Have you ever played Video Poker and trusted your luck to deliver? If so, you're one of many gamers out there who do the same. While it might occasionally seem that your instincts or sixth sense help you win, playing VP without a strategy is never profitable in the long run.
In this game vs some of the others you're starting off in a better position, meaning house edge is lower, but once you decide how to play, it can go either way. Wing it and it might get the better of you; play with a plan and you can make the odds even more favourable.
Know Your Paytable
Do you know that different VP games come with different minimum winning hands? Perhaps you're used to playing Jacks or Better, and when switching to a new VP variant you're still thinking that hitting a pair of Jacks will pay. But if you've chosen to hold Jacks while playing Bonus Deuces Wild or Loose Deuces, you might end up surprised when you lose your stake. Is the casino cheating? Is there something wrong with your vision? Not knowing what happened, perhaps you'll repeat the same mistake again. In Bonus Deuces Wild, and quite a few other VP variants, the minimum winning hand is actually three-of-a-kind. On the other hand, in Pick'em Poker you can collect already with 9's or better, so wouldn't it be a shame to end up with a losing hand because, not knowing this, you've discarded a pair of nines? Hey, it's been known to happen more than once! Let it not be you, though.
Which Cards to Hold: Work Out the Odds
Winning in Video Poker is all about knowing which cards to hold and which to swap. Should you hold on to a sure but small win, or risk going for a bigger one? In general, it's worth trying to hit the best possible combo your hand allows, providing the payouts justify it.
Let's say you're playing Double Bonus Poker and get dealt 2 Jacks, one of Spades and one of Hearts, plus King, 9 and 3 of Spades. If you keep the Jacks while betting max 5 coins, you're guaranteed to collect a minimum of 5 coins. But wait, there is a potential Flush to be won, though it will require releasing one of the Jacks. What do you do? Keep the Jacks and get nothing else - you'll win 5; keep them and get lucky with the 3rd one (there's 3 of them still left in the deck) – you'll collect 15; throw away Jack of Hearts and get dealt any Spade (there's 10 more in the deck), and you'll cash out 35.
Looking at the paytable lets you evaluate odds vs potential incremental profit of an improved hand, so make sure to always re-check potential payouts before making a decision.
Adapt Strategy to the Game
Same hand, different decision on which cards to hold and which to swap – could that be? It can, and it totally depends on the VP variety you're playing. Let's say you're holding 2 pairs (couple of 6's and couple of 9's, for example) and a random fifth card. Do you keep one pair or both? To be able to make this decision, check the payouts for Full House. If the game in question is Loose Deuces, in which Full House pays 15 for a 5 coin bet (3:1), you'll be better off discarding one of the pairs. But if you're playing Pick'em Poker where Full House cashes out as much as 75 (1:15), keep them both.
When Not to Draw for a Straight?
When you're holding 4 cards of the same suit, chances are you'll swop the fifth one hoping for a Flush, and that's completely fine. The problem is that players will frequently do the same when 1 card short of a Straight. Respective payouts hardly justify such a decision, especially when missing a middle card as opposed to one of the two end cards.
What's an Ace Worth?
Poker lovers often have perception of an Ace being the most valuable card of all and are reluctant to let it go. While it might make a difference when playing a table game against the computer or live opponents, keep in mind that in Video Poker there's no one to beat. Therefore Ace is not worth more than a Jack, a Queen or a King, and nurturing this belief might cost you dearly in some situations. If, for example, you've been dealt a pair and an Ace, you might be tempted to keep all three (because Ace is so valuable), which will reduce your chances of hitting three-of-a-kind or four-of-a-kind. Sticking with an Ace when you've got 3 high cards in your hand also lowers the odds of landing a Straight.
A Pair Doesn't Need a Kicker
It's not just the Ace, though; players tend to hold on to high cards in general, whether it makes sense or not. Like in the example above, keeping a high card (in the hope the draw will make it part of a pair), on top of the pair you already have, negatively impacts your chances. Don't do it.
The best way to make these rules stick is to apply them to a real game, over and over again. Springbok library offers plenty of chances to practice, with 16 different Video Poker games which you can play as a 1-hand, or 3, 10, 52 or 100-hand variant. On top of those mentioned above, you'll additionally get to choose among All American, Bonus Deuces, Bonus Poker, Double Jackpot Poker, European Slot Poker, Mystery Bonus Poker and Sevens Wild.