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Video Poker


A video poker machine deals you five cards. You decide which you want to keep and which you want to discard. Once you’re dealt replacement cards for your discards, you win if you have any of the traditional poker hands shown in the paytable printed on the machine. Of course, the rarer the hand, the more you’re paid. Below is a paytable for a common variety of VP, Jacks or Better.

Video poker is similar to slot machines in that you play by yourself at a machine, and that you can win a lot of money on just one bet. The return on video poker is usually much better than slots, usually over 98%, but that requires that you play the proper strategy, AND that you hit the Royal Flush, which accounts for about as much 5% of the overall return, depending on the style of VP you’re playing. Since you’ll only hit the Royal Flush once every 40,000 or so hands (several days of continuous play), playing without getting it reduces your return to something similar to that of slots, maybe even less.

Unlike slots in which the return for a given machine isn’t usually known, the return for Video Poker can be ascertained by looking at the pay 168bet table for the machine. For example, the machine above is called a “9/6” Jacks or Better machine because it pays 9 coins for a full house and 6 coins for a flush. The return in a 9/6 machine is 99.54% with property strategy. An 8/5 machine returns 97.3%. Remember, this includes about 5% for the Royal Flush which you probably won’t hit unless you play for several days, and another 5% for the Four of a Kind which you’ll get only about once per hour.

Of course, you can only count on getting the full return if you play properly. Proper play means knowing which cards to keep and which to discard depending on the makeup of your hand. It’s not that hard to learn, and you can always keep a play card with you from one of the popular books or websites.

Other websites have covered video poker in depth, so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel here. Let me just refer you to the best websites on the subject.

The Wizard of Odds. The wizard has come up with simplified strategies that are very easy to play and remember, and which work almost as well as professional strategies. He’s also got a bunch of other useful stuff on video poker.

Jeff Lotspiech’s VP. Strategies, risk of ruin calculator, practice on the web, more.

Skip Hughes. One of the VP columnists for Casino Player magazine, so you know he knows his stuff. Good articles on VP.