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.
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.
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.
Think about how normal video poker play goes. After depositing your initial amount, you start playing hand after hand. Most often you lose your bet. The next most frequent occurrence is to simply get your bet returned by hitting a high pair (or sometimes two pairs) that returns 1 for 1. You will also hit other higher paying but less frequent hands. In each case, however, unless you hit a royal flush or other very high paying hand such as four aces with a kicker, the amount you win is not enough to cash out and be considered a good win for the day. Instead, all of these lesser wins are really just extra money that allows you to play a few more hands in order to try to win the jackpot sized hand(s).
Absolutely fantastic software for anybody who loves video poker (such as I do). All of the most popular games are on it and it has triple play and five play. You can set it in a mode that warns you every time you don't play the optimal strategy (if you want to). I bought it a couple of weeks ago and have been playing it every night for relaxation and education. I highly highly recommend it.
But video poker adds something slot machines don't have -- an element of skill. Players have decisions to make that affect the outcome. And because cards are required to be dealt from a randomly shuffled 52-card deck -- or 53 cards, in the case of Joker's Wild machines -- the possible combinations are known, the frequency of the combinations can be calculated, and an optimal playing strategy can be devised. In fact, when Missouri riverboats opened under a law that forbade games of chance, casinos were allowed to offer video poker, as a game of skill, even though slots, as games of chance, had to wait until voters changed the law.
If you choose the machine on the right, you'll lose your money six times faster! And your chances of winning will be far less. If the reason isn't obvious then consider this: If the player is getting back 99.54% and 97.29%, that means the casino is keeping 0.46% and 2.71%. The casino profit on the second machine is 2.71 ÷ 0.46 = 5.9 times higher.
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.
Despite the importance of finding the best machines, most players don't. That's why casinos can offer both decent and lousy machines in the same casino and be confident that gamers will still play the lousy ones. They have to keep some good machines, otherwise they'd lose all the players who know what they're doing. But most of the machines will be bad, and most gamers will play them anyway. Heck, in Vegas even casinos and supermarkets have video poker, with absolutely terrible paytables, but people will still play them rather than going across the street to a casino where they can get seven times better odds. Go figure.