Video Poker is the only game in the casino that actually shows you the information you need to determine the house edge and develop the proper playing strategy to attain the highest return possible. Most video poker players are totally unaware of how to use the information available to their advantage. They will plop down on any close or convenient machine and play by hunches in the hope that they will get lucky. This guide is written to help players get the most out of their video poker playing efforts.
The guide consists of 16 chapters and several subchapters. Each chapter begins with several bullet points that explain what the reader will find in that chapter.
Each chapter ends with Key Takeaways. Some chapters will also include a Test Yourself quiz. The guide begins with the History of Video Poker. It then incrementally introduces topics that, when learned and followed, will ultimately give the reader the knowledge to play video poker skillfully.
WHO THIS GUIDE IS FOR
This guide is written for someone who has never played video poker and for those who have played poker or online poker but were basically clueless as to what they were doing as well as experienced players who want to elevate their level of proficiency. After reading this guide, you will have all the information necessary to be confident in your play, knowing you will take the casino for all that is possible.
You are reading this guide because you either want to learn how to play video poker or you want to learn how to get the most out of your video poker play.
Well, you have come to the proper place. This guide is the result of decades of experience and painstaking research. Everything I have been able to glean from my video poker research, my video poker play, the books I have written and classes I have taught is presented in this guide. Everything I have learned, I will share with you.
Are you ready to begin? Great, then let’s get started.
In this opening chapter:
You will learn the strange history of video poker including information about how the house edge was originally estimated.
Video Poker is the clear choice of knowledgeable gamblers for several reasons:
- It is simple to play – similar to a slot machine.
- Unlike a slot machine, the player has a say in what happens. You can choose how many and which cards to save before drawing to your final hand.
- You play video poker alone – no reason to interact with other players.
- Of all electronic casino games, video poker has the lowest overall house edge.
- You can determine the casino edge by just looking for key information on the face of the video poker game.
With all the various games in a casino, why should you consider playing video poker? In order to get the most out of the game, you must spend time to learn and practice the proper video poker playing strategy for the particular version (or versions) of the game you want to play. Let’s take a look at some of the main advantages of (and therefore reasons to play) video poker.
In order to get the most out of your video poker playing experience, it is important to understand exactly how a video poker machine operates. Don’t get me wrong, you can still be a skilled video poker player without knowing how things work inside the game. Just like you do not need to know how electricity works to turn on a light switch or plug in an appliance, it helps to make sense out of things should something out of the ordinary happen.
You can travel throughout the country. In fact you can travel throughout the world and chances are excellent you will find video poker games in any casino you decide to visit. Most video poker games look very similar, which makes sense since most video poker games play the same way. But do all video poker games work the same under their similar exteriors? Find out more in this section of the Ultimate Video Poker Guide.
Whether it is a specific industry, or course of study, or sport, or a branch of science; each has their own lingo. The same is true of the game of video poker. This section defines many of the common video poker terms used in this guide.
As with anything we do in life, there are certain inherent basics that relate to the process. This chapter will give you everything you need to fully understand the how to play video poker and get to know the basic strategy of video poker games.
You will also learn the layout and importance of the pay table, as well as how to properly bet while playing video poker. You will learn and understand payback, return, house (and player) edge. You will learn about the implications of variance, sometimes called volatility. You will also learn what the term random really means when playing video poker.
Video Poker play is relatively straight forward. The play of the game has similarities to other casino games, but it is definitely more complex than playing slot machines. To properly play a slot machine, you simply bet an appropriate amount to maximize your return from the game and either pull the handle or hit a spin button. There is nothing else to so. While it may be true that some slot machines have a button to immediately stop the spinning and go to the final result, pressing this button does not change the outcome; it only helps you lose your money a bit faster.
This section examines the pay table. The video poker pay table contains the most important information available to the video poker player. It gives you everything you need in order to determine what type of game it is. From this information you can determine the return and volatility of that specific video poker game. The information from the pay table is the basis for determining the proper video poker strategy for that game. Understanding this information is the key to maximizing your video poker playing experience.
Whether it is a casino table game or a machine, unless you practice a proper betting routine, you run the risk of not maximizing your return for casino play. This section explores exactly what is meant by proper betting. This knowledge makes you ready to attack the casinos and have the best chance to come out a winner after the battle. Let’s begin.
Whether or not you are aware of it, each and every game in a casino has a payback (which is also called a return) and a house edge. All three of these are inter-related. In this section we will look at exactly what each of these terms means and how each applies to casino table games, slot machines and video poker games.
VARIANCE / VOLITILITY
Two major factors determine the characteristics of a video poker game. They are the payback, which can also be stated as return or calculated from the house edge, and the variance or volatility. We examined how payback (or return) and house edge are inter-related in the last section. In this section we will look at the other half of what defines a video poker game – variance or volatility.
According to Wikipedia, “Random, or randomness, is the property of lacking any sensible predictability.”
As you have seen from the previous chapters, video poker started small. Initially there was only one game that was available. It was based on Draw Poker (and in the earlier video poker games it was called “Draw Poker”) and the lowest winning hand was a pair of Jacks or Better.
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.
Each card in the Jacks or Better category has a distinct value. A 3 can only count as a 3, a king can only count as a king, and so forth. The lone exception is the ace which can count as the lowest or highest card in a straight or straight flush. Each game in the Wild Card category has one or more cards which can count as a card of any rank or suit. They are called wild cards and hence the name of the category. In the game called Deuces Wild, each deuce (2) is wild. Each can be used as any other card in the deck when it is advantageous to do so. In a Joker Poker video poker game, the joker is the wild card.
When this category of video poker game was first introduced, the game was called Pick‘em Poker. This game enjoyed a reasonable run for many years and then slowly faded. Today there are only a few places where you can find a video poker game called Pick-‘em Poker.
So far we have only learned about single play video poker games. You bet your credits, you push the deal button and one hand is dealt. You decide which cards of that hand you want to hold and press another button. New cards are dealt to replace the discards. You are now ready to play the next hand. These games are called single play games because you play one hand at a time.
In each of the games you have seen do far in this guide, each line of the pay table has only one value and that value never changes. For example:
- A pair of jacks or better pays 1 for 1
- A straight flush pays 25 for 1
- A royal flush always pays 800 for 1 with maximum credits played.
So far in this guide you have learned about several different types of video poker game. No matter what the differences in these games, they all had one thing in common – in each and every instance it was the player against the casino.
So far you have learned how video poker started and grew. You have learned the basics of video poker play including return, house edge, and variance. You have learned about how randomness actually works. You have also learned about several categories of video poker games that are available today.
One of the biggest mistakes made by casino gamblers is bring too little money with them. Many come to play video poker with a woefully small gambling stake. It is no fun to run out of money. It is especially no fun to run out of money when you are still in the first day of a three day trip to the casino.
The denomination of a video poker game is the amount of money that is counted as one credit. Game denominations can run from as little as one cent up to $100 or more. That is quite a range! Obviously the denomination of the game you play will impact you bankroll requirements. In most cases the impact of the game’s denomination on your bankroll is fairly straight forward. In other cases, not so much. Let’s take a look.
So far in this chapter you have learned about long term, trip, and session bankrolls and the effect that the denomination of the game has on bankroll requirements. In this section you will learn how variance affects your bankroll requirements.
You learned in chapter 3.4 that the variance of a multiple play game increases as the number of lines played increases. The variance of a single play game is lower than the variance of a three play game. The variance of a five play game is higher than the variance of a three play game, and so on. In this section you will find out specific bankroll sizes for a couple of games at a different number plays for each game.
You learned in chapter 3.5 that progressive video poker has one (the royal flush) or more (other high paying hands such as a four of a kind) jackpots that increase as the game is played. You also learned that as the progressive jackpot increases, the strategy to play video poker changes so that more of the close decisions are decided in favor of saving for the higher paying and less frequent jackpot hand rather than some more frequent but lower paying hands.
So far you have learned how video poker started and grew. You have learned the basics of video poker play including return, house edge, and variance. You have learned how randomness actually works. You have also learned about several categories of video poker games that are available today. Plus you now know some methods of determining how large a bankroll you will need to play your video poker game of choice.
Just what is a low variance video poker game?
There is some fuzziness as to just where the boundaries between low, moderate, and high variance are drawn. For the purposes of this guide a low variance video poker game has a variance of 30 or less.
Okay, so low variance games are good for gamblers because they require a smaller bankroll and their video poker strategy is a bit less complex.
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.
So far you have learned from this chapter the personalities of low variance, moderate variance and high variance video poker games. From this information you should have been able to narrow down the type of video poker game you want to play. You then learned about the importance of the denomination of the game you intend to play. With that information firmly in place, let us now take a look at how multiple play games work and some of the pluses and minuses of playing this type of video poker game. In chapter 3.4 you were presented an overview of how multiple play video poker games work. In chapter 4.4 you learned about bankroll requirements for playing multiple play video poker. Now you can supplement that information with what you will learn in this section. By combining everything, you should have a pretty good idea if you would like playing multiple play video poker or if you would rather stick to a single play game.
Progressive games are different than any other type of game presented in this chapter of the guide. Any of the other games presented can be played at any time. The bankroll requirements will be the same. The variance will be the same. The strategy will be the same. They will all be the same regardless of when you start playing the game. They will be the same regardless of how long you play the game. Bankroll size, variance, and strategy will never change for the duration of your play because nothing about the game changes. Each winning hand pays the same for each hand on which it occurs.
So far in this guide you have learned how video poker started and grew. You have learned the basics of video poker play including return, house edge, and variance. You have learned about how randomness actually works. You now know how to determine your bankroll size. You may even know what specific video poker game (or games) you want to play. If you do not, you have some idea how different video poker games behave and their major characteristics.
Slot machines are extremely popular. One of the reasons for their popularity is that they are easy to play. The only skill that is necessary is to be able to insert money into the game and press a button or pull a lever to start play. That is it. From that point on, everything that happens depends on luck. The results of slot machine spins are based totally on randomness. The instant the slot player presses the spin button the result of that spin is locked in. Whether it is (most likely) a loser, a small winner, a moderate winner, or a jackpot winner has already been decided. Slot players can do nothing to change the odds either for or against them.
You learned in section 6.1 that using a mathematically derived video poker strategy is how you get the most out of your video poker play.
Look in any casino gift shop and you have most likely seen little credit card sized blackjack strategy cards. This tiny little card contains everything you need to know in order to play blackjack perfectly. It would be very nice if the same thing were true concerning video poker games strategy charts. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
By now you have all the knowledge you need in order to begin your successful journey playing video poker. You know about how the pay table gives you important information about the characteristics of each game. You understand the importance of having an adequate bankroll and how to determine the proper size of that bankroll. You understand what a strategy chart is and how the video poker strategy is developed in order to allow you, the video poker player, to extract everything that you can from the casinos. You know how to use a strategy chart in order to obtain those results.
Practice is important in developing and honing any skill. All of the greats in sports have rigorous practice sessions.
You now know why practicing your video poker strategy is a good idea. But what is the best way to practice it? It is a well know axiom that bad practice produces bad results and only good practice produces good results. In this section you will learn how to practice your video poker strategy in a way that will produce the good results.
Practicing video poker strategy by using a computer program or smartphone / tablet app is far more effective than practicing manually as described in section 7.2. The only real problems that might get in the way of you doing so are that you need a computer or smartphone / tablet and you need the program or application. As mentioned previously, there are several good video poker programs and applications available. They are also quite reasonably priced. If you do not have a video poker application, I strongly suggest you purchase one as soon as you can. You can practice manually for a while until you receive it, so you will not be just sitting around and doing nothing while you wait.
Prior to this chapter you have learned everything you need to know about video poker in order to begin live casino play. You now know how the various dierent video poker games work. You learned about bankroll sizes. You learned about strategy charts; how they are developed and how they are used for live casino play. You now have all the tools you need to become a successful player of live casino video poker – or even online video poker for that matter.
Video poker caught on because it appeared to be easier and less intimidating to play than table games. Video poker games are like slot machines except the players have a say in the outcome. The rules for play were simple; place a bet, deal a hand, select the cards to hold, draw replacements, and see the results. These playing rules are much simpler than all of the myriad bets that are available while playing live casino craps for example. In live casino or online video poker play there is no such thing as a pass line or come bet, a don’t pass or don’t come bet, place bets, lay bets, field bets, “yo-eleven” bets, whirl bets, big red, hard way bets, hop bets and the list goes on.
“What etiquette?” you may ask. “Did you not say that one of the advantages of playing casino video poker was you did not have to interact with other players like you do when you are playing table games? If that is true, why on earth would I have to worry about my playing etiquette while playing live casino video poker?”
If you are a new live casino video poker player who is just learning the strategy of how to play your current video poker game, your speed of play will no doubt be quite slow. You will want to make very sure that each and every hold you make is absolutely correct.
Look in any casino gift shop and you have most likely seen little credit card sized blackjack strategy cards. This tiny little card contains everything you need to know in order to play blackjack perfectly. It would be very nice if the same thing were true concerning strategy charts for video poker games. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
As you have learned in the first chapter, one of the main reasons for the popularity of video poker is it usually has a considerably higher payback than slot machines. In fact some games return more than 100 percent for a skilled player. Regardless of which video poker game you play, achieving the long term return percentage is dependent on getting your fair share of royal flushes. By a royal flush I mean the royal flush that really counts – the natural royal flush that is formed without the aid of a wild card. These generally pay 4,000 credits for a five-credit bet or 800 for 1.
The first slot clubs were introduced in order to generate loyalty to the casino by their patrons. Over time the popularity of slot clubs grew exponentially. Now virtually every casino in the United States has some form of slot club. Casino conglomerates offer slot club benefits that can be earned and used at any or all of their brand’s casinos.
Prior to this chapter you have learned everything you need to know about video poker in order to begin live casino or online play. You now know how the various different video poker games work. You learned about bankroll sizes. You learned about strategy charts; how they are developed and how they are used for live casino and online play. You now have all the tools you need to become a successful player of live casino video poker or online video poker for that matter, as all of the information in the guide applies to either.
By way of introduction to the next several chapters and using a dinner party analogy, consider what you have learned so far as tasting a wide variety of appetizers. Having completed that part of the dinner, you are now ready for the main course.
You are about to start studying strategy charts for many different video poker games. Even though this topic has been explored in a previous chapter, it is appropriate to once again discuss how to use a strategy chart.
In the first nine chapters of this guide you have learned all of the background information necessary to become a skilled live casino or online video poker player. You are now ready for the “meat” of this guide. This chapter is the first of six chapters that are dedicated to giving you the specifics needed to play the actual live casino or online video poker games.
Even though all of the Jacks or Better class games presented in this chapter may appear very similar, the strategies can be quite different. In fact, even strategies of different pay tables for the same game can be quite different. With that in mind, let us begin.
Bonus Poker differs from Jacks or Better. This game pays a bonus for some of the four of a kind hands. Four 5s through Kings are paid 25 for one just as they are in Jacks or Better. However four 2s, 3s, or 4s are paid at a rate of 40 for one. Four aces are paid at the still higher rate of 80 for one.
As you learned in chapter one, this game and others that followed were developed to satisfy the gambling public’s quest for larger jackpots. Jacks or Better has only the royal flush as a true jackpot. In that game any four of a kind pays enough for you to play 25 additional hands so they are not really jackpots, although it really helps out. Bonus Poker on the other hand pays 80 for one for four aces. On a quarter machine this amounts to $100 with five credits played. While this is not a huge jackpot, it is enough to make you feel like you have won something substantial and you may even decide to stop playing at that point with what you consider a nice win for the session. Also, where the royal flush happens only once every 40,000 hands or so, four aces will occur roughly once every 5,100 hands, which is eight times as often. Playing at a rate of 500 hands per hour, the Bonus Poker player will get four aces once every 10 hours of play, on average.
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.
Bonus Poker Deluxe is another variation of Jacks or Better designed to add some excitement to your play with the possibility of getting higher paying four of a kind hands. Bonus Poker Deluxe is different than Bonus Poker because all four of a kind hands pay the same at a rate of 80 for one. This makes Bonus Poker Deluxe a relatively popular game. There are many more large pays because four of a kind hands show up roughly 100 times as often as a royal flush (once every 424 hands versus once every 42,000 hands). Because of this a Bonus Poker Deluxe player has multiple opportunities to score a $100 hit on a quarter game. This is a large enough win for many Bonus Poker Deluxe players to cash out and consider the session a win.
Double Bonus Poker takes Bonus Poker one step farther than previous games presented in this guide and doubles the bonuses for all four of a kind hands. In Double Bonus Poker a hand of four aces pays 160 for one rather than 80 for one. A hand consisting of four 2s, 3s or 4s pays 80 for one rather than 40 for one. Even a hand of four 5s through Kings pays 50 for one rather than 25 for one. Double Bonus Poker is also one of the very few live casino or online video poker games where the full pay version of the game returns more than 100 percent.
All of these factors combine to make Double Bonus Poker one of the more popular video poker games. What more could a live casino or online video poker player want?
Double Double Bonus Poker is still another variation of Jacks or Better. Like Bonus Poker and Double Bonus Poker, this game pays a premium for four of a kind hands. However, in order to generate even higher payouts for certain hands, the concept of a “kicker” is introduced in this game.
A kicker is simply a card from a certain set of cards. For Double Double Bonus, four aces pays 160 for 1. However, four aces with a kicker of a 2, 3 or 4 pays a whopping 400 for 1. This is two and one half times what is paid for four aces without a kicker. Getting four aces with a kicker pays half as much as a royal and it occurs two and a half times as often. Four 2’s, 3’s, or 4’s pay 80 for 1. Four 2’s, 3’s, or 4’s with a kicker of an ace, 2, 3, or 4 pays double that or 160 for 1.
Double Jackpot Poker is similar to Double Double Bonus Poker because there is a kicker included in the pay table. Four aces with a king, queen or jack pays 800 for 1. Four kings, queens or jacks with an ace, king, queen, or jack pays 400 for 1. A hand with two pairs pays 2 for 1. The full-pay (8/5 meaning a full house pays 8 for 1 and a flush pays 5 for 1) version is the only one to be covered in this guide. It returns 99.63 percent with perfect play and has a variance of 22.4.
This guide will only cover one version of Double Double Jackpot Poker. Double Double Jackpot Poker bumps the higher pays by doubling the Double Jackpot Poker pays for all four of a kind hands except 2’s through 10’s which are two and a half times the Double Jackpot Version. The pays for a full house, a flush and a straight all have the pays increased by one. The pay for two pairs is reduced to even money to make up for the other increases. The return for this game is 100.35 percent but the variance increases dramatically to 38.2 from 22.4