Video Poker

Playing good, basic video poker strategy can make you a long-term winner. But it is important that you know expert video poker strategy for the video poker game you play. You will do much better if you concentrate on only one or two games. Video poker strategy for various games is not the same. For example there is a huge difference in the strategies for Jacks or Better and Deuces Wild, two of the most popular video poker games.

Even if you’re a veteran player, some hands dealt might stump you. Say you’re playing jacks-or-better and the machine deals you: JH QH 4S 5S 6S. What would be your video poker strategy for this hand?

Keeping the three spades could result in a straight flush, a flush, a straight, three-of-a-kind or two pair. Or you could go for the royal flush by holding the suited J Q? I analyzed the video poker strategy for this hand and found that holding the three sequential low cards is marginally better, but it wouldn’t be a serious mistake if you kept J Q.

Here’s another tough one. This time we’re dealt: 9C 10C JC QC KC. Do you keep the straight flush or discard the 9 and go for the royal? Good video poker strategy says stick with the straight flush if you’re on a jacks-or better machine, but go for the royal if you’re playing deuces wild. The reason? Jacks or better pays 250 coins for a straight flush whereas deuces wild pays only 45 coins for the same hand.

The combination of expert video poker strategy and machines offering 99.5% long-term payback can make you a lifetime winner at video poker. But playing games offering 99.5% payback does not mean that for every 100 coins you feed into a machine you’ll get 99½ coins back! The key word is “long-term” which means thousands of hands. Plus, the 99.5% payback calculation includes the Royal Flush bonus pay-off! You have an additional 2% disadvantage if you don’t get to collect your fair share of 4,000-coin Royal Flushes.

The actual results you will achieve will be based on your personal video poker strategy skill level. The more expertly you play, the better your chances of becoming a long-term winner.

Let’s be realistic and accept that because humans don’t play video poker strategy with computer-like precision, our expected return percentage will be reduced by at least one percentage point. From 99.5% to 98.5%, assuming we hit one royal flush every 40,000 hands, on average. That translates into the machine keeping 1½% for the casino! If the Royal Flush shows up only half as often at it is statistically supposed to appear, add another 1% and the casino’s edge becomes 2½%. And this is based on always applying perfect video poker strategy and only playing machines with the best pay table you could possibly find.

Most video poker games are designed to return from 95% to 98%. Play such machines over extended periods and you will never be a long-term winner, even if you play absolutely perfect video poker strategy. To have any chance of success you need to know how to be a skillful player and pick only “full-pay” machines. Your day-to-day results will still be erratic but you will do alright over the long term.

Whether online or in live casinos, you should not play any machine that does not offer the following minimum payouts. Perfect video poker strategy requires you to avoid games where the payout for any hand is lower than what’s shown here:

Jacks or Better Full Paytable (rated 99.54% payout)

Royal Flush 4000
Straight Flush 250
Four of a Kind 125
Full House 45
Flush 30
Straight 20
Three of a Kind 15
Two Pair 10
Jacks or Better 5

Expert-video-poker strategy for Jacks or Better

Hold all playing hands you’re dealt, except break up a lesser paying hand if you get four cards to a royal flush. When you’re dealt non-paying hands, jacks or better strategy dictates you check for the following and hold accordingly:
Hold any four cards to a straight flush.
Hold any three cards to a royal flush.
Hold any four cards to a flush.
Hold any low pair (tens or lower).
Hold any four-card consecutive straight.
Hold any two high cards of the same suit.
Hold any three cards to a straight flush.
Hold J, Q, and K of different suites.
Hold any two high cards of different suites.
Hold J, Q or K with a Ten of the same suit.
Hold any single high card.
If you didn’t get dealt any of the above, draw five new cards.

Deuces Wild Full Paytable (rated 98.91% payout)

Royal Flush 4000
Four Deuces 1000
Wild Royal 125
Five of a Kind 75
Straight Flush 45
Four of a Kind 20*
Full House 20*
Flush 15
Straight 10
Three of a Kind 5
*If Four of a Kind pays 25 and Full House 15, you have found a “full-pay” machine, returning 100.7%. These pay tables are rare. You can find this paytable during “happy hour” at Global Player Online Casino.

Expert-video-poker strategy for Deuces Wild

Four Deuces: Hold all five cards, you can’t improve this hand.
Three Deuces: Hold a wild royal flush and five-of-a-kind. Otherwise hold the deuces only.
Two Deuces: Hold any hand that’s four-of-a-kind or better. Keep any four cards to a royal flush. Otherwise just the two deuces.
One Deuce: Hold all paying hands, with the exception of four cards to a royal flush. Keep four cards to a straight flush, three cards to a royal flush. Otherwise keep the deuce only.
No Deuce: Hold all paying hands, except hold four cards to a royal flush, instead of a lesser paying hand.
Hold a four-card straight flush.
Hold a three-card to a royal flush.
Hold any one pair (keep two pair if full house pays the same as four-of-a-kind).
Hold a four-card flush.
Hold a consecutive four-card straight.
Hold three cards to a straight flush.
Hold any two of 10, J, Q or K, if they’re in the same suit.
If you’re not dealt any of the above, draw five new cards.

Video Poker Games summary

If games with pay tables as good as the above are not available, but you want to play anyway, my advice is risk only a relatively small amount and hope to get a big payout in short order. As a video poker strategy player you do not keep feeding coins into machines with bad pay tables for extended periods.

On average, a Royal Flush occurs about once every 40,000 hands, but there is absolutely no guarantee. You could go 100,000 hands and not hit one. Some calculations video poker strategy players should keep in mind: If you play maximum coins at a moderate speed of 400 hands per hour, it takes 100 hours to play 40,000 hands. At five quarters, or $1.25 per hand, times 400 hands that’s $500 going through the machine each hour.

At only a 2.5% long-term hold, the machine keeps an average of $12.50 per hour. Play 100 hours, (40,000 hands) and your loss will total $1,250! Even if you were lucky enough to hit a Royal Flush during that stretch, the pay-off would be 4,000 quarters or $1,000. You’re still down $250, or an average of $2.50 for each hour of play

So, with what video poker strategy can you possibly hope to at least break even in the long-run? In live casinos the slot club benefits can make the difference. Exploit the slot club freebies to the maximum. Keep a record of the value of everything the casino gives you for free and include that sum in your winnings. Keeping accurate records is also part of video poker strategy.

If you received free accommodation, restaurant meals, show tickets and other gifts, add up the estimated dollar value. Chances are the amount will be about equal to what you lost on the machines. And if you are lucky and hit more than your fair share of Royals, you will even show an overall net cash profit.

Online casinos don’t have slot clubs, but you can easily end up on the plus side. Here the video poker strategy is to exploit the sign-on or welcome bonuses offered by practically all online casinos.

Good Luck, and I wish you many Royal Flushes playing video poker strategy.