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.
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.
In most versions of video poker, you will use an electronic interface to bet on a virtually-generated straight poker hand. You begin by making a wager of up to five ‘coins’ (the value of which depend on the game and chosen settings). The more money you are happy to wager, the more you can win. Usually, your winnings are simply multiplied by the amount of cash you gamble, although you may receive a bonus lift if you go the whole hog with five coins.
Another type of strategy could favor winning as many hands as possible regardless of the amount of the win. For example, any time a high pair is dealt it would be saved even if there were decent shots at a royal flush or other higher paying results in the same hand. This type of strategy may find the player winning more hands, but the amount won per hand would be significantly less than is possible.
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.
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.
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.