Winning a slot machine jackpot is based solely on luck. You put your money in the machine, hit the spin button and hope that Lady Luck will invite you to dance. There are no decisions to make that will change the outcome of the spin. On the other hand, many table games require skill and the decisions you make can determine whether you win or lose. Most table games when played properly have a lower house edge than the slot machines. Knowledgeable Blackjack players know that learning basic strategy will reduce the house edge to less than one percent.
The best video poker machines, played skillfully, offer odds that rival any table game. The basic game, Jacks or Better, in its full-pay version returns 99.5 percent with optimal play over the long haul. Other machines, especially some versions of Deuces Wild, offer a positive expectation to the player -- that is, over the long haul, they'll return more than 100 percent with optimal play.
Part of your research should include learning the payout tables, but there’s also another table that should prove pivotal to your success in playing the game. There are a number of charts available which show you clearly when you should drop cards and when you should keep them. For instance, when you have a Royal Flush you should naturally keep all of your cards, whichever type of video poker game you’re playing. For 3-if-a-kind you should keep three and drop two, and if you’re two cards from a Royal Flush you should keep two and drop three.
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.
Each card in the Jacks or Better category has a distinct value. A 3 can only count as a 3, a king can only count as a king, and so forth. The lone exception is the ace which can count as the lowest or highest card in a straight or straight flush. Each game in the Wild Card category has one or more cards which can count as a card of any rank or suit. They are called wild cards and hence the name of the category. In the game called Deuces Wild, each deuce (2) is wild. Each can be used as any other card in the deck when it is advantageous to do so. In a Joker Poker video poker game, the joker is the wild card.
The strategy charts for all non-wild card games are organized the same way. The hand with the highest average return goes at the top of the strategy chart. For most video poker pay tables that hand is the royal flush. It is followed by lower paying hands and partial hands in order of decreasing return. Keep in mind that partial hands that are not winners themselves will at times be included above hands that are winners because they have an average return (for all possible outcomes) that is higher than a dealt winning hand. For example, in most games four cards of a royal flush is listed above a full house because of the possibility of that hand turning into a royal flush. However, that is not the only hand that can be made from a hand with four cards of a royal flush. There is also the possibility that the hand could become a straight flush, a flush, or a straight with the proper cards being drawn. See the examples below.
Unlike traditional slot machines, video poker is THE ONLY game where the pay table clearly indicates the return on your gambling dollar, based on your ability to play mathematically correctly. By practicing your favorite game for free at home, you can learn to play perfectly. Not only can you win more money, but you can also enjoy wining, dining and entertainment set aside for the casino's best players.
So far you have learned from this chapter the personalities of low variance, moderate variance and high variance video poker games. From this information you should have been able to narrow down the type of video poker game you want to play. You then learned about the importance of the denomination of the game you intend to play. With that information firmly in place, let us now take a look at how multiple play games work and some of the pluses and minuses of playing this type of video poker game. In chapter 3.4 you were presented an overview of how multiple play video poker games work. In chapter 4.4 you learned about bankroll requirements for playing multiple play video poker. Now you can supplement that information with what you will learn in this section. By combining everything, you should have a pretty good idea if you would like playing multiple play video poker or if you would rather stick to a single play game.
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.
The minimum paying hand is the poker hand that players will have to achieve to be eligible to claim a payout. It differs from one game to another depending on the rules of the game as well as the other features. For example, if a game has a wild card or cards, it will have a higher minimum paying hand, which could be as high as 3 of a kind. This means that if players do not get a three of a kind, they will not qualify for a win. For a Jacks or Better, the minimum hand is a pair of Jacks. For Tens or Better, it is a pair of Jacks, but most games that do not have extra features, the minimum hand is a pair of Jacks.
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Find the good games. The VP games with the best paytables are findable, but they're rare. Naturally the casinos prefer that you play the stingier machines. In general, the Strip casinos have the worst machines, and everywhere else it's better -- off-strip, downtown, and locals casinos. But while good machines are rare on the Strip, some do exist. VPFree2 can help you find the good-paying machines.
So far in this guide you have learned how video poker started and grew. You have learned the basics of video poker play including return, house edge, and variance. You have learned about how randomness actually works while playing at the casino. You now know how to determine your bankroll size. You may even know what specific video poker game (or games) you want to play. If you do not, you have some idea how different video poker games behave and their major characteristics.
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.