Video Poker Tips: Get More Out of The Cards

By: Gilberto Camron    

Video Poker Tips: Get More Out of The Cards

Video Poker Tips: Get More Out of The Cards

Although casino bosses will be reluctant to tell you this, Video Poker is one of the most profitable games in the house. Yet, many video poker games feature a house edge of less than one per cent, and others still can actually yield over a 100 per cent payback if the player uses an optimal playing strategy. Therefore the question needs to be asked; how can a player turn the video poker odds in their favour?

The answer lies in the fact that an optimal strategy for many video poker games is not intuitive. Of course there are plenty of hands that everyone plays optimally; if someone is dealt the As, Ks, Qs, Js and 3d, for instance, you will struggle to find a video poker player who would insist on discarding the four spades and keeping the three of diamonds. But there are hands that are not so obvious, where what would appear to be the correct strategy actually costs the player money. And in some cases this loss can be very significant.
To better illustrate this Video Poker phenomenon let’s look at a game that most of us are familiar with - “Jacks or Better”. At first glance this game looks very simple to play. There are only nine hands that qualify for a payback, and it’s usually pretty easy to tell when you have a draw to one of those nine hands. Yet everyday video poker players across the nation are throwing away their money by making poor (yet ‘intuitively correct’) playing decisions. By look at a few different hands, you will see how the optimal strategy varies from the intuitively correct strategy.

Holding onto your Aces
You see this play made in Video Poker all the time, and yet few players know what a disaster it really is. The idea behind keeping the ace is that you have a better chance of making an ace-high straight at some point, and you also have three high cards that you can try to pair up on the draw. However, by keeping the ace you’re eliminating your chances of making a four-of-a-kind or a full house, and reducing your chances of making a two pair. The slight gain you do receive through your increased chances of making a straight don’t begin to compensate for these other significant losses.

Neglecting the straight flush
The straight flush may be the most misunderstood hand in the Video Poker game Jacks or Better. It doesn’t come around very often, and it doesn’t have the appeal of the royal flush, and as a result most players tend to ignore it. When dealt a hand like the 9c 7c 5c 3d 2h many players will simply discard all five and redraw the cards. The assumption here is that the straight flush will almost never come in, so they would rather ‘cut their losses’ and try to pick up a big pair on the redraw.
Once again, this makes sense at first glance. Yet what is commonly forgotten in this kind of analysis is that by keeping the 9c 7c 5c the player also has the chance of a straight or a flush. Now it’s true that a draw like this isn’t a huge money spinner, but it will still pay more, in the long run, than drawing five new cards everytime.

Keeping a suited Ace Ten as opposed to just keeping the Ace
This is one of the most common mistakes made by video poker players in the game of Jacks or Better. I’ll be the first to admit that holding the ace and the ten is far more fun then just drawing to an ace. After all, when you hold the ace and the ten you have at least a small chance of something really big happening, like hitting the royal on the draw. You also have a better chance of making a straight or a flush. Yet these apparent gains limit chances of making four of a kind, three of a kind or a big pair. If you want to play optimally you’ll have to discard that ten; I know it’s tough, but it has to be done

These are three of the most obvious examples of poor play in video poker, although there are plenty of other mistakes that video poker players frequently make in the course of a playing session. If your goal is to reduce the house edge as much as possible, then it is recommend that you research charts detailing the finer points of optimal play. Pore over these charts, and compare the plays they recommend with the plays you’re currently making. I can guarantee it will be a real eye-opener.


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