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.


Since video poker is a game of strategy, it definitely pays to get some practice in before you start playing for real by trying free online video poker. This isn’t possible in a brick-and-mortar casino, but online casinos give you the chance to play for free for as long as you want. This lets learn how to play video poker without putting any of your money at risk.

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.

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).


5. Chart your course – An easy way to get better at video poker is to simply print out a Basic Strategy chart. As a game of skill, this gives you a much better chance at winning. There are numerous online charts that can be printed and fit in your wallet. If you’re playing online, leave a window or tab open for your strategy guide to make sure you’re making the right moves.

The same games that players can enjoy in brick-and-mortar establishment are also available at online sites. Video poker games offer the same great odds and exciting, strategic gameplay whether you play them in person, or if you opt for video poker online instead. This makes them an excellent choice for any online gamblers who like playing games where they have an input on every hand.


Some machines will give you the option of playing in a multi-hand format. In these cases, you’ll pay for all of your hands up front: if you play a 10-hand machine for five credits per hand, for instance, you’ll be on the hook for 50 credits at the start of each hand. You’ll still be dealt just one initial hand of five cards. But, after you choose which cards to discard, you will receive new cards for each of the video poker hands you paid for. These new hands are each drawn independently, so it is possible to get the same replacement cards on different hands. All of your winning hands will award prizes, just as in a standard, single-handed game.
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.

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.


But video poker adds something slot machines don't have -- an element of skill. Players have decisions to make that affect the outcome. And because cards are required to be dealt from a randomly shuffled 52-card deck -- or 53 cards, in the case of Joker's Wild machines -- the possible combinations are known, the frequency of the combinations can be calculated, and an optimal playing strategy can be devised. In fact, when Missouri riverboats opened under a law that forbade games of chance, casinos were allowed to offer video poker, as a game of skill, even though slots, as games of chance, had to wait until voters changed the law. 

The process of listing hands with an ever lower average return continues until the average return for the hand is less than the average return for a totally new hand. The word “Redraw” or words to that effect are placed at this point in the strategy chart. This means you will get a higher return by totally replacing your hand than by trying to make something of it. The strategy chart is now complete.

So far we have looked at low variance and moderate variance video poker games. Low variance games have the advantage of a smaller bankroll size requirement and relatively simple video poker strategy. This comes at the cost of playing a somewhat boring game. Moderate variance video poker games are more exciting to play because they have more high paying winning hands. The excitement factor is offset, however, by higher bankroll requirements and somewhat more complex playing strategy. 
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