Like most great casino games, online video poker takes a simple concept that requires a combination of luck and skill. Players who enjoy video poker games are often very passionate about playing these machines. But to get the best odds possible, you’ll need to have a deep knowledge of video poker strategy. This can help you to increase your chances of winning on a consistent basis.
You may have heard the adage that the "house always has the advantage." Video poker is an exception to that rule. If you look for the most liberal pay tables, and play them properly, you can have a thin advantage. Some pay tables, which are slightly in the machine's favor, can return over 100%, if you factor in incentives such as cash back, free play, mailers, and other comps.
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.
That's a pretty lengthy list for a beginner, but it can be shortened considerably by taking all those three card straight flushes -- open, inside, double inside, with high cards, without high cards -- and lumping them together just below four high cards. That'll cost you a few tenths of a percent, but when you're comfortable with the rest of the strategy, you can start breaking down the categories for more expert play.
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.
These games can be enjoyed at land-based casinos on video poker machines that look a lot like slot machines. Online casinos also offer video poker as all the major software developers have their own variants players can enjoy online through their computers in the comfort of their own home. Most of the video poker versions adopt the 5-card poker game rules as players will get 5 cards and they will choose to discard cards and get replacement cards in order to form the final poker hand. The only difference is that there are no wagering rounds in between the dealt cards as players will only place a wager at the beginning.
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.
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.
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.
Actually, this is somewhat of a trick question. If you are talking about a relatively short amount of play, the answer is yes they can do better than players using a proper strategy. As with all things based on randomness, it is possible that someone who plays hunches or bases their hold decisions on the flow of the game can do better than a player how strictly follows the proper strategy in the short term. In the long run, however, the player who uses the strategy will always come out ahead.
So it really pays to hunt out the good machines! But it's actually pretty easy, because the readers of a website called VPFree2 scout out the best machines and post their locations on the site. Using that site you can see that you can there are 9/6 Jacks or Better machines on the Strip at Cosmopolitan, New York New York, Riviera, Treasure Island, and others. And in downtown and off-strip casinos, the good games are more common, and available at lower denominations.