Video poker follows the same hand ranking rules as regular poker with Royal Flush being the highest hand. It is also important to note that in video poker, it is the hand that matters regardless of the value of the cards forming it. For example, a pair of Aces will pay the same as a pair of Jacks and a Straight from 9 to K will pay the same as a straight from 2 to 6. Here is the poker hand ranking in a descending order:
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.
Stick to the proper way of how to play video poker as well as video poker strategy and you won't necessarily be able to become a professional video poker player, but if you're looking for the one casino game besides traditional poker where you can get positive expected value, or at least a very low house advantage giving you hours of play for a very small investment, video poker may be your game.
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).
One advantage that video poker has over regular slot machines is that you can determine the return of the game by reading the pay table on the front of the machine. Most video poker games use the combinations of hands that can be made from a standard 52 card deck. I say most because there are some Joker Poker Games that use one or two Jokers added to the 52 card deck. One popular variation of the game is Deuces Wild which uses a 52 card deck but the deuces are wild cards. With a set number of combinations that can be made from the cards used in the game, the payout can be calculated by how much the machine pays for each winning combination.
Holding cards based on what you feel is correct or holding based on the flow of the cards are both technically strategies. But the video poker game manufacturers set up pay tables based on the math of the game so the casinos will be sure to make a profit from them. Therefore in order for you to make the most of your video poker playing experience, you need to use a strategy that is based on the same math.
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.
Here's where our strategy list comes in. Notice that a low pair is #9, while four to an outside straight is #10. The low pair is higher on the list, so we hold the pair. In fact, you almost always hold pairs in Jacks or Better. We'll discuss exceptions below, but in general, always lunge for a pair, and then do a quick check to see if you have anything better, since you probably won't.
10. Low pair (two 10s or lower). Most new players keep a single jack or better rather than a low pair, and it's true that keeping that one high card will result in more frequent winning hands. But most of those will be 1-for-1 payoffs for a pair of jacks or better. Keeping the low pair will result in more two-pair, three-of-a-kind, full-house, even four-of-a-kind hands.
WinPoker more than met my expectations. Unless you are already near perfect at video poker, it will surely improve your game. You can adjust the pay table to match that of any machine you frequently play. The system has the look and feel of the casino game, with the edition that - in training mode - it will warn you if you are making a mistake, and at your discretion pop up a table showing the odds outcomes of your choice, the preferred choice, and other options. (You can either correct your original choice, or leave it unchanged to see how you would have fared without help.) At the end of your session, it will grade your overall performance, and show how many coins your mistakes cost you. WinPoker works as a game, of course, but it will also improve your play. My play has improved from about 90% accuracy when I started to about 98% now. (There are still some subtle distinctions (ranked here as "minor errors"), which I still don't grasp, but the dreaded "major error" message almost never appears now, unless I am playing tired.) I can attest that my sharpened skills have translated into better returns at the casino.
In order to pay for the increased pays for four of a kind hands, other pays have to be lowered. In Bonus Poker pays for the full house and flush are reduced to eight for one and five for one from nine for one and six for one respectively on the full pay Jacks or Better game. This makes the return from the “full pay” version of this game 99.17 percent. This is certainly not as good as a full pay Jacks or Better, but it is still not bad.
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.
Use a strategy list. A strategy list is like a cheat sheet, that has all of the different ways you can win in a poker game in a list ranked from best hands to worse hands. Using a cheat sheet will help you determine which cards to keep and which cards to exchange for new cards. For example, if you have the opportunity to go for a straight with an outside straight, or you have the opportunity to go for three to four of a kind with a pair, a low pair is ranked higher on the list so that is what you should choose.
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.
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.
Playing hunches or streaks may work for a hand or two (or possibly even a session or two), but far more often these tactics will not work. In fact, by employing these types of playing strategies, you will end up giving the casino even more of your hard earned money than you need to. Only by using mathematically derived video poker playing strategies will you get every cent you can from your video poker play over the long run.
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.