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.
Not all video poker games are created equal, and it pays to do a little looking around. If you have several online casinos where you like to play, take the time to check pay tables before you start wagering. Those who play in brick-and-mortar casinos should do the same – I’ve often found higher and lower pay tables on the same game in different areas of one casino.
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.
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.
Because video poker is basically the integration of poker and slot machines, its history can be traced back to the invention of the slot machines itself. Charles Fey is the father of the slot machine. His slot machines had numbers on it and not poker hands. These coin-operated machines were developed in the U.S. in the 1800s and were very popular in saloons and cigar stores, especially in San Francisco.
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.
For those who are willing to learn these games, it is well worth taking the time to understand video poker strategy. Many of these machines offer the best return to players (RTP) of virtually all of the casino games that are available online. In fact, when played in real world casinos, video poker games are the only ones where players who play perfect strategy can have a positive expectation. This does not include players who card count in blackjack.
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.
Typically, you can access online video poker in the same way that you can access other online casino games. That means that you can often play video slot games simply by punching in a casino’s URL and being redirected to the mobile version of the website. Often, the mobile-optimised website will have a new layout with certain aspects enlarged or reduced in size. This can make for a much better customer experience. But another option is to download a mobile app. Video poker games are often at the forefront of casinos’ thinking, which means the majority of apps are packed out with ways to play video poker.
So far we have only learned about single play video poker games. You bet your credits, you push the deal button and one hand is dealt. You decide which cards of that hand you want to hold and press another button. New cards are dealt to replace the discards. You are now ready to play the next hand. These games are called single play games because you play one hand at a time.
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.
All this changed in the early 1980s when SIRCOMA, the company that would eventually become International Game Technology, decided to concentrate on perfecting the video poker console. This turned out to be a Vegas-shattering success, as it gave poker players who felt intimidated while playing on casino tables the chance to play their favourite pastime against a faceless ‘opponent’.
The Jacks or Better category is named for the lowest paying winning hand – a pair of jacks or better. Each game in the Jacks or Better category has a pay table with all the same winning hands as the original Si Redd produced game. They are the royal flush, straight flush, four of a kind, full house, flush, straight, three of a kind, two pairs, and a high pair of jacks or better. The games also all play similar to the table game of draw poker, that is, five cards are dealt, the player can discard any or all of them and the discards are replaced with new cards.
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.
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.