Three to a straight flush

Before we begin this article on advanced video poker, let us answer a question that several online casino gamers sent us by way of Springbok Casino’s 24/7 customer service desk.  The question is: Why are you starting the tutorial on advanced video poker strategy from the bottom? 

Video poker is fast becoming the most popular of all of the casino games we offer with the exception of slots.  The reasons are because video poker is the best way to play poker without having to worry about bluffs and because the return to player rate is so close to 100%.  However, online casino video poker players can achieve this high return to player rate only if they play the difficult hands well.

The easy hands are so easy that the best way to play then is beyond obvious.  You would never break up a straight flush much less a Royal Flush.  You would never break up a full house. 

However, at the bottom of the strategy card, many players keep hands that are statistically less likely to achieve a win than drawing toward a different possible outcome.  There are many counter-intuitive hands and they are almost all in the bottom half of the long strategy chart.  So that’s why we started from the bottom.

Singleton High Cards

We saw in the previous article that singleton high cards are a desperate hand and that such a hand is at the bottom of the chart, better than only a hand with absolutely nothing to draw toward.

We also saw that there are a few different kinds of hands that have three to a straight flush.  The weakest such hand has no high cards and two gaps in the possible straight flush.

Two High Cards

There are two kinds of hands with two high cards and nothing else.  They are suited and unsuited high cards.  It’s obvious that suited high cards are better than unsuited high cards.  One of the big factors in choosing the cards you keep has to do with the cards you need to discard. 

If you have suited king and ten, you keep them because there is the chance of a Royal Flush in addition to winning with a flush, straight, or high pair or better.  But if you have to discard a 9, you also discard the ten and just try to improve with the singleton king. 

The Bottom Six, Two High Card Hands

Theses six hands are still considered poor hands but they are just above singletons and completely empty hands.  The difference between these six hands is simply statistical; which hands are more likely to improve.  The statistical range is small.  We will list just these six in order from better to worst and you should learn them as a single block.

By learning them as a single block, you can more easily learn the not so obvious hands:

  • Unsuited Jack, Queen, King
  • Unsuited Jack and Queen
  • Suited Ten and Jack
  • Two unsuited high cards with King as the higher card
  • Suited Ten and Queen
  • Two unsuited high cards with the Ace as the higher card

Look closely.  Two unsuited high cards with the King as the higher card is better than with the Ace as the higher card because it gives more chances to catch a straight.  It has nothing at all to do with pairing the King or the Ace.  Always keep in mind that these are not good hands.  By keeping the two high cards here, you are hoping mostly to pair a high card with small chances for a straight, flush, straight flush, or Royal Flush.

Three to a Straight Flush type 2

This is the next of the weak hands but it is statistically better than the six, two high card hands we just listed.  What makes it slightly better is simply that there are more chances to improve your hand than with the high card pairs.  As we continue the tutorial, you’ll see that there are still several two card hands that are better than this hand but this hand fits in the hierarchy in this position: worse than most but better than many.

You need to learn this strategy line separately because it is a bit complicated.  There are actually four possible hands that are statistically the same but look quite different.  So, this line is three to a straight flush if:

  • You have an Ace but will use it as a low card
  • If the three cards are 2, 3, and 4
  • If there are two gaps and one high card.  This makes it better than the weaker three to a straight flush which has two gaps but no high card.
  • If there is one gap but no high cards. 

Four to an Inside Straight

There are twice as many chances to score an outside straight than to score an inside straight.  Four to an inside straight is the next hand on the list.  It is stronger than either of the aforementioned three to a straight flush but only if it has three high cards.  The high cards make winning with a pair possible.

Just as an aside, as we make our way through the list, if the four cards are suited, then it’s four cards to an inside straight flush or four cards to a Royal Flush.  These are quite strong hands.  The hand we are talking now is an unsuited hand in which there is no chance for a straight flush or a simple flush.

This hand is worse than four to an inside straight with four high cards.  That hand may have four chances to pair a high card which has a statistically much higher chance of happening.

In between the two four to an inside straight here are two hands with two suited high card.  These are much stronger than the suited high cards we mentioned earlier.  They are:

  • Suited Ace-King, Ace-Queen, or Ace-Jack.  These combinations are the weaker of the two sets of suited high card hands because they have an Ace which blocks off the upper range for a straight.
  • Suited King-Queen or King-Jack.

The reason why the previous two high card hands were inferior is because those high cards included a ten which can’t create a win even if it’s paired.  In these three suited high card hands, you’ll win with any pair and you have Royal Flush, straight flush, or flush chances as well.

Keep in mind that these are still not especially strong hands in video poker but if you play them well, you’ll be on your way to very close to 100% return to player rate and possibly a rate of over 100%.

Next week we will try to complete this tutorial by covering the most powerful hands in video poker. Until then, keep in mind that even amongst the better hands in video poker are some counter-intuitive hands.