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.
Video poker caught on because it appeared to be easier and less intimidating to play than table games. Video poker games are like slot machines except the players have a say in the outcome. The rules for play were simple; place a bet, deal a hand, select the cards to hold, draw replacements, and see the results. These playing rules are much simpler than all of the myriad bets that are available while playing live casino craps for example. In live casino or online video poker play there is no such thing as a pass line or come bet, a don’t pass or don’t come bet, place bets, lay bets, field bets, “yo-eleven” bets, whirl bets, big red, hard way bets, hop bets and the list goes on.
The Jacks or Better category is named for the lowest paying winning hand – a pair of jacks or better. Each game in the Jacks or Better category has a pay table with all the same winning hands as the original Si Redd produced game. They are the royal flush, straight flush, four of a kind, full house, flush, straight, three of a kind, two pairs, and a high pair of jacks or better. The games also all play similar to the table game of draw poker, that is, five cards are dealt, the player can discard any or all of them and the discards are replaced with new cards.
In the right circumstances, however, the player sometimes will break up a flush, a straight, or a pair of jacks or better. If you do not have one of the "always keep" hands, use the following list. Possible predraw hands are listed in order. Find the highest listing that fits your predraw hand, and discard any cards that do not fit the hand. For example, if your hand includes jack of spades, jack of diamonds, 10 of diamonds, 9 of diamonds, and 8 of diamonds, you have four cards to an open straight flush in diamonds, and you also have a pair of jacks or better. The four-card open straight flush is higher on the list than the pair of jacks or better, so you would discard the jack of spades and draw to the four-card straight flush. You are giving up the certain 1-for-1 payoff for a pair of jacks, but you have a chance at a straight flush with either a queen or 7 of diamonds, could draw a flush with any other diamond, or still could finish with a pair of jacks by drawing the jack of either clubs or hearts.
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.
In order to get the most out of your video poker playing experience, it is important to understand exactly how a video poker machine operates. Don’t get me wrong, you can still be a skilled video poker player without knowing how things work inside the game. Just like you do not need to know how electricity works to turn on a light switch or plug in an appliance, it helps to make sense out of things should something out of the ordinary happen.
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.
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.
Video Poker is based on the game of draw poker and has virtually the same rules except that you are not playing against any other players. The machine deals five cards on the screen. The player then has the option of drawing up to five new cards. (In some instances you may not want to draw any new cards) You keep the cards you want to keep by pushing the “hold” button that corresponds to the card on the screen. When you have made your choice you hit the “deal” button and the cards you discarded will be replaced by new cards. Your win or loss is determined by the outcome after of your final hand after you hit the draw button. How much you win is based on the pay table that is posted on the front of the machine.
Slot machines are extremely popular. One of the reasons for their popularity is that they are easy to play. The only skill that is necessary is to be able to insert money into the game and press a button or pull a lever to start play. That is it. From that point on, everything that happens depends on luck. The results of slot machine spins are based totally on randomness. The instant the slot player presses the spin button the result of that spin is locked in. Whether it is (most likely) a loser, a small winner, a moderate winner, or a jackpot winner has already been decided. Slot players can do nothing to change the odds either for or against them.

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.

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.
One nice thing about video poker is you can know the return of the machine even before you start playing.  On a typical video poker game, the casino's average profit on each play is about 3%.  That's called the house edge.  The return is the part that's returned to the player.  So if the casino gets 3% of all money bet, the players get back 97% of all money bet.  The return on a video poker machine is determined by the paytable.  Just compare the paytable to the list at Wizard of Odds and you'll see that, for example, the Jacks or Better paytable above means that the return on that machine is 99.54%.  If the paytable showed only 8 coins for the full house and only 5 for the flush, it would be a 97.3% machine.
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.
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