Video poker is one of the few casino games where it is possible to beat the house edge. This page will introduce you to basic strategy for full-pay video poker variants (with and without wilds) via a series of hand charts, helping you get an edge over the casino with mathematically ‘perfect’ play. Credit to Michael Shackleford (AKA ‘The Wizard of Odds’) for these systems. If you need some help with the terminology, check out our poker glossary here.
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.
Tap any cards that you want to keep. You will see some indication that the card you have selected has been held. When you’re satisfied with your selection, hit the ‘draw’ button to receive your final poker hand. If you’ve managed to land a poker hand with at a least the value of a pair of jacks, then you will be paid according to the pay table as presented with the game.
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.
As you learned in section 6.2, the arrangement of a video poker strategy chart is different. The list contains the card(s) to hold in the first five card hand that you are dealt. The top line contains the cards to hold that give the highest average return. Each line below that has the cards to hold that will produce the next highest average return. This continues until the player is better off discarding the entire first hand rather than holding anything at all.
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.
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Break up a flush or a straight only when you have four cards to a royal flush. That is, if you have ace-king-queen-jack-9, all of clubs, discard the 9 to take a chance at the big payoff for the 10 of clubs. That still leaves open the possibility of a flush with any other club, a straight with any other 10, and a pair of jacks or better with any ace, king, queen, or jack.
After they place the wager, they will click on a button that says “Deal.” They will then get a poker hand that consists of 5 cards. Players will look at these cards and then decide which cards they want to hold and which cards they want to discard. They can choose the cards they want to hold by clicking on the cards themselves or the button that says “Hold” under each card. When they are done choosing the cards, they will click on “Draw.” They will then get replacement cards for the cards they did not hold which will form the final 5-card poker hand. Players will then be paid according to the paytable of the game and the bet that they have placed at the beginning.
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.
Paytable: This is the table on the poker screen that shows you how much each hand in a poker game is worth. As previously stated, you'll want to choose a table that has the best paytable, meaning the highest payout for a win. Each paytable will show you how many coins you'll get in return for winning a hand from one coin played to up to five coins played.
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.
Video poker started to appear in 1989 when the Card Bell was developed. This game was a poker machine that paid players instantly by using combinations such as a straight, a flush and so on. In the improved design of the machine, the Skill Draw, a major feature was added — the Hold. The Hold feature has become an integral part of the video poker game of today.
But that is where the similarity with random slot machine play ends. The video poker player has total control over the initial five cards that have been dealt. It is his or her choice what to do with those five cards. The decisions about whether to keep all of them, discard all of them, or anything in between is totally theirs. It is actually totally yours. After all, you are the one reading and learning from this guide.
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.)
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.