The minimum paying hand is the poker hand that players will have to achieve to be eligible to claim a payout. It differs from one game to another depending on the rules of the game as well as the other features. For example, if a game has a wild card or cards, it will have a higher minimum paying hand, which could be as high as 3 of a kind. This means that if players do not get a three of a kind, they will not qualify for a win. For a Jacks or Better, the minimum hand is a pair of Jacks. For Tens or Better, it is a pair of Jacks, but most games that do not have extra features, the minimum hand is a pair of Jacks.
Video poker is one of the few casino games where it is possible to beat the house edge. This page will introduce you to basic strategy for full-pay video poker variants (with and without wilds) via a series of hand charts, helping you get an edge over the casino with mathematically ‘perfect’ play. Credit to Michael Shackleford (AKA ‘The Wizard of Odds’) for these systems. If you need some help with the terminology, check out our poker glossary here.
Since the explosion of video poker popularity in the late 1970s and again when it went online in the 1990s, the casino industry has developed fairly rapidly. Primarily, the progression of casino games that can be played remotely has revolutionised the way we interact with casino games. This is just as true for video poker games as it is for any other casino favourite. From playing free online video poker to learn the ropes, to playing on your mobile in just a few taps, the changes in recent years have had a huge impact on the game.
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.
Find the good games. The VP games with the best paytables are findable, but they're rare. Naturally the casinos prefer that you play the stingier machines. In general, the Strip casinos have the worst machines, and everywhere else it's better -- off-strip, downtown, and locals casinos. But while good machines are rare on the Strip, some do exist. VPFree2 can help you find the good-paying machines.
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.
The best video poker machines, played skillfully, offer odds that rival any table game. The basic game, Jacks or Better, in its full-pay version returns 99.5 percent with optimal play over the long haul. Other machines, especially some versions of Deuces Wild, offer a positive expectation to the player -- that is, over the long haul, they'll return more than 100 percent with optimal play.
Why do casinos offer games that can be beaten? Because only a very small percentage of players know the basics of proper play. Enough mistakes are made that the casinos actually pay out 2 to 4 percent less than the expectation for skilled players. In competitive markets, casinos walk a tightrope between two choices -- offering a pay table so good that the best players can expect to make a profit in the long term, or offering lower pay tables and risk driving away the weaker players who are the casino's bread-and-butter customers. In less-competitive markets, where the demand for space to play is great, casinos will offer lower-paying machines because they will be played despite the low payoffs.