Strategy for the game of blackjack involves knowing when to take one of four possible actions based on the two cards you are dealt. The four actions are “stand” (play the two cards you are dealt as is), “hit” (take another card to try to better your two cards), “pair split” (if you have two cards of the same rank, make two separate hands out of them by adding another same size bet), or “double down” or simply “double” (add a bet equal to the original bet and take just one additional card). The only information you have to make this decision is your two cards and the card the dealer puts face up.
In both video poker machines and online video poker, as well as regular online poker, there are two kinds of random shuffle to deal cards. The first is a “continuous shuffle” which means that the virtual deck is being shuffled constantly throughout the hand, dealing the next card when required. A pre-determined shuffle works just like shuffling a real deck of cards; the virtual deck is shuffled and the cards are dealt off in the order they land in. Different video poker machines and games will utilise different shuffles, but both are completely fair and random.
Press “deal” to start gambling. If you’re playing “Jacks or Better” the machine will deal you five cards from a deck of 52 cards. However, other kinds of poker games such as “Deuces Wild” and “Joker Poker” have jokers in the deck. This could lower your chances of getting the cards you want. Therefore, most people prefer to play “Jacks or Better.”
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Winning a slot machine jackpot is based solely on luck. You put your money in the machine, hit the spin button and hope that Lady Luck will invite you to dance. There are no decisions to make that will change the outcome of the spin. On the other hand, many table games require skill and the decisions you make can determine whether you win or lose. Most table games when played properly have a lower house edge than the slot machines. Knowledgeable Blackjack players know that learning basic strategy will reduce the house edge to less than one percent.