, and you (b) combine 2-card totals of 11 for the other 12 ten-value cards. (using two-card 11 totals is VERY important in this game)

As an example of this, you could combine the ten-value cards as follows:

Number of
cards used
Number of 21's
you can make
Total Number of
cards used
10-A 2 4 8
10-9-2 3 4 12
10-8-3 3 4 12
10-7-4 3 4 12
Totals 16 44
Table 2: Using ten-value cards to make 21's

The table above is only an example, and shows only one way that you can use all 16 ten-value cards to make 16 21's.

Note that if we follow the above table for a single game, we have not used any 5's or 6's, and that we have used 44 cards out of the total 52 cards in the deck. Therefore, in the example above, we would have be left with exactly 8 cards: the four 5's, and the four 6's.

Using the remaining four 5's and four 6's, we can make 1 more 21 (5-5-5-6) for a total of 17 21's, and we are now left with four cards: one 5 and three 6's. Unfortunately, it is not possible to make our 18th 21 out of these four cards.

So how do we make 18 21's? We can figure this out by assuming that we use all 16 ten-values as demonstrated in the table above, then closely examine our remaining 8 cards and try to figure out how to make two additional 21's out of our remaining 8 cards.

In the specific example above, we were left with four 5's and four 6's, and we were able to make one additional 21. The interesting thing to note about these remaining 8 cards is that they make a total value of 44 (5 + 5 + 5 + 5 + 6 + 6 + 6 + 6 = 44). Thus if there were some way to combine these remaining 8 cards into two more 21's, we would be left with a 2 (but we don't have a 2 left in this example).

If you're following this so far, you're probably already catching on to the following tips:

Advanced tips for making 18 21's

Important: when I talk about "remaining 8 cards", this does NOT necessarily mean precisely the last 8 cards that you are dealt from the deck; I'm talking about the 8 cards that remain once you have used all the ten-value cards to make 21's: these can be in any order in the deck.

So we know the following rules about our remaining 8 cards:

Following the rules indicated above, we are left with a finite number of card combinations that will allow us to ultimately make 18 21's. Remember that we are using all our ten-value cards with either a single ace, or with a combination of exactly two other cards that total 11.

To see a comprehnsive list of all the possible remaining card combinations that satisfy the above rules, follow this link.

It is not necessary to memorize all the values from the table just mentioned. But it's VERY important to realize that in order to make all 18 21's you must use each ace with a single ten-value card, and you must use the remaining 12 ten-value cards with 2-card 11 combinations.

When to Start a New Game Using the "New Game" button

Near the upper right area of the playing field, there is one button that allows you to terminate the current game and begin a new game. This is similar to the "New Game" button in poppit in that since the button is included, it should be thought of as a "feature" rather than as a way to "cheat".

Also, note that if you click the "New Game" button, currently you are awarded the tokens you have earned so far in the game. So clicking this button doesn't cause you to lose any of the tokens you've earned in your current game.

If you've followed everything on this page so far, and you've decided that for you personally it's imporant to always try to make 18 21's in each game, I do suggest making liberal use of the "New Game" button. The question is, how can you decide when it's appropriate to do so?

The answer to this question is not cut-and-dried, but here are a few guidelines that I usually follow to determine whether it's time to begin a new game:

When to Start a New Game (advanced)

As I've gained more experience in this game, I find that I use the new game button more and more frequently:

The only exception to the above is when I'm VERY close to the jackpot spin (like within 1 or 2 21's of 13 21's).

Updates and new Features

Over the years, the Turbo21 game has been updated and improved with new features added. These features are:

That's about it! Good luck everyone!