Video Poker is the only game in the casino that actually shows you the information you need to determine the house edge and develop the proper playing strategy to attain the highest return possible. Most video poker players are totally unaware of how to use the information available to their advantage. They will plop down on any close or convenient machine and play by hunches in the hope that they will get lucky. This guide is written to help players get the most out of their video poker playing efforts.


Because video poker is basically the integration of poker and slot machines, its history can be traced back to the invention of the slot machines itself. Charles Fey is the father of the slot machine. His slot machines had numbers on it and not poker hands. These coin-operated machines were developed in the U.S. in the 1800s and were very popular in saloons and cigar stores, especially in San Francisco.
Do not draw to a four-card inside straight -- one in which the missing card is in the middle rather than on either end -- unless it includes at least three high cards. A four-card open straight is one that has space open at either end to complete the hand; for example, a hand of 4-5-6-7 can use either a 3 at one end or an 8 at the other to complete the straight. An inside straight has space in the middle that must be filled to complete the hand; 4-6-7-8 needs a 5 to become a straight. Open straights give the player a better chance, with twice as many cards available to fill the straight.
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For more precise and even better odds, below is a table telling you exactly which cards to keep and which to throw away depending on your starting 5 cards. To read the table, start at the top and match your hand to the highest one on the list and follow the number listed there. In other words, while you may have both a pair and four cards to a flush, such as having the Ace of hearts and the Ace, King, Queen, and Jack of spades (AAKQJ) you will discard the Ace or hearts and try to hit the royal straight flush, since "four-card royal straight flush" is higher on the chart than "High pair."


Know how to play a basic game. Video poker is simple and similar to regular poker in that you are aiming for a hand that will give you the most return. To play video poker you will tap on the cards you wish to keep or on a button on the console, and then draw cards you wish to replace. You win by having a traditional poker hand, and the amount you win is determined by the machine you are playing on.
In the early 1980s, Si Redd and his new International Gaming Technology entered into a licensing agreement with Bally's Manufacturing that gave IGT exclusive rights to manufacture video poker machines. Few people recognized the potential at the time, but that gave IGT the boost it needed to become Bally's main competitor in producing electronic gaming devices. Today IGT and Bally's both produce video poker machines, and their machines take up most of the floor space devoted to electronic gaming devices across the country.
Why do casinos offer games that can be beaten? Because only a very small percentage of players know the basics of proper play. Enough mistakes are made that the casinos actually pay out 2 to 4 percent less than the expectation for skilled players. In competitive markets, casinos walk a tightrope between two choices -- offering a pay table so good that the best players can expect to make a profit in the long term, or offering lower pay tables and risk driving away the weaker players who are the casino's bread-and-butter customers. In less-competitive markets, where the demand for space to play is great, casinos will offer lower-paying machines because they will be played despite the low payoffs.
All this changed in the early 1980s when SIRCOMA, the company that would eventually become International Game Technology, decided to concentrate on perfecting the video poker console. This turned out to be a Vegas-shattering success, as it gave poker players who felt intimidated while playing on casino tables the chance to play their favourite pastime against a faceless ‘opponent’.

Video Poker belongs to the small number of casino games, where thousands of players manage not just to make a living playing it, but to end up in possession of tremendous amounts of money. At the same time, tens of thousands of players around the world are in possession of sufficient knowledge of the game, so that they are able to have an astonishing experience during casino vacations, while also being able to take advantage of other benefits – and all that at a much lesser price than retail.


6. Avoid this common three-card strategy – Some players keep three cards in an attempt to draw a straight or a flush. This is a losing proposition and should be avoided. Even if you hit a straight or a flush, you’ll have lost too much with this play to make it profitable. Practice Basic Strategy to have a shot at winning. Three cards to a straight flush, however, is a different proposition and should be played as outlined in the list in No. 2.

All this changed in the early 1980s when SIRCOMA, the company that would eventually become International Game Technology, decided to concentrate on perfecting the video poker console. This turned out to be a Vegas-shattering success, as it gave poker players who felt intimidated while playing on casino tables the chance to play their favourite pastime against a faceless ‘opponent’.

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So far we have looked at low variance and moderate variance video poker games. Low variance games have the advantage of a smaller bankroll size requirement and relatively simple video poker strategy. This comes at the cost of playing a somewhat boring game. Moderate variance video poker games are more exciting to play because they have more high paying winning hands. The excitement factor is offset, however, by higher bankroll requirements and somewhat more complex playing strategy.

The differences can be quite large. If one site has 9-6 Double Double Bonus Poker (98.98 percent return with expert play), another has 9-5 DDB (97.97 percent) and a third has 8-5 DDB (96.79 percent), think about what that means: In casino No. 1, the house expects to keep $1.02 per $100 in wagers, casino No. 2 expects to keep $2.03 and casino No. 3 expects to keep $3.21.
As you have learned in the first chapter, one of the main reasons for the popularity of video poker is it usually has a considerably higher payback than slot machines. In fact some games return more than 100 percent for a skilled player. Regardless of which video poker game you play, achieving the long term return percentage is dependent on getting your fair share of royal flushes. By a royal flush I mean the royal flush that really counts – the natural royal flush that is formed without the aid of a wild card. These generally pay 4,000 credits for a five-credit bet or 800 for 1.
Although you will not be able to make the calculations in your head, there are software programs, strategy cards, books, and websites where you can obtain the information you need to determine the payouts for each paytable. By knowing how to read a pay table, you can make sure you are playing the machine with the best return. Some casinos will put two identical machines that have different pay tables next to each other. You want to make sure you are choosing the one with the highest return.
If you choose the machine on the right, you'll lose your money six times faster!  And your chances of winning will be far less.  If the reason isn't obvious then consider this:  If the player is getting back 99.54% and 97.29%, that means the casino is keeping 0.46% and 2.71%.  The casino profit on the second machine is 2.71 ÷ 0.46 = 5.9 times higher.
Some machines will give you the option of playing in a multi-hand format. In these cases, you’ll pay for all of your hands up front: if you play a 10-hand machine for five credits per hand, for instance, you’ll be on the hook for 50 credits at the start of each hand. You’ll still be dealt just one initial hand of five cards. But, after you choose which cards to discard, you will receive new cards for each of the video poker hands you paid for. These new hands are each drawn independently, so it is possible to get the same replacement cards on different hands. All of your winning hands will award prizes, just as in a standard, single-handed game.
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Once I hit two 4 of a Kinds back to back.  The probability of hitting it once is 0.24%.  The chances of hitting it back to back are 0.24%2 = 0.0006%, or 1 in 179,000.  That's four times less likely than hitting a royal flush.  And I would have preferred the royal!  (By the way, purists will note that after you've hit a 4 of a Kind, the chances of hitting another four of a kind is just 0.24%, not 0.0006%, but I'm considering the probability of getting two back-to-back before I get the first one.)
So far we have looked at low variance and moderate variance video poker games. Low variance games have the advantage of a smaller bankroll size requirement and relatively simple video poker strategy. This comes at the cost of playing a somewhat boring game. Moderate variance video poker games are more exciting to play because they have more high paying winning hands. The excitement factor is offset, however, by higher bankroll requirements and somewhat more complex playing strategy.
Since video poker is a game of strategy, it definitely pays to get some practice in before you start playing for real by trying free online video poker. This isn’t possible in a brick-and-mortar casino, but online casinos give you the chance to play for free for as long as you want. This lets learn how to play video poker without putting any of your money at risk.
Joining the slot club will give you additional rewards for all of your play so it is well worthwhile since you would be playing anyway. Setting a budget is a crucial step as you should only ever gamble with money you can afford to lose. You should also expect that even with the best possible pay tables you will not win on every session you play - that's why it's called gambling.
You learned in chapter 3.4 that the variance of a multiple play game increases as the number of lines played increases. The variance of a single play game is lower than the variance of a three play game. The variance of a five play game is higher than the variance of a three play game, and so on. In this section you will find out specific bankroll sizes for a couple of games at a different number plays for each game.
Absolutely fantastic software for anybody who loves video poker (such as I do). All of the most popular games are on it and it has triple play and five play. You can set it in a mode that warns you every time you don't play the optimal strategy (if you want to). I bought it a couple of weeks ago and have been playing it every night for relaxation and education. I highly highly recommend it.
Elsewhere on this site I show you how to figure your average loss for an hour of play.  In summary, you multiply the house edge by the bet size by the number of rounds per hour.  On a 9/6 quarter Jacks or Better machine with proper strategy, that would be 0.5% x $1.25 (remember we're playing 5 coins at a time) x 400 hands per hour = $2.50 per hour.  Not bad.  Except that the formula doesn't work for video poker in the short term.  That's because you'll hit the royal only once every 66 hours on average, and while you're waiting for the royal, the return on the game isn't ~99.5%, it's ~97.5%.  So you're more likely to lose 2.5% in the short term rather than 0.5%.  So we can expect our hourly loss to be closer to $6.25/hour than $1.25/hour while we're waiting for the royal.  Still, $6.25/hour is pretty cheap.  On a slot machine your loss would be closer to $40 an hour.  So you can see why I'm so eager to switch you from slots to VP.
But video poker adds something slot machines don't have -- an element of skill. Players have decisions to make that affect the outcome. And because cards are required to be dealt from a randomly shuffled 52-card deck -- or 53 cards, in the case of Joker's Wild machines -- the possible combinations are known, the frequency of the combinations can be calculated, and an optimal playing strategy can be devised. In fact, when Missouri riverboats opened under a law that forbade games of chance, casinos were allowed to offer video poker, as a game of skill, even though slots, as games of chance, had to wait until voters changed the law.
There are five columns in the paytable because your winnings depend on whether you played 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 coins.  Note that there's a bonus for the Royal Flush.  Instead of winning 1250 coins (5 coins x 250), you win 4000 coins.  So you should always play five coins ("Max Bet") when playing video poker.  If you can't afford to play five coins at a time, switch to a lower-denomination machine.  (Yes, this is opposite of our advice about slots, and that's because the penalty for not playing max coins in video poker is greater.)
A royal flush is a straight flush composed of the highest cards, such as 10? J? Q? K? A?.  But of course they don't all have to be in order. Q? 10? A? J? K? is still a royal flush.  The Royal Flush is the jackpot in video poker, and comes around about once out of every 40,000 or so hands -- or a week and a half of full-time play.  Hey, it could be worse:  The jackpot on a typical slot machine only hits about one out of every 262,144 spins.
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You may have heard the adage that the "house always has the advantage." Video poker is an exception to that rule. If you look for the most liberal pay tables, and play them properly, you can have a thin advantage. Some pay tables, which are slightly in the machine's favor, can return over 100%, if you factor in incentives such as cash back, free play, mailers, and other comps.

After studying this payout and odds table, it is notable that there is an inequality between the odds and the payouts of some hands despite the fact a Full House is more likely to happen than a straight or a flush, but pays more than these two hands. It is clear from the pay table that hands that are not likely going to happen pay more while hands that are more likely to happen pay less. Despite this, the game is in the favor of the player, which is why it can be only found online or at big land-based casinos. You are surely not going to find them in bars or other small gambling venues.
The strategy below is the Wizard's simplified strategy for Jacks or Better.  You give up just a tiny part of the return (99.46% instead of 99.54%) and in exchange you get a strategy that's much, much easier to learn and remember than the perfect strategy.  The 0.08% penalty costs you only $0.60 per hour of play on average, assuming a quarter machine played at 600 hands per hour.
You will also learn the layout and importance of the pay table, as well as how to properly bet while playing video poker. You will learn and understand payback, return, house (and player) edge. You will learn about the implications of variance, sometimes called volatility. You will also learn what the term random really means when playing video poker.
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