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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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
Actually, this is somewhat of a trick question. If you are talking about a relatively short amount of play, the answer is yes they can do better than players using a proper strategy. As with all things based on randomness, it is possible that someone who plays hunches or bases their hold decisions on the flow of the game can do better than a player how strictly follows the proper strategy in the short term. In the long run, however, the player who uses the strategy will always come out ahead.
The fourth part, finding a liberal pay table, requires some combination of online research and good old walking. A great site for identifying the loose video poker at every casino in Las Vegas, and most of the country, is vpfree2.com. However, any video poker player worth his weight in quarters can identify a loose pay table on sight. Let's take Jacks or Better, for example. All the pays except the flush and full house are usually the same. In any video poker game, it is usually the middle hands that vary. The following table shows what the expected return of the game is for common Jacks or Better pay tables, assuming optimal player strategy.
In the right circumstances, however, the player sometimes will break up a flush, a straight, or a pair of jacks or better. If you do not have one of the "always keep" hands, use the following list. Possible predraw hands are listed in order. Find the highest listing that fits your predraw hand, and discard any cards that do not fit the hand. For example, if your hand includes jack of spades, jack of diamonds, 10 of diamonds, 9 of diamonds, and 8 of diamonds, you have four cards to an open straight flush in diamonds, and you also have a pair of jacks or better. The four-card open straight flush is higher on the list than the pair of jacks or better, so you would discard the jack of spades and draw to the four-card straight flush. You are giving up the certain 1-for-1 payoff for a pair of jacks, but you have a chance at a straight flush with either a queen or 7 of diamonds, could draw a flush with any other diamond, or still could finish with a pair of jacks by drawing the jack of either clubs or hearts.
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.
So far in this guide you have learned how video poker started and grew. You have learned the basics of video poker play including return, house edge, and variance. You have learned about how randomness actually works. You now know how to determine your bankroll size. You may even know what specific video poker game (or games) you want to play. If you do not, you have some idea how different video poker games behave and their major characteristics.
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.
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.
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.