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.
As you have learned in the first chapter, one of the main reasons for the popularity of video poker is it usually has a considerably higher payback than slot machines. In fact some games return more than 100 percent for a skilled player. Regardless of which video poker game you play, achieving the long term return percentage is dependent on getting your fair share of royal flushes. By a royal flush I mean the royal flush that really counts – the natural royal flush that is formed without the aid of a wild card. These generally pay 4,000 credits for a five-credit bet or 800 for 1.
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.
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.
The game that you should learn first is Jacks or Better. Most of the other games are variations of this one. Although space does not allow me to give you the complete strategy in this article, you can find free strategy charts at The Wizard of Odds for Jacks or Better, Deuces Wild, Double Bonus Poker, and more. Sites like Video Poker Trainer allow you to practice playing online and will correct you when you deviate from the optimal strategy.
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.
You learned in chapter 3.5 that progressive video poker has one (the royal flush) or more (other high paying hands such as a four of a kind) jackpots that increase as the game is played. You also learned that as the progressive jackpot increases, the strategy to play video poker changes so that more of the close decisions are decided in favor of saving for the higher paying and less frequent jackpot hand rather than some more frequent but lower paying hands.
Well, the charts on our site are on roughly accurate to within 0.1% of perfect play. So, if you find that game that returns 100.5%, you would be actually earning about 100.4% with our charts - not too bad. Not many charts get much closer than 0.1% because they would have to be extremely long and complicated to explain the subtle differences in rare hands.
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.
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.
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]

If you choose the machine on the right, you'll lose your money six times faster!  And your chances of winning will be far less.  If the reason isn't obvious then consider this:  If the player is getting back 99.54% and 97.29%, that means the casino is keeping 0.46% and 2.71%.  The casino profit on the second machine is 2.71 ÷ 0.46 = 5.9 times higher.


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.

Video poker offers some of the best odds in the casino. It's a good alternative to slot machines since you still have the chance of hitting a big jackpot, but you're about five times more likely to actually get it.  Slot players should seriously consider graduating to video poker, because they're much more likely to win that way.  The only catch is that to enjoy the good odds, you have to learn the proper strategy.  If you just guess then you could easily do worse than with slots.  But you came to the right place, because we'll cover strategy here.
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.
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