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.
The strategy when playing video poker online starts when you choose which of your initial cards you want to hold, and which you would like to discard. Once you’ve locked in your selections, the cards you’ve chosen to discard will be replaced with new cards from the deck. The resulting hand will be final, and if you’ve made a winning combination of cards, you will receive your payout before moving on to your next hand.
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).

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.


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.
Slot machines are extremely popular. One of the reasons for their popularity is that they are easy to play. The only skill that is necessary is to be able to insert money into the game and press a button or pull a lever to start play. That is it. From that point on, everything that happens depends on luck. The results of slot machine spins are based totally on randomness. The instant the slot player presses the spin button the result of that spin is locked in. Whether it is (most likely) a loser, a small winner, a moderate winner, or a jackpot winner has already been decided. Slot players can do nothing to change the odds either for or against them.
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’.
Holding cards based on what you feel is correct or holding based on the flow of the cards are both technically strategies. But the video poker game manufacturers set up pay tables based on the math of the game so the casinos will be sure to make a profit from them. Therefore in order for you to make the most of your video poker playing experience, you need to use a strategy that is based on the same math.
In video poker, just like regular poker, you will be given five cards. With those five cards you'll want to achieve a winning poker hand (royal flush, straight, full house, flush, four of a kind, three of a kind, two pair, jacks or better). To do this, you'll have the opportunity to keep certain cards in your hand and exchange others to gain new cards that may help you gain a winning poker hand.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Video poker also made one of its great development steps with the emergence of online gambling, as video poker became one of the most popular games in the online world. This transition enabled millions of players to enjoy the game, especially those who did not have a nearby land-based casino or a gambling venue they could visit in order to enjoy a game of video poker. The Internet industry provided players with countless versions of video poker. Some of the leading names in the business are Microgaming, Playtech, Cryptologic, IGT and Betsoft Gaming. These different versions started to include bonus rounds, gamble features, special features, wild cards and more.
Holding cards based on what you feel is correct or holding based on the flow of the cards are both technically strategies. But the video poker game manufacturers set up pay tables based on the math of the game so the casinos will be sure to make a profit from them. Therefore in order for you to make the most of your video poker playing experience, you need to use a strategy that is based on the same math.

Since there are a lot of games that offer different paying hands, gamble features and wild cards, it is essential to check the rules and the paytable of the video poker game before you start playing. Knowing the minimum paying hand is quite important. The names of some video poker games might give you a clue, such as Tens or Better (a pair of tens is the minimum hand) and Jacks or Better (a pair of jacks is the minimum hand). For other games, it is essential to check the paytable and know the minimum paying hand because it will affect your decisions during the game.


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.
The popularity of these machines increased until they were an absolute must in any land-based casino. Now, almost every single casino on the Vegas Strip offers its players a number of video slot machines. In the 1990s, with the huge breakthrough in technology, video poker games started to offer better gaming quality and more variations of the game were introduced.
In most versions of video poker, you will use an electronic interface to bet on a virtually-generated straight poker hand. You begin by making a wager of up to five ‘coins’ (the value of which depend on the game and chosen settings). The more money you are happy to wager, the more you can win. Usually, your winnings are simply multiplied by the amount of cash you gamble, although you may receive a bonus lift if you go the whole hog with five coins.
We think video poker games are far superior to slot machines for various reasons. The most important of these reasons is the better odds that are offered. The best slot machine in a casino probably only has a 94% or a 95% payback percentage. Most video poker games start with that kind of payback percentage, and a huge percentage of these games offer better payouts than that.
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.

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.
Each VP variety and paytable has its own strategy.  The strategy for Jacks or Better is different from that for Deuces Wild, and within each style of machine, each paytable can have its own strategy.  Learning all those strategies is tedious, so I recommend you figure out which video poker game you like best, and then learn the strategy for it.  If you get bored with that game then you can learn another strategy at that time.  For now, let's start out with an lesson on Full-Pay Jacks or Better. I chose this game because:

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.[1]

4. Play Deuces Wild and turn the tables – While Jacks or Better may be the most common video poker game, players can actually gain nearly a 1 percent edge on a full pay Deuces Wild machine. Look for games that pay 9 coins for a straight flush and 5 for four of a kind. Play perfect Basic Strategy and suddenly you’re in the driver’s seat. A variation is an 11/4 machine, also a nice option for good players — with a miniscule house edge of only .004 percent.

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.

The strategy when playing video poker online starts when you choose which of your initial cards you want to hold, and which you would like to discard. Once you’ve locked in your selections, the cards you’ve chosen to discard will be replaced with new cards from the deck. The resulting hand will be final, and if you’ve made a winning combination of cards, you will receive your payout before moving on to your next hand.


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One advantage that video poker has over regular slot machines is that you can determine the return of the game by reading the pay table on the front of the machine. Most video poker games use the combinations of hands that can be made from a standard 52 card deck. I say most because there are some Joker Poker Games that use one or two Jokers added to the 52 card deck. One popular variation of the game is Deuces Wild which uses a 52 card deck but the deuces are wild cards. With a set number of combinations that can be made from the cards used in the game, the payout can be calculated by how much the machine pays for each winning combination.
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.
You will also learn the layout and importance of the pay table, as well as how to properly bet while playing video poker. You will learn and understand payback, return, house (and player) edge. You will learn about the implications of variance, sometimes called volatility. You will also learn what the term random really means when playing video poker.
If you’re a fan of playing casino games on mobile – and let’s face it, we all are – then you’ll be happy to hear that video poker lends itself perfectly to mobiles and tablets. This is partly due to the fact that the graphics look even better when crammed into a smaller screen. It’s also because providers understand how much players enjoy not just one or two, but a large variety of games. From video poker classics to variants referencing modern pop culture, there are tonnes of video poker games available at hundreds of casino.
Use a player card, and know the benefits of doing so. Casinos reward points for every penny bet in any machine, and those points can be redeemed for free play or comps. Free play rebates usually run from 0.1% to 0.33%. There are lots of other benefits for using a player card, like discretionary comps, free play mailers, drawings, and tournaments. If you don't use a card, there will be no evidence trail that you played, so you'll never get any of the freebies. This advice goes for any form of gambling. Finally, contrary to popular myth, the machines don't pay worse if you put in a card. The odds are the same whether you use a player card or not.

That's a pretty lengthy list for a beginner, but it can be shortened considerably by taking all those three card straight flushes -- open, inside, double inside, with high cards, without high cards -- and lumping them together just below four high cards. That'll cost you a few tenths of a percent, but when you're comfortable with the rest of the strategy, you can start breaking down the categories for more expert play.
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.
Playing hunches or streaks may work for a hand or two (or possibly even a session or two), but far more often these tactics will not work. In fact, by employing these types of playing strategies, you will end up giving the casino even more of your hard earned money than you need to. Only by using mathematically derived video poker playing strategies will you get every cent you can from your video poker play over the long run.
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.
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.
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.
Unlike traditional slot machines, video poker is THE ONLY game where the pay table clearly indicates the return on your gambling dollar, based on your ability to play mathematically correctly. By practicing your favorite game for free at home, you can learn to play perfectly. Not only can you win more money, but you can also enjoy wining, dining and entertainment set aside for the casino's best players.
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The minimum hand you need to win is a pair of Jacks. So in this hand we'll hold the Jack, hoping that we'll draw another Jack. We hold the Jack by tapping the picture of the Jack on the screen, or pressing the button for it on the console.  Then we'll tap the DRAW button to get four new cards, hoping that one of them is a Jack to match the Jack we held.
One nice thing about video poker is you can know the return of the machine even before you start playing.  On a typical video poker game, the casino's average profit on each play is about 3%.  That's called the house edge.  The return is the part that's returned to the player.  So if the casino gets 3% of all money bet, the players get back 97% of all money bet.  The return on a video poker machine is determined by the paytable.  Just compare the paytable to the list at Wizard of Odds and you'll see that, for example, the Jacks or Better paytable above means that the return on that machine is 99.54%.  If the paytable showed only 8 coins for the full house and only 5 for the flush, it would be a 97.3% machine.
In the early 1980s, Si Redd and his new International Gaming Technology entered into a licensing agreement with Bally's Manufacturing that gave IGT exclusive rights to manufacture video poker machines. Few people recognized the potential at the time, but that gave IGT the boost it needed to become Bally's main competitor in producing electronic gaming devices. Today IGT and Bally's both produce video poker machines, and their machines take up most of the floor space devoted to electronic gaming devices across the country.
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.
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.
After studying this payout and odds table, it is notable that there is an inequality between the odds and the payouts of some hands despite the fact a Full House is more likely to happen than a straight or a flush, but pays more than these two hands. It is clear from the pay table that hands that are not likely going to happen pay more while hands that are more likely to happen pay less. Despite this, the game is in the favor of the player, which is why it can be only found online or at big land-based casinos. You are surely not going to find them in bars or other small gambling venues.
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After they place the wager, they will click on a button that says “Deal.” They will then get a poker hand that consists of 5 cards. Players will look at these cards and then decide which cards they want to hold and which cards they want to discard. They can choose the cards they want to hold by clicking on the cards themselves or the button that says “Hold” under each card. When they are done choosing the cards, they will click on “Draw.” They will then get replacement cards for the cards they did not hold which will form the final 5-card poker hand. Players will then be paid according to the paytable of the game and the bet that they have placed at the beginning.
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.
After they place the wager, they will click on a button that says “Deal.” They will then get a poker hand that consists of 5 cards. Players will look at these cards and then decide which cards they want to hold and which cards they want to discard. They can choose the cards they want to hold by clicking on the cards themselves or the button that says “Hold” under each card. When they are done choosing the cards, they will click on “Draw.” They will then get replacement cards for the cards they did not hold which will form the final 5-card poker hand. Players will then be paid according to the paytable of the game and the bet that they have placed at the beginning.
Those machines are hard to find.  Casinos don't like to put games on the floor that potentially lose money.  Your best bet for finding these games is in downtown Vegas (not on the Strip) and at locals casinos, which have to be more competitive than Strip casinos in order to lure customers there away from the Strip.  Here again, VPFree2 can help you find good-paying machines.
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.
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.
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.
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