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.
The play is simple: You're dealt five cards. You decide which ones to keep by tapping the pictures on the screen or pressing buttons on the console. Then you hit the DRAW button and you get replacement cards for the cards you didn't keep. You win if you wind up with a traditional poker hand like two pair, straight, flush, etc. (We'll explain these below for those new to poker.) The amount you win per hand depends on the paytable of the machine you're playing. Here's a sample paytable.
Video poker is a very volatile game, about four times as much as blackjack. In any form of gambling, short-term results mostly depend on normal mathematical randomness (what some might call luck). However, in the long run, results mostly depend on skill. If you play a game with a return of 100.76% perfectly, that does not mean that you will have a 0.76% profit every time you play. The 100.76% is an EXPECTED return. Much in the same way, if you flip a coin ten million times, the expected number of tails will be five million, but it is unlikely you will hit five million on the nose. Actual results will vary significantly from expectations, but the more you play, the closer your actual return percentage will get to the expected return.
Caribbean Stud poker is also a 5-card poker game but players must beat a dealer. In this game, players will also place an Ante bet before they are dealt the cards. They will then get 5 cards facing up, while the dealer will get 4 cards facing down and 1 card facing up. Players will then decide if they want to fold or if they wish to call. If they call, they will place another bet that is equal to twice the original bet. If they call, the dealer’s final poker card will be revealed and the showdown will take place. In order for the dealer’s hand to qualify, it has to at least have an Ace and a King. If the hand does not qualify, the player will win regardless of his hand. Some games might also offer a progressive jackpot that is triggered when players achieve a royal flush.
Video poker offers some of the best odds in the casino. It's a good alternative to slot machines since you still have the chance of hitting a big jackpot, but you're about five times more likely to actually get it. Slot players should seriously consider graduating to video poker, because they're much more likely to win that way. The only catch is that to enjoy the good odds, you have to learn the proper strategy. If you just guess then you could easily do worse than with slots. But you came to the right place, because we'll cover strategy here.
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.
One of the first things to remember is this: video poker is not simply a game of luck. There is a great deal of skill involved, too. If you fail to make the correct decisions on a consistent basis, you could be missing out on huge value. If you’re new to the game, there are plenty of free online video poker games where you can build up an understanding before playing for real money.
The way video poker strategies are usually expressed is a list of hands you might get on the deal, in order from best to worst. For any given hand, look up all viable ways to play it on the list and go with the one that is listed first. If you don't see a play listed, like suited 10/A, then never play it. Here is such a strategy for Jacks or Better.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Think about how normal video poker play goes. After depositing your initial amount, you start playing hand after hand. Most often you lose your bet. The next most frequent occurrence is to simply get your bet returned by hitting a high pair (or sometimes two pairs) that returns 1 for 1. You will also hit other higher paying but less frequent hands. In each case, however, unless you hit a royal flush or other very high paying hand such as four aces with a kicker, the amount you win is not enough to cash out and be considered a good win for the day. Instead, all of these lesser wins are really just extra money that allows you to play a few more hands in order to try to win the jackpot sized hand(s).
The don'ts are mainly related to making sure you do not end up losing more than you can afford when playing. If you have lost your daily budget it is important to call it quits for the day. Chasing your losses is a bad idea as it can lead to even more losses. You should also avoid drinking too many alcoholic beverages as this can lead to making strategy mistakes and bad decisions.
In most versions of video poker, you will use an electronic interface to bet on a virtually-generated straight poker hand. You begin by making a wager of up to five ‘coins’ (the value of which depend on the game and chosen settings). The more money you are happy to wager, the more you can win. Usually, your winnings are simply multiplied by the amount of cash you gamble, although you may receive a bonus lift if you go the whole hog with five coins.
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Right after learning the proper strategy, the most important thing about playing video poker is to choose a machine with a good paytable! Here are some pictures I just took in the same casino, same style game, same denomination. The only thing that's different is the paytables. The first one pays 9 & 6 for the full house and flush respectively, and the second one pays only 8 & 5 for those hands.
That's a pretty lengthy list for a beginner, but it can be shortened considerably by taking all those three card straight flushes -- open, inside, double inside, with high cards, without high cards -- and lumping them together just below four high cards. That'll cost you a few tenths of a percent, but when you're comfortable with the rest of the strategy, you can start breaking down the categories for more expert play.
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.
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.
Once I put $100 into a $0.25 machine and played it for a while. I played it down to zero credits, and then I hit Four of a Kind, which saved me. I played that down to zero again, and then I hit Four of a Kind again. I played it down to zero credits a third time, and then hit Four of a Kind a third time! But that was the end of my luck. I didn't get it a fourth time, I just went bust. Still, that was pretty unusual.