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.
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.
The play is simple:  You're dealt five cards.  You decide which ones to keep by tapping the pictures on the screen or pressing buttons on the console. Then you hit the DRAW button and you get replacement cards for the cards you didn't keep. You win if you wind up with a traditional poker hand like two pair, straight, flush, etc. (We'll explain these below for those new to poker.)  The amount you win per hand depends on the paytable of the machine you're playing.  Here's a sample paytable.
If you visit the Wizard of Odds site, you can find a free video poker game available in your browser window that includes auto-hold features and warnings when you’re about to make a mistake. This is a free Jacks or Better 9/6 game: http://wizardofodds.com/play/video-poker/. You can even update the pay tables for this game to something other than 9/6 Jacks or Better. For the price, this training program is hard to beat. The game also features a “more games” button which opens up a screen where you can choose from three dozen different games, including the following:
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.
Practicing video poker strategy by using a computer program or smartphone / tablet app is far more effective than practicing manually as described in section 7.2. The only real problems that might get in the way of you doing so are that you need a computer or smartphone / tablet and you need the program or application. As mentioned previously, there are several good video poker programs and applications available. They are also quite reasonably priced. If you do not have a video poker application, I strongly suggest you purchase one as soon as you can. You can practice manually for a while until you receive it, so you will not be just sitting around and doing nothing while you wait.
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.
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.
Video Poker is the only game in the casino that actually shows you the information you need to determine the house edge and develop the proper playing strategy to attain the highest return possible. Most video poker players are totally unaware of how to use the information available to their advantage. They will plop down on any close or convenient machine and play by hunches in the hope that they will get lucky. This guide is written to help players get the most out of their video poker playing efforts.
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