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.
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.

One nice thing about video poker is you can know the return of the machine even before you start playing.  On a typical video poker game, the casino's average profit on each play is about 3%.  That's called the house edge.  The return is the part that's returned to the player.  So if the casino gets 3% of all money bet, the players get back 97% of all money bet.  The return on a video poker machine is determined by the paytable.  Just compare the paytable to the list at Wizard of Odds and you'll see that, for example, the Jacks or Better paytable above means that the return on that machine is 99.54%.  If the paytable showed only 8 coins for the full house and only 5 for the flush, it would be a 97.3% machine.


Whether it is a casino table game or a machine, unless you practice a proper betting routine, you run the risk of not maximizing your return for casino play. This section explores exactly what is meant by proper betting. This knowledge makes you ready to attack the casinos and have the best chance to come out a winner after the battle. Let’s begin.
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.
Right after learning the proper strategy, the most important thing about playing video poker is to choose a machine with a good paytable!  Here are some pictures I just took in the same casino, same style game, same denomination.  The only thing that's different is the paytables.  The first one pays 9 & 6 for the full house and flush respectively, and the second one pays only 8 & 5 for those hands.
Once I put $100 into a $0.25 machine and played it for a while.  I played it down to zero credits, and then I hit Four of a Kind, which saved me.  I played that down to zero again, and then I hit Four of a Kind again.  I played it down to zero credits a third time, and then hit Four of a Kind a third time!  But that was the end of my luck.  I didn't get it a fourth time, I just went bust.  Still, that was pretty unusual.
Since there are a lot of games that offer different paying hands, gamble features and wild cards, it is essential to check the rules and the paytable of the video poker game before you start playing. Knowing the minimum paying hand is quite important. The names of some video poker games might give you a clue, such as Tens or Better (a pair of tens is the minimum hand) and Jacks or Better (a pair of jacks is the minimum hand). For other games, it is essential to check the paytable and know the minimum paying hand because it will affect your decisions during the game.

An inside straight is a would-be straight with a hole in the middle. 9? 2? 10? 8? 6? is an inside straight because only a 7 will turn it into a straight.  The distinction between outside straights and inside straights is important because in Jacks or Better we will never try to turn an inside straight into a straight.  It's too hard, since we have only one chance of completing the straight.
Video Poker is a game that requires skill and it bridges the gap between slot machines and table games for many players. In most casinos video poker machines, when played correctly, offer a lower house edge than the slot machines. Over the last few years, video poker has been gaining in popularity and the casinos are adding more machines to the gaming floor. When video poker machines first appeared on the casino floors in the late 1970’s the only game offered was Jacks or Better draw poker. Today there are over 100 variations of video poker. 

For those who are willing to learn these games, it is well worth taking the time to understand video poker strategy. Many of these machines offer the best return to players (RTP) of virtually all of the casino games that are available online. In fact, when played in real world casinos, video poker games are the only ones where players who play perfect strategy can have a positive expectation. This does not include players who card count in blackjack.
Video poker is a very volatile game, about four times as much as blackjack. In any form of gambling, short-term results mostly depend on normal mathematical randomness (what some might call luck). However, in the long run, results mostly depend on skill. If you play a game with a return of 100.76% perfectly, that does not mean that you will have a 0.76% profit every time you play. The 100.76% is an EXPECTED return. Much in the same way, if you flip a coin ten million times, the expected number of tails will be five million, but it is unlikely you will hit five million on the nose. Actual results will vary significantly from expectations, but the more you play, the closer your actual return percentage will get to the expected return.
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.
There are two popular types of video poker games. The most popular video poker games offer a single player poker experience, including 5-card draw poker games, and can be found in most online or land-based casinos. This type includes Jacks or Better, Tens or Better, Joker Poker, Deuces Wild, Joked and Deuces Wild and Bonus Poker among others. The second type is a casino poker game that involves the player and the dealer, such as Caribbean Stud poker, which can only be found online. Each game has its own gaming procedure and rules.
Despite the importance of finding the best machines, most players don't.  That's why casinos can offer both decent and lousy machines in the same casino and be confident that gamers will still play the lousy ones.  They have to keep some good machines, otherwise they'd lose all the players who know what they're doing.  But most of the machines will be bad, and most gamers will play them anyway.  Heck, in Vegas even casinos and supermarkets have video poker, with absolutely terrible paytables, but people will still play them rather than going across the street to a casino where they can get seven times better odds.  Go figure.
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 while playing at the casino. 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.
Following on from the lists above let's take a look at the reasoning behind each of the points. First the do's. The first two points cover learning the best pay table variations for your favorite games and finding them. By playing the best variations you give yourself a good starting point even before you make your first bet. Of course to get the most out of the good pay tables you need to play max coins on every hand and play with perfect strategy.

Following on from the lists above let's take a look at the reasoning behind each of the points. First the do's. The first two points cover learning the best pay table variations for your favorite games and finding them. By playing the best variations you give yourself a good starting point even before you make your first bet. Of course to get the most out of the good pay tables you need to play max coins on every hand and play with perfect strategy.

This is well worth the price. It helped me to improve my game within the first day of playing (One example: did you know that if you are dealt 2 pairs in Deuces Wild, you should keep only 1 of the pairs and draw 3 cards? You are better off to go for 3-of-a-kind or even 4-of-a-kind than trying for the Full House). It can let you know when you make a mistake, and analyze your play for each game with percentage of correct plays, how much you would have won/lost if you had made all correct plays, and other information.
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.

Despite the importance of finding the best machines, most players don't.  That's why casinos can offer both decent and lousy machines in the same casino and be confident that gamers will still play the lousy ones.  They have to keep some good machines, otherwise they'd lose all the players who know what they're doing.  But most of the machines will be bad, and most gamers will play them anyway.  Heck, in Vegas even casinos and supermarkets have video poker, with absolutely terrible paytables, but people will still play them rather than going across the street to a casino where they can get seven times better odds.  Go figure.
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