In a 9/6 Jacks or Better game you would multiply .5% by $1.25 (this is a five coin, max bet game) by 400 (hands per hour). This would bring you to $2.50 an hour on a long term game. If you are playing a short term game, you are more likely to lose $6.50 an hour, because the house end for the casino will be higher (you'll have less chance of hitting the royal).
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.
While sometimes it may look tempting to draw to a straight or just try your luck with 5 entirely new cards, the answer is almost always to keep the low pair. The general exception to this rule is when you have 4 cards to a flush, straight flush, or a royal straight flush. In these cases you always want to draw to the flush or straight flush because your odds of getting at least the flush are very good and the payout is so much higher. If you can remember this one single strategy, you will be in better shape than many players.
A straight is a hand with consecutive ranks, like 9? 7? 10? 8? 6?. Notice again that the cards don't have to appear in order. The order of face cards, from lowest to highest, is Jack, Queen, King, Ace, which we abbreviate J, Q, K, A. An ace can also count as 1, to complete a straight where the other cards are 2, 3, 4, and 5. But it can't count as both a low and a high card, e.g., Q K A 2 3.
A royal flush is a straight flush composed of the highest cards, such as 10? J? Q? K? A?. But of course they don't all have to be in order. Q? 10? A? J? K? is still a royal flush. The Royal Flush is the jackpot in video poker, and comes around about once out of every 40,000 or so hands -- or a week and a half of full-time play. Hey, it could be worse: The jackpot on a typical slot machine only hits about one out of every 262,144 spins.
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.
Here's where our strategy list comes in. Notice that a low pair is #9, while four to an outside straight is #10. The low pair is higher on the list, so we hold the pair. In fact, you almost always hold pairs in Jacks or Better. We'll discuss exceptions below, but in general, always lunge for a pair, and then do a quick check to see if you have anything better, since you probably won't.
We probably won't make the straight flush, but all the occasional times with a hand like this that we turn it into a regular flush, regular straight, or three of a kind -- along with the infrequent straight flush -- make holding the three to a straight flush a better play than throwing everything away and hoping for a miracle from five brand-new cards.