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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Video poker follows the same hand ranking rules as regular poker with Royal Flush being the highest hand. It is also important to note that in video poker, it is the hand that matters regardless of the value of the cards forming it. For example, a pair of Aces will pay the same as a pair of Jacks and a Straight from 9 to K will pay the same as a straight from 2 to 6. Here is the poker hand ranking in a descending order:
Despite the importance of finding the best machines, most players don't. That's why casinos can offer both decent and lousy machines in the same casino and be confident that gamers will still play the lousy ones. They have to keep some good machines, otherwise they'd lose all the players who know what they're doing. But most of the machines will be bad, and most gamers will play them anyway. Heck, in Vegas even casinos and supermarkets have video poker, with absolutely terrible paytables, but people will still play them rather than going across the street to a casino where they can get seven times better odds. Go figure.
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.