So far we have looked at low variance and moderate variance video poker games. Low variance games have the advantage of a smaller bankroll size requirement and relatively simple video poker strategy. This comes at the cost of playing a somewhat boring game. Moderate variance video poker games are more exciting to play because they have more high paying winning hands. The excitement factor is offset, however, by higher bankroll requirements and somewhat more complex playing strategy. 

Video poker made its entry to the casino in the seventies; and is today one of the most popular forms of gambling. For the player who likes a game of skill, a low house edge, the possibility of large wins, and the anonymity of playing alone there is nothing else that can compare to video poker. The rules of video poker are simple; you play 1 to 5 coins, the machine give you five cards, you choose which to hold and which to discard, the machine replaces your discards and pays you off according to the value of your hand.
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.
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.
Video poker caught on because it appeared to be easier and less intimidating to play than table games. Video poker games are like slot machines except the players have a say in the outcome. The rules for play were simple; place a bet, deal a hand, select the cards to hold, draw replacements, and see the results. These playing rules are much simpler than all of the myriad bets that are available while playing live casino craps for example. In live casino or online video poker play there is no such thing as a pass line or come bet, a don’t pass or don’t come bet, place bets, lay bets, field bets, “yo-eleven” bets, whirl bets, big red, hard way bets, hop bets and the list goes on.

To be clear, Bovada's not perfect.  Once they got duped by a vendor (Betsoft) who provided progressive slots whose jackpots weren't winnable.  When I discovered this I alerted Bovada, and they pulled all the Betsoft games from the site, but I thought they were slow to do so and didn't offer proper restitution to affected players.  Still, even with this incident, their overall history is better than most; as just one example, there are many other casinos still offering Betsoft's questionable games.
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.
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.
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.
Elsewhere on this site I show you how to figure your average loss for an hour of play.  In summary, you multiply the house edge by the bet size by the number of rounds per hour.  On a 9/6 quarter Jacks or Better machine with proper strategy, that would be 0.5% x $1.25 (remember we're playing 5 coins at a time) x 400 hands per hour = $2.50 per hour.  Not bad.  Except that the formula doesn't work for video poker in the short term.  That's because you'll hit the royal only once every 66 hours on average, and while you're waiting for the royal, the return on the game isn't ~99.5%, it's ~97.5%.  So you're more likely to lose 2.5% in the short term rather than 0.5%.  So we can expect our hourly loss to be closer to $6.25/hour than $1.25/hour while we're waiting for the royal.  Still, $6.25/hour is pretty cheap.  On a slot machine your loss would be closer to $40 an hour.  So you can see why I'm so eager to switch you from slots to VP.

The way video poker strategies are usually expressed is a list of hands you might get on the deal, in order from best to worst. For any given hand, look up all viable ways to play it on the list and go with the one that is listed first. If you don't see a play listed, like suited 10/A, then never play it. Here is such a strategy for Jacks or Better.
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.
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.
One of the first things to remember is this: video poker is not simply a game of luck. There is a great deal of skill involved, too. If you fail to make the correct decisions on a consistent basis, you could be missing out on huge value. If you’re new to the game, there are plenty of free online video poker games where you can build up an understanding before playing for real money.
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 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 you have learned from this chapter the personalities of low variance, moderate variance and high variance video poker games. From this information you should have been able to narrow down the type of video poker game you want to play. You then learned about the importance of the denomination of the game you intend to play. With that information firmly in place, let us now take a look at how multiple play games work and some of the pluses and minuses of playing this type of video poker game. In chapter 3.4 you were presented an overview of how multiple play video poker games work. In chapter 4.4 you learned about bankroll requirements for playing multiple play video poker. Now you can supplement that information with what you will learn in this section. By combining everything, you should have a pretty good idea if you would like playing multiple play video poker or if you would rather stick to a single play game.

Paytable: This is the table on the poker screen that shows you how much each hand in a poker game is worth. As previously stated, you'll want to choose a table that has the best paytable, meaning the highest payout for a win. Each paytable will show you how many coins you'll get in return for winning a hand from one coin played to up to five coins played.


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.
There are five columns in the paytable because your winnings depend on whether you played 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 coins.  Note that there's a bonus for the Royal Flush.  Instead of winning 1250 coins (5 coins x 250), you win 4000 coins.  So you should always play five coins ("Max Bet") when playing video poker.  If you can't afford to play five coins at a time, switch to a lower-denomination machine.  (Yes, this is opposite of our advice about slots, and that's because the penalty for not playing max coins in video poker is greater.)

All possible resulting hands and pays for a hold of just the ace of hearts must be calculated. The same must then be done for a save of just the 3 of spades, the 4 of hearts, the 5 of clubs, and the king of diamonds. Then the same must be done for each possible hold of two cards. Then the same is done for holds of three cards. The same is done for holds of four cards. Finally the return for a hold of all five cards is calculated. The returns are then compared in order to select the best possible hold (in terms of money returned). The results for each of the over two and a half million possible hands are summarized in order to develop the strategy.

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.
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.
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]
Break up a flush or a straight only when you have four cards to a royal flush. That is, if you have ace-king-queen-jack-9, all of clubs, discard the 9 to take a chance at the big payoff for the 10 of clubs. That still leaves open the possibility of a flush with any other club, a straight with any other 10, and a pair of jacks or better with any ace, king, queen, or jack.
After studying this payout and odds table, it is notable that there is an inequality between the odds and the payouts of some hands despite the fact a Full House is more likely to happen than a straight or a flush, but pays more than these two hands. It is clear from the pay table that hands that are not likely going to happen pay more while hands that are more likely to happen pay less. Despite this, the game is in the favor of the player, which is why it can be only found online or at big land-based casinos. You are surely not going to find them in bars or other small gambling venues.
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.
Since the explosion of video poker popularity in the late 1970s and again when it went online in the 1990s, the casino industry has developed fairly rapidly. Primarily, the progression of casino games that can be played remotely has revolutionised the way we interact with casino games. This is just as true for video poker games as it is for any other casino favourite. From playing free online video poker to learn the ropes, to playing on your mobile in just a few taps, the changes in recent years have had a huge impact on the game.
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.
You should always place the maximum bet because it makes you eligible to win the grand jackpot prize of 4,000 if you get a royal flush. If you bet with 1 or 2 coins and get a royal flush, the payout will not be proportionally equal. If betting 5 coins is too expensive for your gambling budget, you can find a lot of .25 machines as online casinos usually offer their bets in denominations that include different sizes such as .25, 0.50, 1, 2, 5 and even 10 and 20.
Some machines will give you the option of playing in a multi-hand format. In these cases, you’ll pay for all of your hands up front: if you play a 10-hand machine for five credits per hand, for instance, you’ll be on the hook for 50 credits at the start of each hand. You’ll still be dealt just one initial hand of five cards. But, after you choose which cards to discard, you will receive new cards for each of the video poker hands you paid for. These new hands are each drawn independently, so it is possible to get the same replacement cards on different hands. All of your winning hands will award prizes, just as in a standard, single-handed game.
In this chapter you learned how video poker strategy charts are created. The process is very computationally intense. By using the math of video poker to create a strategy that maximizes the return of every hand, the resultant strategy will have the highest return possible. You also learned that while there may be scores of lines in a strategy chart, the charts are straightforward to use. In order to properly use a strategy chart the video poker player must know the relative amount paid for each different hand. They must also know how to determine whether a straight or straight flush is a fully open or an inside hand. Having learned how to use a video poker strategy chart, you are ready to learn how to practice playing video poker in order to learn how to play without having to check a strategy chart for each hand. You will learn how to do this in chapter 7.
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.
The same games that players can enjoy in brick-and-mortar establishment are also available at online sites. Video poker games offer the same great odds and exciting, strategic gameplay whether you play them in person, or if you opt for video poker online instead. This makes them an excellent choice for any online gamblers who like playing games where they have an input on every hand.
After studying this payout and odds table, it is notable that there is an inequality between the odds and the payouts of some hands despite the fact a Full House is more likely to happen than a straight or a flush, but pays more than these two hands. It is clear from the pay table that hands that are not likely going to happen pay more while hands that are more likely to happen pay less. Despite this, the game is in the favor of the player, which is why it can be only found online or at big land-based casinos. You are surely not going to find them in bars or other small gambling venues.
10. Low pair (two 10s or lower). Most new players keep a single jack or better rather than a low pair, and it's true that keeping that one high card will result in more frequent winning hands. But most of those will be 1-for-1 payoffs for a pair of jacks or better. Keeping the low pair will result in more two-pair, three-of-a-kind, full-house, even four-of-a-kind hands.

After studying this payout and odds table, it is notable that there is an inequality between the odds and the payouts of some hands despite the fact a Full House is more likely to happen than a straight or a flush, but pays more than these two hands. It is clear from the pay table that hands that are not likely going to happen pay more while hands that are more likely to happen pay less. Despite this, the game is in the favor of the player, which is why it can be only found online or at big land-based casinos. You are surely not going to find them in bars or other small gambling venues.

This guide is written for someone who has never played video poker, for those who have played but were basically clueless as to what they were doing as well as experienced players who want to elevate their level of proficiency. After reading this guide, you will have all the information necessary to be confident in your play, knowing you will take the casino for all that is possible.
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]
The differences can be quite large. If one site has 9-6 Double Double Bonus Poker (98.98 percent return with expert play), another has 9-5 DDB (97.97 percent) and a third has 8-5 DDB (96.79 percent), think about what that means: In casino No. 1, the house expects to keep $1.02 per $100 in wagers, casino No. 2 expects to keep $2.03 and casino No. 3 expects to keep $3.21.
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.
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.
The differences can be quite large. If one site has 9-6 Double Double Bonus Poker (98.98 percent return with expert play), another has 9-5 DDB (97.97 percent) and a third has 8-5 DDB (96.79 percent), think about what that means: In casino No. 1, the house expects to keep $1.02 per $100 in wagers, casino No. 2 expects to keep $2.03 and casino No. 3 expects to keep $3.21.
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.

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.
Video Poker belongs to the small number of casino games, where thousands of players manage not just to make a living playing it, but to end up in possession of tremendous amounts of money. At the same time, tens of thousands of players around the world are in possession of sufficient knowledge of the game, so that they are able to have an astonishing experience during casino vacations, while also being able to take advantage of other benefits – and all that at a much lesser price than retail.
So far 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 how randomness actually works. You have also learned about several categories of video poker games that are available today. Plus you now know some methods of determining how large a bankroll you will need to play your video poker game of choice.
The wild card is a feature that is offered at some, but not all, of the video poker variants. The wild card is always the Joker or the Deuce. This wild card can be substituted for any other card from the deck in order to help players achieve a winning poker hand. In Deuces Wild, for example, the wild card is the 2, which is where name of the game comes from. Another game is Joker Wild, where the Joker is the wild card. Some games might have more than one wild card, such as Joker and Deuces Wild. In this game, the 2 and the Joker are wild cards. 

Stick to the proper way of how to play video poker as well as video poker strategy and you won't necessarily be able to become a professional video poker player, but if you're looking for the one casino game besides traditional poker where you can get positive expected value, or at least a very low house advantage giving you hours of play for a very small investment, video poker may be your game. 
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