10-Jack-Queen-King of Spades and ace of spades is dealt

We are close to reaching the most powerful hands in video poker.  First we need to go over the two hands: four to an inside straight and four to an outside straight.  Four to an inside straight is a weaker hand because there are only four cards that can make the straight.   But four to an inside straight with four high cards is obviously better than the same hand but with only three high cards.

When you play multi-hand video poker at Springbok online casino, you need to be absolutely sure that you are following the statistically best strategy.  It might seem inconsequential that there are suited high cards that are better than the four to an inside straight with three high cards and the four to an inside straight with four high cards but, when you are playing a lot of hands—and in multi-hand video poker you play a lot of hands—incremental differences are very important.

Suited High Cards

Suited king-queen or king-jack are better hands than suited ace-king; ace-queen; or ace-jack but they are all better than drawing to an inside straight with only three high cards.

Suited queen-jack is better than drawing to an inside straight with four high cards.  In other words, if you have suited queen-jack, you would discard two high cards that form a four to an inside straight and keep just the suited high cards.

Weakness of Drawing to an Inside Straight

Michael Shackleford, also known as the wizard of odds, specifically mentions four to an inside straight in an aside.  To demonstrate how poor a draw this is, he says that if you have four to an inside straight with no high cards, you discard everything!  If you have one high card, you keep the single high card and discard the rest! If you have two high cards, you keep just the two high cards and discard the rest!

Drawing to an inside straight is a very poor strategy!

Three to a Straight Flush

Now, we’re getting very close to the top.  This is a very strong hand.  You would hold three to a straight flush over more than half of all possible starting hands.  However, this hand is still not as strong as four to an outside straight with up to two high cards.

The very fact that we are finally talking about such hands as a straight flush means that we are preparing to learn how to maximize our hands in pursuit of higher payouts even if we have to give up the possibility of winning with a lesser hand.

The three to a straight flush in this case is the strongest of Shackleford’s three types of such hands.  In this hand, you have to have as many high cards as gaps.  It’s even better to have more high cards than gaps but an equal number is also acceptable.  The reason is that high cards can pair up and become a low winning hand.

Without the high cards, the three to a straight flush would be type 2 or type 3, each of which is much weaker.

Low Pair

It would seem a bit counter-intuitive to place a low pair in the upper echelon of starting hands.  A low pair can become three of a kind or two pair, so it is statistically stronger than many other apparently good hands.

However, there are still many hands that are better than a low pair.  Unsuited 10-jack-queen-king is next in ascending order on the list.  This is understandable as there is no possibility of confusion with these two hands.

Four to a Flush

Here is where we discard a possible winning hand for the possibility of getting a better winning hand.  Four to a flush is the next hand on the list.  It is better than a low pair so, if you have four to a flush with a low pair, you break up the pair in pursuit of the flush.

Three to a Royal Flush

The extra payout for a Royal Flush is so great that it is slightly better to keep three to a Royal Flush over four to a flush.  That means that if you have a low suited card with three to a Royal Flush, you discard the low suited card in order to go after the high paying Royal Flush.

Less Common Hands

We are finally in the area of the less common hands.  We covered the most common hands in parts one and two.  However, when you do get one of the less common hands, you need to know how to play them.  Your ultimate winning chances depend as much on playing the less common hands correctly as it depends on playing the most common hands correctly.

High Pair

As strong as three to a Royal Flush may be, you’ll break it up if you have a high pair.  A high pair is already a winning hand and can be improved for a big payout.  It is better than a low pair for the simple reason that it is already a winning hand.

Two Pair

Obviously, two pair are better than one pair.  It is odd that four to a straight flush is better than two pair.  These hands are not contradictory yet four to a straight flush is statistically stronger.

Many Hands do Not Contradict Each Other

As we learn the logic behind the optimal video poker list, we have to keep in mind that it is a list of statistical probability.  There are many pairs of hands like the two we just discussed that are not contradictory but the four to a straight flush is still a stronger hand.

Dealt Hands

A dealt hand is a hand that you cannot break up, in most cases, because it is already a winner and cannot be improved.  We will list the six dealt hands in ascending order:

  • Straight
  • Flush
  • Full house
  • Four of a kind
  • Straight Flush
  • Royal Flush.

The exception to the rule that you don’t break up a dealt hand is when you also have four to a Royal Flush.  Four to a Royal Flush is a very strong hand.  You will discard the second card if there is a pair to go after the Royal Flush.  You would also break up a dealt flush or a dealt straight to go after the Royal Flush.

Three of a kind is also a strong winning hand that can be improved so you keep the three and discard the other two cards hoping for a full house or four of a kind.

Optimal Play in Video Poker

We hope you have seen that there is a great deal of logic in the way the optimal strategy list for Jacks or Better video poker.   At times, we have also seen that the list reflects statistical probability as much as logic.

Finally, there is an optimal strategy card for every video poker variation so we suggest learning one variation first and then perhaps you might venture forth and try any of the many variations in video poker.