Timed Video Poker Tournament: The Royal Flush Strategy

Video poker tournaments have been around almost from video poker’s beginnings. They are still popular events today. Many tournaments are free, or they require only a nominal fee to participate. While the prize amounts vary greatly, a first-place prize for a video poker tournament can be several thousand dollars. This certainly is enough to make a player want to do whatever possible to try to win a portion of that prize fund.

There are two basic types of video poker tournament. They are either limited to a certain number of hands or limited to a specific length of time. Sometimes the tournament has both a time limit and a limit to the number of hands. Examples:

  • Video poker tournament session is limited to 15 minutes. The player attempts to play as many hands as possible in 15 minutes.
  • Video poker tournament session is limited to 200 hands per session with no limit time limit.
  • Video poker tournament session is limited to 200 hands or 15 minutes – whichever comes first.

With no time limit, a player can take the time to play a strategy that is more complicated. However, if there is a time limit play should be as fast as possible. This will give the player the best chance to get a royal which will almost certainly lead to a prize. Most of today’s video poker tournaments have time limits making the “fast play” strategy more desirable.

Player seated at a VP game while sweating and looking at his watch

This article will cover one fast play strategy. Other articles will cover more complex strategies that are more useful when the tournament is not timed.

So, how to play video poker tournament with the best strategy? Some prefer to play the same strategy as in non-tournament play; that is, play the optimum strategy designed to get the most return from each hand played. The reasoning is that the player will have to be lucky to win the tournament and this strategy will give you most from each hand. Hopefully that will be enough to put the player in the winner’s circle.

Others advocate forgetting about all the lower paying hands and “go for broke” by simply saving for a royal flush on every hand. Those who favor this strategy also realize that to win a video poker tournament the player will need luck. It does not matter whether he or she is out of the money by 10 points or by 10,000 points. Either way, no money will be won. So why not give yourself the best chance you can to get some royals? If you are lucky with this strategy, you will win video poker – and win big. If you are not lucky, nothing will change – you will be out of the money either way.

While normal video poker strategy varies based on the specific game and pay table, a “royals-only” tournament strategy remains the same regardless of the game or pay table. It really does not matter since you will only be saving for royal flushes.

To use the “royals-only” strategy, you save only those cards that could produce a royal flush.  This is so simple that you may not even need to generate a formal strategy. Simply save for a royal flush.

video poker player with a lit light bulb over his head and a “eureka” type look on his face

If you have a video poker strategy program that will generate playing strategies, here is how you would set up the five-credit column of the pay table for jacks or better. For other games, enter “0” for any hand other than the royal.

Hand Pays
Royal Flush 4,000
Straight Flush 0
4 of a Kind 0
Full House 0
Flush 0
Straight 0
3 of a Kind 0
2 Pairs 0
Jacks or Better 0

The only hand that means anything in this strategy is the royal flush. Using a video poker strategy program, the following strategy was generated. Since fast play is the goal, we don’t mind simplifying our play a little so the “basic” strategy option was chosen over the advanced strategy option. In some cases, more than one line was generated that had the same exact return. When that is the case it does not matter if the lines are combined. The strategy after combining the equal paying lines follows:
  1. Dealt Royal Flush
  2. 4 cards of a Royal Flush
  3. 3 Cards of a Royal Flush
  4. Suited QJ, KQ, or KJ
  5. Suited AK, AQ, or AJ
  6. Suited JT, QT, KT, or AT
  7. A, K, Q, or J
This strategy is simple while still zeroing in on the hands that will boost the appearance of a royal flush and your total score. It can be learned quickly and played rapidly since the lines of the strategy are very intuitive. That makes this royals-only strategy a great tournament strategy.

Now you have a strategy that can be used to help improve your chances of ending up in the money in a video poker tournament. This strategy will work for any video poker game where the highest paying hand is a royal flush.

player at a VP machine with the top lights flashing and a big smile on his face

Remember, all tournaments require luck, but if luck is on your side, a very simple strategy focused upon royal flushes will allow you to play the most hands giving you the best opportunity to score a tournament win.