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.
The game that you should learn first is Jacks or Better. Most of the other games are variations of this one. Although space does not allow me to give you the complete strategy in this article, you can find free strategy charts at The Wizard of Odds for Jacks or Better, Deuces Wild, Double Bonus Poker, and more. Sites like Video Poker Trainer allow you to practice playing online and will correct you when you deviate from the optimal strategy.
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 Jacks or Better category is named for the lowest paying winning hand – a pair of jacks or better. Each game in the Jacks or Better category has a pay table with all the same winning hands as the original Si Redd produced game. They are the royal flush, straight flush, four of a kind, full house, flush, straight, three of a kind, two pairs, and a high pair of jacks or better. The games also all play similar to the table game of draw poker, that is, five cards are dealt, the player can discard any or all of them and the discards are replaced with new cards.
In video poker, just like regular poker, you will be given five cards. With those five cards you'll want to achieve a winning poker hand (royal flush, straight, full house, flush, four of a kind, three of a kind, two pair, jacks or better). To do this, you'll have the opportunity to keep certain cards in your hand and exchange others to gain new cards that may help you gain a winning poker hand.
Two major factors determine the characteristics of a video poker game. They are the payback, which can also be stated as return or calculated from the house edge, and the variance or volatility. We examined how payback (or return) and house edge are inter-related in the last section. In this section we will look at the other half of what defines a video poker game – variance or volatility.
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.
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.
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.
Unlike slot machines, video poker games allow players to have a say in the game they chose to play. Like slot machines, randomness is also involved. The instant the “Bet Max Credits” or the “Deal / Draw” button is pressed the five cards to be dealt are determined based on a random process. After the cards to be held are selected by the video poker player, the cards that replace those not held are also determined by a random process at the instant the “Deal/Draw” button is pressed.
Two important points to remember: Don't overbet your bankroll, and if a machine is available at which you feel comfortable playing the maximum number of coins, do so. If you are sitting down to play with $20, you don't belong at a $1 machine that will take up to $5 at a time. It is better to play five quarters at a time than one dollar at a time. Though video poker machines pay back a high percentage of the money put into them, the payouts are volatile. It is not unusual to go five or ten or more consecutive hands with no payout. Don't play at a level at which you do not have the funds to ride out a streak.
The don'ts are mainly related to making sure you do not end up losing more than you can afford when playing. If you have lost your daily budget it is important to call it quits for the day. Chasing your losses is a bad idea as it can lead to even more losses. You should also avoid drinking too many alcoholic beverages as this can lead to making strategy mistakes and bad decisions.
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.
Since there are a lot of games that offer different paying hands, gamble features and wild cards, it is essential to check the rules and the paytable of the video poker game before you start playing. Knowing the minimum paying hand is quite important. The names of some video poker games might give you a clue, such as Tens or Better (a pair of tens is the minimum hand) and Jacks or Better (a pair of jacks is the minimum hand). For other games, it is essential to check the paytable and know the minimum paying hand because it will affect your decisions during the game.
Typically, you can access online video poker in the same way that you can access other online casino games. That means that you can often play video slot games simply by punching in a casino’s URL and being redirected to the mobile version of the website. Often, the mobile-optimised website will have a new layout with certain aspects enlarged or reduced in size. This can make for a much better customer experience. But another option is to download a mobile app. Video poker games are often at the forefront of casinos’ thinking, which means the majority of apps are packed out with ways to play video poker.
Bonus Poker Deluxe is another variation of Jacks or Better designed to add some excitement to your play with the possibility of getting higher paying four of a kind hands. Bonus Poker Deluxe is different than Bonus Poker because all four of a kind hands pay the same at a rate of 80 for one. This makes Bonus Poker Deluxe a relatively popular game. There are many more large pays because four of a kind hands show up roughly 100 times as often as a royal flush (once every 424 hands versus once every 42,000 hands). Because of this a Bonus Poker Deluxe player has multiple opportunities to score a $100 hit on a quarter game. This is a large enough win for many Bonus Poker Deluxe players to cash out and consider the session a win.
Do not draw to a four-card inside straight -- one in which the missing card is in the middle rather than on either end -- unless it includes at least three high cards. A four-card open straight is one that has space open at either end to complete the hand; for example, a hand of 4-5-6-7 can use either a 3 at one end or an 8 at the other to complete the straight. An inside straight has space in the middle that must be filled to complete the hand; 4-6-7-8 needs a 5 to become a straight. Open straights give the player a better chance, with twice as many cards available to fill the straight.
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.)
In a 9/6 Jacks or Better game you would multiply .5% by $1.25 (this is a five coin, max bet game) by 400 (hands per hour). This would bring you to $2.50 an hour on a long term game. If you are playing a short term game, you are more likely to lose $6.50 an hour, because the house end for the casino will be higher (you'll have less chance of hitting the royal).
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.
In order to increase your chances of winning huge payoffs, including the jackpot when you catch a royal flush, it’s essential that you know exactly what to do before you make a wager on a video poker game. After all, this is a game of skill. So, if you want to enjoy the high odds of winning while playing video poker, you should first be willing to expand your knowledge and learn the various strategies and important details needed to do well in this game. If you’re heading toward this direction, then feel free to use this video poker guide.