Despite massive strides in computer technology and in particular video graphics, contemporary video poker machines are little different from their primitive forebears. Video poker fans are keen that their game is kept as ‘traditional’ as possible, and video poker has not developed in the same way that online slots games have evolved to be feature-rich monsters.
As you learned in chapter one, this game and others that followed were developed to satisfy the gambling public’s quest for larger jackpots. Jacks or Better has only the royal flush as a true jackpot. In that game any four of a kind pays enough for you to play 25 additional hands so they are not really jackpots, although it really helps out. Bonus Poker on the other hand pays 80 for one for four aces. On a quarter machine this amounts to $100 with five credits played. While this is not a huge jackpot, it is enough to make you feel like you have won something substantial and you may even decide to stop playing at that point with what you consider a nice win for the session. Also, where the royal flush happens only once every 40,000 hands or so, four aces will occur roughly once every 5,100 hands, which is eight times as often. Playing at a rate of 500 hands per hour, the Bonus Poker player will get four aces once every 10 hours of play, on average.
In this chapter you learned how video poker strategy charts are created. The process is very computationally intense. By using the math of video poker to create a strategy that maximizes the return of every hand, the resultant strategy will have the highest return possible. You also learned that while there may be scores of lines in a strategy chart, the charts are straightforward to use. In order to properly use a strategy chart the video poker player must know the relative amount paid for each different hand. They must also know how to determine whether a straight or straight flush is a fully open or an inside hand. Having learned how to use a video poker strategy chart, you are ready to learn how to practice playing video poker in order to learn how to play without having to check a strategy chart for each hand. You will learn how to do this in chapter 7.
Holding cards based on what you feel is correct or holding based on the flow of the cards are both technically strategies. But the video poker game manufacturers set up pay tables based on the math of the game so the casinos will be sure to make a profit from them. Therefore in order for you to make the most of your video poker playing experience, you need to use a strategy that is based on the same math.
While sometimes it may look tempting to draw to a straight or just try your luck with 5 entirely new cards, the answer is almost always to keep the low pair. The general exception to this rule is when you have 4 cards to a flush, straight flush, or a royal straight flush. In these cases you always want to draw to the flush or straight flush because your odds of getting at least the flush are very good and the payout is so much higher. If you can remember this one single strategy, you will be in better shape than many players.
The fourth part, finding a liberal pay table, requires some combination of online research and good old walking. A great site for identifying the loose video poker at every casino in Las Vegas, and most of the country, is vpfree2.com. However, any video poker player worth his weight in quarters can identify a loose pay table on sight. Let's take Jacks or Better, for example. All the pays except the flush and full house are usually the same. In any video poker game, it is usually the middle hands that vary. The following table shows what the expected return of the game is for common Jacks or Better pay tables, assuming optimal player strategy.
6. Pair of jacks or better. Discard the remaining three cards. Sometimes players who are used to playing table poker want to keep a high-card "kicker" to the pair -- for example, holding an ace along with two queens. Don't hold a kicker in video poker; give yourself the maximum chance to draw a third high card, or even a full house or four of a kind.
Of course, you don’t actually have to memorize the strategies in order to play video poker reasonably well. Even if you want to play optimally, you can use visual aids whilst playing online. This is much simpler than trying to play from memory. However, as you play a particular machine more and more, you’ll find yourself relying on these ‘cheat sheets’ less and less. Instead, you’ll begin to notice that you have a better handle on the strategies needed to win on each different type of different video poker game.
Often when you hold four cards and throw away one, the new card is the same value as the one you threw away. For example, let's say you have 9, 9, 2, 2, 5, you throw away the five, and then you get another five. This might seem to happen way more often than it should. But that's an illusion caused by the human tendency to look for patterns. A good example of how easily our perception can be fooled is to take the awareness test, where you watch a short video and count the number of passes the white team makes. Most people fail. I did.
Pick a game. There are dozens of different video-poker games in casinos. Different games will have different rate of returns, meaning some games, if you win, will give you a higher percentage of your money back and others will give you a lower percentage. A "9/6 Jacks or Better" paytable is the best because the rate of return is 99.54%, meaning the casino only keeps .46% of your money.
Multi-hand video poker games have become popular at online casinos in recent years. This allows you to play up to 100 hands at one from the draw. If, for example, you hold two aces before the draw and play 100 hands, you can play all 100 hands with two aces and three newly drawn cards. This is very beneficial if you are dealt a winning hand before the draw.
The denomination of a video poker game is the amount of money that is counted as one credit. Game denominations can run from as little as one cent up to $100 or more. That is quite a range! Obviously the denomination of the game you play will impact you bankroll requirements. In most cases the impact of the game’s denomination on your bankroll is fairly straight forward. In other cases, not so much. Let’s take a look.
If you enjoy playing strategic games—whether that’s games like blackjack, poker or chess—then you’ll find that video poker games are right up your alley. Not only that, but most machines offer some of the best odds to players who are willing to learn the best video poker strategy on each machine. Even at online gaming sites, many games offer potential returns of well over 99%. This makes them some of the best games around for players who want to have an excellent chance of coming out on top against the casino.
Actually, this is somewhat of a trick question. If you are talking about a relatively short amount of play, the answer is yes they can do better than players using a proper strategy. As with all things based on randomness, it is possible that someone who plays hunches or bases their hold decisions on the flow of the game can do better than a player how strictly follows the proper strategy in the short term. In the long run, however, the player who uses the strategy will always come out ahead.
We probably won't make the straight flush, but all the occasional times with a hand like this that we turn it into a regular flush, regular straight, or three of a kind -- along with the infrequent straight flush -- make holding the three to a straight flush a better play than throwing everything away and hoping for a miracle from five brand-new cards.