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.
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.
Take 9-6 Double Double Bonus Poker, which returns 98.98 percent with its own special strategy. If you use 9-6 Jacks or Better strategy, the average return is 98.44 percent. For 9-6 Bonus Poker Deluxe, specialize strategy brings 99.64 percent, and JB strategy brings 99.61, while 8-5 Bonus Poker has the same strategy as 9-6 JB and returns 99.16 percent.
In the early 1970s, when video poker was introduced and was still struggling for acceptance, the machines were usually referred to as "poker slots." And video poker has a lot in common with slot machines. They are easy to use, requiring no interaction with a dealer or with other players. Card combinations, like slot reels, are governed by a random-number generator.
Once you’ve paid your credits, you will be dealt your initial cards. In almost all games, the machine is a simulation of five-card draw, meaning you’ll be given five cards from a standard 52-card deck. One or more jokers may sometimes be added as well. The object of poker video games is to make the best five-card hand possible. You’ll need a certain qualifying hand to win a prize; in the game Jacks or Better, for instance, you’ll need at least a pair of jacks to win something. The better the hand, the more you’ll win.