Video poker made its entry to the casino in the seventies; and is today one of the most popular forms of gambling. For the player who likes a game of skill, a low house edge, the possibility of large wins, and the anonymity of playing alone there is nothing else that can compare to video poker. The rules of video poker are simple; you play 1 to 5 coins, the machine give you five cards, you choose which to hold and which to discard, the machine replaces your discards and pays you off according to the value of your hand.
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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.
As you have learned in the first chapter, one of the main reasons for the popularity of video poker is it usually has a considerably higher payback than slot machines. In fact some games return more than 100 percent for a skilled player. Regardless of which video poker game you play, achieving the long term return percentage is dependent on getting your fair share of royal flushes. By a royal flush I mean the royal flush that really counts – the natural royal flush that is formed without the aid of a wild card. These generally pay 4,000 credits for a five-credit bet or 800 for 1.
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.
By now you have all the knowledge you need in order to begin your successful journey playing video poker. You know about how the pay table gives you important information about the characteristics of each game. You understand the importance of having an adequate bankroll and how to determine the proper size of that bankroll. You understand what a strategy chart is and how the video poker strategy is developed in order to allow you, the video poker player, to extract everything that you can from the casinos. You know how to use a strategy chart in order to obtain those results.
Strategy for the game of blackjack involves knowing when to take one of four possible actions based on the two cards you are dealt. The four actions are “stand” (play the two cards you are dealt as is), “hit” (take another card to try to better your two cards), “pair split” (if you have two cards of the same rank, make two separate hands out of them by adding another same size bet), or “double down” or simply “double” (add a bet equal to the original bet and take just one additional card). The only information you have to make this decision is your two cards and the card the dealer puts face up.
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.
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.
Use a strategy list. A strategy list is like a cheat sheet, that has all of the different ways you can win in a poker game in a list ranked from best hands to worse hands. Using a cheat sheet will help you determine which cards to keep and which cards to exchange for new cards. For example, if you have the opportunity to go for a straight with an outside straight, or you have the opportunity to go for three to four of a kind with a pair, a low pair is ranked higher on the list so that is what you should choose.
In the first nine chapters of this guide you have learned all of the background information necessary to become a skilled live casino or online video poker player. You are now ready for the “meat” of this guide. This chapter is the first of six chapters that are dedicated to giving you the specifics needed to play the actual live casino or online video poker games.
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.
Typically, slow and steady is the name of the game in casinos. However, with video poker games, most experts recommend playing the maximum amount of coins for each spin. This increases the number of ways in which you can win each time. However, it’s important to note that bankroll management is also key. Don’t play five coins on a video poker machine which is out of your comfort zone. If necessary, move down to a cheaper slot.
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You learned in chapter 3.5 that progressive video poker has one (the royal flush) or more (other high paying hands such as a four of a kind) jackpots that increase as the game is played. You also learned that as the progressive jackpot increases, the strategy to play video poker changes so that more of the close decisions are decided in favor of saving for the higher paying and less frequent jackpot hand rather than some more frequent but lower paying hands.
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.
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.
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.