If there’s one game in the casino that you should learn strategy for, it’s video poker. Most video poker games carry a very low house edge, and with proper video poker strategy, there are some games that even have an advantage for the player! Plus, video poker is a relaxing game that can be played at your own pace, by yourself, making it ideal for those times when you don’t want to play with other players, or for playing at an online casino.
General Video Poker Strategy
While every video poker game has a unique strategy – and there are a lot of different games out there – there are some tips you should keep in mind no matter what video poker machine you’re playing on.
First, always make sure that you play with the maximum number of coins allowed. This will make sure that you get paid the full amount for a royal flush. Playing with fewer coins will usually cut a few percent off of the player’s return, so if you can’t afford to play with the full coinage, it’s probably better to drop down to a less expensive machine where you can comfortably play with five coins.
Secondly, try your best to play at a machine offering “full pay” odds. Unfortunately, many machines offer less that the maximum payouts, which can put a damper on any video poker strategy. For instance, the following is the full pay table for Jacks of Better Video Poker, perhaps the most popular form of the game. You should be getting the following payouts per coin:
Royal Flush: 800
Straight Flush: 50
Four of a Kind: 25
Full House: 9
Three of a Kind: 3
Two Pair: 2
Pair (Jacks or Higher): 1
With this pay table, the optimal strategy carries a house edge of less than 0.5%! However, less generous pay tables are also out there, some of which carry house edges as high as 5% or more. Be sure to comparison shop when looking at video poker machines and find the ones offering the best payouts.
Jacks or Better Video Poker Strategy
Each video poker game requires a unique strategy, and learning the perfect optimal strategies can be quite difficult. However, there are usually approximations that can get within .1% or so of the optimal strategy with much less effort. For instance, the following Jacks or Better video poker strategy, developed by Michael Shackleford (The Wizard of Odds), adds only .08% to the house edge, and is quite easy to use – either by memorizing it or consulting it while playing. Starting with the top line, pick the first play you can make with the hand you’ve been dealt:
- Keep a royal flush, straight flush, four of a kind, three of a kind, full house or two pair.
- Keep four cards to a royal flush.
- Keep a straight or a flush.
- Keep four cards to a straight flush.
- Keep a pair of jacks or higher.
- Keep three cards to a royal flush.
- Keep four cards to a flush.
- Keep a pair of tens or lower.
- Keep four cards to an open-ended straight draw.
- Keep any two suited high cards (jacks or higher).
- Keep three cards to a straight flush.
- Keep two unsuited high cards (jacks or higher).
- Keep a ten with a jack, queen or king of the same suit.
- Keep one high card.
- Discard all cards.