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.
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.
Obviously, the more you bet, the more you will win for any given hand. With one exception, the win for any given hand and bet is proportional to the amount bet. However, notice that for a royal flush the win is 1000 for a bet of four coins and 4000 for a bet of 5 coins. The disproportionately high payoff of 800 per coin bet for a royal flush, with a five coins bet, is what economists would call an economy of scale. You will see this in almost every video poker game. If you don't bet the maximum number of coins, the cost of being short-changed on a royal amounts to about 2% of money bet, which is a lot. The wise video poker player will always bet max coins per hand.
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.
Once I hit two 4 of a Kinds back to back. The probability of hitting it once is 0.24%. The chances of hitting it back to back are 0.24%2 = 0.0006%, or 1 in 179,000. That's four times less likely than hitting a royal flush. And I would have preferred the royal! (By the way, purists will note that after you've hit a 4 of a Kind, the chances of hitting another four of a kind is just 0.24%, not 0.0006%, but I'm considering the probability of getting two back-to-back before I get the first one.)
Well, the charts on our site are on roughly accurate to within 0.1% of perfect play. So, if you find that game that returns 100.5%, you would be actually earning about 100.4% with our charts - not too bad. Not many charts get much closer than 0.1% because they would have to be extremely long and complicated to explain the subtle differences in rare hands.