Video Poker



• The layout of the game
• Hand ranks
• Procedure of play
• The Jacks Or Better paytable
• What determines the payout?
• The Jacks Or Better hand-rank table
• Hand-rank nomenclature
• Why learn Jacks Or Better?
• Practise, practise, practise
• Volatility
• Useful video poker resources and articles
      • The Wizard Of Odds
      • The Gamemaster
      • About casino gambling




The layout of the game


Video poker is cross between a slot machine and a poker game: the format is that of a slot machine, with screen, buttons and coin drop, but the standard slot machine symbols are replaced by varying ranks of poker hands along with the corresponding payoff for each hand located to its right - collectively referred to as the "paytable".

As such, video poker differs from table poker in that the payoffs you receive for any winning hand are always a fixed amount, determined by the paytable, and not dependent on however much money there is in the pot of the live game.


Hand ranks


The hierarchy of video poker hand ranks corresponds to table poker:

• Royal flush
• Straight flush
• Four of a kind
• Full house
• Flush
• Straight
• Three of a kind
• Two pair
• Pair

Some games contain "wild cards" or "jokers", in which case certain other hand types come into play:

• Four deuces (the four wild cards in Deuces Wild)
• Five of a kind (a joker or wild cards together with cards of the same rank)
• Joker royal (a joker with four suited royal cards)
• Wild royal (a combination of court cards and wild cards)


Procedure of play


You are dealt five initial cards, of which you can then hold or discard as many as you choose. If you have a made hand - such as a full house - hold all five cards. If you have nothing worth holding, discard them all and draw five new cards. Each card you discard is then replaced by another card from the pack, and your new selection of five cards represents your final hand.

Any winning hand is paid out according to the paytable, after which you proceed to the next hand.

Here is a graphic illustration of the above process:

Jacks Or Better pre-deal


This is a typical initial screen; some software types require you to physically insert "coins" into the machine; others simply let you play directly from your balance. You now have two options: "bet max" or "bet one"; always click on "bet max" (see below for an explanation of this) -

Jacks Or Better after the deal


The machine deals your initial five cards and the paytable lights up any paying hand you've been dealt - on this occasion, a Jacks Or Better pair, two queens. At this point you have to make your decision about which cards to discard and which to hold; in this case...

jacks Or Better, holding a Queen pair


...you hold the pair of queens and then click the "draw" button to replace the three discards with three new cards from the deck:

Jacks Or Better, the draw


The machine deals you the replacement cards, and the new five-card combination represents your final hand - in this case, I converted a high pair into a full house and was paid $45 for my $5 initial bet - 9:1.


The "Jacks Or Better" paytable


Below is the paytable for the Jacks Or Better game featured in the above sequence:


jacks or better paytable


There are five columns representing the number of coins you can wager, from one through to five. If you look at the top right hand corner at the Royal Flush payout in the "five coins" column you'll see that that Royal payout is larger, in relation to the other payouts in that column, than in any of the other four columns to the left. For instance, in the first four columns the Royal pays five times more than the straight flush; in the "five coins" column it pays fully sixteen times more.

At the risk of stating the obvious: always wager maximum coins (five); if you don't, you'll give away an awful lot of overall value.


What determines the payout?


Two factors determine the payout of any video poker machine: paytable and player strategy. Each paytable has a maximum payout that can be achieved with optimum strategy; the best payout achievable on the above Jacks Or Better paytable above is 99.54% - with perfect strategy; make mistakes and you will not achieve that payout.

Learning correct strategy can be quite a task, but it's worth it; not only will you achieve the best payout possible, but in addition there are video poker games with payouts well above 99.54%.


Jacks Or Better hand-rank table


The best way to learn accurate strategy is with a hand-rank chart - see below: look at your cards and decide if you have anything corresponding to the hands on the chart. If you have, hold the appropriate cards. If you have two possible hands, choose the highest-ranked hand.

For example, if you're dealt the following initial five cards...

2d, 5c, 2h, 9s, Ks


...your 2D 2H pair corresponds to rank number 15, "low" pair, so hold the twos and discard the rest. If you're dealt...

5d, 10d, Jd, Qd, Kd


...you have both a five card flush (6) and four to a royal flush (4); the four royal is higher, so discard the 5D and hold the four royal cards.

1. Pat royal flush
2. Pat straight flush
3. Pat four of a kind
4. 4 to a royal flush
5. Pat full house
6. Pat flush
7. 3 of a kind
8. Pat straight
9. 4 to a straight flush
10. Two pair
11. High pair
12. 3 to a royal flush
13. 4 to a flush���
14. 4 to an outside straight with 3 high cards
15. Low pair
16. 4 to an outside straight with 0-2 high cards
17. 3 to a straight flush, spread 5, 2 high cards
18. 3 to a straight flush, spread 4, 1 high card
19. 3 to a straight flush, spread 3, 0 high cards
20. Suited jack and queen
21. 4 to an inside straight, 4 high cards
22. 2 suited high cards, king highest
23. 2 suited high cards, ace highest
24. 4 to an inside straight, 3 high cards
25. 3 to a straight flush, spread 5, 1 high card
26. 3 to a straight flush, spread 4, 0 high cards
27. Unsuited JQK
28. Unsuited JQ
29. Suited TJ
30. 2 unsuited high cards king highest
31. Suited TQ
32. 2 unsuited high cards ace highest
33. J only
34. Suited TK
35. Q only
36. K only
37. A only
38. 3 to a straight flush, spread 5, 0 high cards

(There are some rare exceptions to the above chart which can be found on Michael Shakleford's Jacks Or Better page.)


Hand-rank nomenclature


• "Spread 4" and "spread 5" - see hands 17 and 18 - means spanning four or five cards; for instance: 3D, 5D and 7D are three cards to a straight flush "spread 5"; 4D, 5D and 7D are the same but "spread 4"; these are also referred to as "double inside" and "inside" draws respectively.

• An "inside" straight - see hand 21 - is a four-card straight that requires just one specific card for completion - usually an "inside" card; for instance: 4D, 5C, 6C and 8H requires a 7 to complete the hand. Equally, an ace, 2, 3 and 4 is also an "inside" draw, since it can only be completed on one side, with a 5 - as is jack, queen king and ace, which requires a 10.

• An "outside" straight - see hand 16 - is a four-card straight that can be completed on either side; for instance: 5C, 6H, 7D and 8H can be completed with either a 4 or a 9.

• A "low pair" in this game is any pair 10 or below.

• A "high pair" is any pair of jacks or higher.

• A "high card" is a jack, queen, king or ace.


Why learn Jacks Or Better?


I would recommend learning optimal Jacks Or Better strategy for the following reasons:

• It's the basic video poker game which spawned all the many variants that subsequently emerged; you need to start somewhere and this is as good a place as any.

• A machine that pays at least 4880 coins on the royal represents an overall payout of 100%, so if you can find such a "progressive" jackpot pushing the game above that level you'll be gambling with an advantage - see the article on hand frequencies and percentage returns for more information on this.


Practise, practise, practise


Playing perfect video poker isn't easy, and I heartily recommend that you do NOT jump straight in at the deep end wagering with real money. Practise first and monitor your play for accuracy. Here are three good practice tools:

• Bob Dancer's excellent Winpoker software. Amongst its many other functions it can analyse the average payout for any set of rules, so using it in conjunction with another - Video Poker Strategy Master by TomSki, also available at Zamzone, which generates hand-rank charts for any paytable you plug into it - you can both analyse a game, produce the optimal hand-rank chart and practise the game.

• A good non-download alternative for practice, training and and just about everything else you could want is VP Genius. For more details on this excellent resource, see my VP Genius article.

• Another excellent non-download option is Michael Shakelford's video poker practice utility. There are thirty six games to choose from, with autoplay, warning and auto-hold functions, and a variable speed setting. After the deal, you can choose to analyse the hand or request a hint for the correct play. Another comprehensive little utility.

Never play video poker on a whim. Assuming at some point you want to play games other than the three discussed on this site, ensure that you know both the average payout of the game and the optimal strategy to achieve that payout. Failing both these you'll find yourself swimming expensively in the dark.


Volatility


Video poker is highly volatile. A large chunk of that "average payout" is tied up in the royal flush - on average about 2%. Royal flushes occur approximately once in every 40,000 hands, which means you'll play an awful lot of hands without a significant portion of your payout as you wait for the allusive royal to hit. It's possible to play even 200,000 without hitting one. At the same time, it's just as possible - more so, in fact - to hit ten or more.

The point of all this?

Expect large swings in your bankroll playing video poker. Playing winning video poker is not for the faint-hearted.


Useful video poker resources and articles on the web


Articles covering everything you could possibly want, plus a bit more besides, from "The Gamemaster"; comprehensive game analysis, trainers and articles from VP Genius; a catalogue of Michael Shakelford's video poker pages; video poker discussion forums; practice software.

Advantage Player - video poker discussion forums

Winpoker - excellent practice software
WinPoker newsgroup - Winpoker and general discussion

The Wizard Of Odds - Video Poker
The Wizard Of Odds - Video Poker analyzer
The Wizard Of Odds - Risk of ruin
The Wizard Of Odds - Standard deviation for multihand video poker
The Wizard Of Odds - Answers to standard deviation Video Poker questions

The Wizard Of Odds - Jacks or Better simple strategy
The Wizard Of Odds - Jacks or Better optimal strategy
The Wizard Of Odds - Jacks or Better practice game
The Wizard Of Odds - Jacks or Better expected returns table

The Wizard Of Odds - Deuces Wild simple strategy
The Wizard Of Odds - Deuces Wild optimal strategy
The Wizard Of Odds - Deuces Wild practice game
The Wizard Of Odds - Deuces Wild expected returns table

The Wizard Of Odds - Double Bonus strategy
The Wizard Of Odds - Double Bonus practice game
The Wizard Of Odds - Double Bonus expected returns table
The Wizard Of Odds - Joker Poker practice game

The Gamemaster - Winning at video poker part 1
The Gamemaster - Winning at video poker part 2
The Gamemaster - Can I really win?
The Gamemaster - The need for speed
The Gamemaster - $56 an hour at video poker
The Gamemaster - $137 an hour at video poker
The Gamemaster - Dumb plays
The Gamemaster - You're driving me crazy!
The Gamemaster - Video poker...and bingo
The Gamemaster - Jacks or Better games
The Gamemaster - Deuces Wild games

The Gamemaster - Drawing to an inside straight
The Gamemaster - 30,000 hands of video poker
The Gamemaster - The long run
The Gamemaster - Let's get it right
The Gamemaster - Straight flushes

The Gamemaster - Fundamental errors: Jacks or Better
The Gamemaster - Fundamental errors: Double Bonus poker
The Gamemaster - Fundamental errors: All American poker
The Gamemaster - Fundamental errors: Deuces Wild video poker

The Gamemaster - Pick a game! Part 1
The Gamemaster - Pick a game! Part 2
The Gamemaster - Pick a game! Part 3
The Gamemaster - Pick a game! Part 4
The Gamemaster - Pick a game! Part 5

The Gamemaster - Multiple-Joker poker

The Gamemaster - All 100% returns are not alike - part 1
The Gamemaster - All 100% returns are not alike - part 2

The Gamemaster - Games to avoid - part 1
The Gamemaster - Games to avoid - part 2

The Gamemaster - All American video poker - part 1
The Gamemaster - All American video poker - part 2
The Gamemaster - All American video poker - part 3
The Gamemaster - All American video poker - part 4
The Gamemaster - All American video poker - part 5
The Gamemaster - All American video poker - part 6

The Gamemaster - All American video poker diary - part 1
The Gamemaster - All American video poker diary - Part 2
The Gamemaster - All American video poker diary - part 3
The Gamemaster - All American video poker diary - part 4

The Gamemaster - Playing for the thrill
The Gamemaster - Decisions, decisions, decisions

The Gamemaster - The sim series: Pick 'em poker
The Gamemaster - The sim series: full-pay Jacks or Better
The Gamemaster - The sim series: full-pay Double Bonus poker
The Gamemaster - The sim series: full-pay Deuces Wild
The Gamemaster - The sim series: "Illinois" Deuces Wild
The Gamemaster - The sim series: Loose Deuces

The Gamemaster - An analysis of Double Double Bonus poker
The Gamemaster - I want a royal today!
The Gamemaster - "Chase the Royal" video poker
The Gamemaster - Fun with deuces
The Gamemaster - Loose Deuces

The Gamemaster - The future of video poker
The Gamemaster - Making the best of it
The Gamemaster - Which is better?

The Gamemaster - Video poker primer - part 1
The Gamemaster - Video poker primer - part 2
The Gamemaster - Video poker primer - part 3
The Gamemaster - Video poker primer - part 4

The Gamemaster - "Chase the Royal" revisited


About Casino Gambling - Video poker
About Casino Gambling - How to play video poker (1)
About Casino Gambling - How to play video poker (2)
About Casino Gambling - Video poker strategy
About Casino Gambling - Video poker hand frequency - the cost of playing
About Casino Gambling - Video poker pay tables

About Casino Gambling - A winning system part 1
About Casino Gambling - A winning system part 2
About Casino Gambling - A winning system part 3
About Casino Gambling - A winning system part 4

About Casino Gambling - Jacks or Better strategy
About Casino Gambling - Jacks or Better frequency and comparison chart
About Casino Gambling - Deuces Wild strategy
About Casino Gambling - Deuces Wild frequency chart
About Casino Gambling - Double Bonus strategy
About Casino Gambling - Double Bonus frequency chart
About Casino Gambling - Joker Poker strategy (kings or better)
About Casino Gambling - Joker Poker frequency chart


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