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.

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.

To get a better understanding of video poker, it is necessary to look back at its history. The first video poker games sprung up in the 1970s. These were physical machines, emerging during the same era as personal computers. The first such machines came from Fortune Bell Company. However, it wasn’t until 1979 that video poker machines began to breach the mainstream.


Slot machines are extremely popular. One of the reasons for their popularity is that they are easy to play. The only skill that is necessary is to be able to insert money into the game and press a button or pull a lever to start play. That is it. From that point on, everything that happens depends on luck. The results of slot machine spins are based totally on randomness. The instant the slot player presses the spin button the result of that spin is locked in. Whether it is (most likely) a loser, a small winner, a moderate winner, or a jackpot winner has already been decided. Slot players can do nothing to change the odds either for or against them.

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. 

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.

Not all video poker games are created equal, and it pays to do a little looking around. If you have several online casinos where you like to play, take the time to check pay tables before you start wagering. Those who play in brick-and-mortar casinos should do the same – I’ve often found higher and lower pay tables on the same game in different areas of one casino.
The best video poker machines, played skillfully, offer odds that rival any table game. The basic game, Jacks or Better, in its full-pay version returns 99.5 percent with optimal play over the long haul. Other machines, especially some versions of Deuces Wild, offer a positive expectation to the player -- that is, over the long haul, they'll return more than 100 percent with optimal play. 

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.
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.
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.

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.
Often when you hold four cards and throw away one, the new card is the same value as the one you threw away.  For example, let's say you have 9, 9, 2, 2, 5, you throw away the five, and then you get another five.  This might seem to happen way more often than it should.  But that's an illusion caused by the human tendency to look for patterns.  A good example of how easily our perception can be fooled is to take the awareness test, where you watch a short video and count the number of passes the white team makes.  Most people fail.  I did.
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. 

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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.
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.
Often when you hold four cards and throw away one, the new card is the same value as the one you threw away.  For example, let's say you have 9, 9, 2, 2, 5, you throw away the five, and then you get another five.  This might seem to happen way more often than it should.  But that's an illusion caused by the human tendency to look for patterns.  A good example of how easily our perception can be fooled is to take the awareness test, where you watch a short video and count the number of passes the white team makes.  Most people fail.  I did.

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.


If you visit the Wizard of Odds site, you can find a free video poker game available in your browser window that includes auto-hold features and warnings when you’re about to make a mistake. This is a free Jacks or Better 9/6 game: http://wizardofodds.com/play/video-poker/. You can even update the pay tables for this game to something other than 9/6 Jacks or Better. For the price, this training program is hard to beat. The game also features a “more games” button which opens up a screen where you can choose from three dozen different games, including the following:

Online video poker was introduced to casinos in the 1970s as a single-player equivalent to table poker. At the time, it was a bit of a technological marvel and quickly became popular. Today, the game is still played widely for its simple rules, low house edge and the possibility of big wins. Our step-by-step guide will steer you through the rules and variants of video poker so you can get the most out of this exciting casino game.


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 strategy below is the Wizard's simplified strategy for Jacks or Better.  You give up just a tiny part of the return (99.46% instead of 99.54%) and in exchange you get a strategy that's much, much easier to learn and remember than the perfect strategy.  The 0.08% penalty costs you only $0.60 per hour of play on average, assuming a quarter machine played at 600 hands per hour.


Part of your research should include learning the payout tables, but there’s also another table that should prove pivotal to your success in playing the game. There are a number of charts available which show you clearly when you should drop cards and when you should keep them. For instance, when you have a Royal Flush you should naturally keep all of your cards, whichever type of video poker game you’re playing. For 3-if-a-kind you should keep three and drop two, and if you’re two cards from a Royal Flush you should keep two and drop three.
Enough Americans have an easy familiarity with the rank of poker hands that video poker has become one of the most popular casino games. As gambling markets mature and players become more experienced, the demand for video poker has tended to become stronger. In Nevada, casinos with a clientele of locals devote more than 50 percent of slot space to video poker, and there are video poker bars that offer few other gambling options. The major resorts that cater to tourists turn a lower percentage of space to video poker, about 10 percent to 15 percent. That's about the percentage you'll find in other United States gaming destinations. In Missouri, as soon as voters allowed games of chance, about 80 percent of slot space was turned over to reel slots.
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.
You learned in chapter 3.5 that progressive video poker has one (the royal flush) or more (other high paying hands such as a four of a kind) jackpots that increase as the game is played. You also learned that as the progressive jackpot increases, the strategy to play video poker changes so that more of the close decisions are decided in favor of saving for the higher paying and less frequent jackpot hand rather than some more frequent but lower paying hands.
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