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Play Video Poker with Advanced Strategy

In this video poker tips article, we’ll try to explain advanced video poker strategy.  One way of doing so is through mathematics so we’ll do our best to keep the math as clear as we can.  You can open the calculator on your computer to check our analysis.

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Advanced strategy in video poker increases your chances of winning almost to the point where you and the house are equal.  And when you play at an online casino, you have more money to play with because you didn’t travel to a land based casino.  There aren’t many casinos like Springbok that publish right on the site tips for how you can increase your chances of winning at any game.

Video Poker Strategy Basics

Let’s review a few video poker strategy basics. 

  • You should always play a 9-6 game.  That means that the game pays 9 coins for a full house and 6 coins for a flush if you bet only one coin.  Multiply by five if you bet the maximum bet.
  • You should bet the maximum on each hand because only the maximum bet wins the big Royal Flush jackpot.
  • You should play a variation that you know well and play according to the odds.
  • Video poker is not like regular poker.  There are times when a good hand in video poker is not good enough and you have to adjust to that reality.

Advanced Strategy

We are assuming that you’re playing Jacks or Better in its simplest and most basic form.  Now, let’s say that you were dealt four cards to a flush and a winning pair.  You have to decide if you want to keep the pair which will pay 5 coins or try for the flush which will pay 30 coins.

If you play for the flush, there are 9 cards left in the deck that can give you a flush.  Since you already have 5 cards there are also only 47 cards of all suits and denominations left in the deck.

Let the Calculator Do the Math

Now, we have to calculate the expected return from our decision to go for the flush.  We go 9 (the number of cards left that would give you the flush) / 47 (the number of cards left in the deck) X 30 (the amount you’ll win if you hit the flush) = 5.74 coins.

The first part of the equation is the simple odds of hitting a winning card: 9 out of 47.  The second part is how much you would win in theory on any such hand.  We say in theory because you can never win 5.74 coins on a hand.  That’s why this number is called the expected win.

We aren’t finished.  You might have amongst the suited cards a Jack to Ace which could pair up to win.  If you have one such card, you have to add the expected win for three more winning cards.  This goes up to six if you have two high cards and so on.  Also keep in mind that if you have four suited high cards you have four to a Royal Flush.  Then the choice changes but we’ll leave considerations of a Royal Flush for another article.

So, if you have one high card amongst your four suited cards, you have to do this calculation: 3/47 X 5 = 0.32.  That gets you up to an expected return of 6.06.

Now the Expected Return from Holding the Pair

If you keep the pair, you start by recording the guaranteed return of 5 coins for the pair.  But you could improve to three of a kind, two pair, a full house, or four of a kind.

We’ll spare you all the mathematical notation but here are the odds for the four hand improvements if you keep the pair:

  • Two Pair: 1/6
  • Three of a kind: 1/9
  • Full House: 1/97
  • Four of a kind: 1/359

Because there are so many ways to improve your one pair, it is much better to keep the pair. 

Keeping a Kicker

Some players think that keeping a high card as a kicker when they get a low pair is better.  It isn’t.  Keeping a kicker reduces your chances of getting three of a kind.  When you keep a kicker you get only two cards to improve to three of a kind.  If you draw three cards, the first card will either make the three of a kind hand or it will in effect become the kicker.

So, by keeping a kicker before the draw, you eliminate that chance of the first drawn card completing three of a kind.

Advanced Strategy versus Fun

There are a lot of video poker gamers who often go against the best odds and play for the highest paying hand they can get.  This is of course every player’s personal choice.  You have to keep in mind that your bankroll will dwindle faster if you always go for the highest paying hand.

That’s why we say that you should always bet the maximum and go for the extra payout for a Royal Flush but you should follow best strategy with any lesser choice.  There will be plenty of chances to get a straight flush for example but if you have a winning pair it’s generally better to hold the pair.

You’ll complete the straight flush every so often but you’ll win and improve your hand far more often if you keep the pair.

In the end, video poker advanced strategy depends to a large degree on the thrill you get from playing.  If you have the means to do so and the thrills are mostly in hitting those high paying hands, then you can decide to go for them.  If the fun in video poker is playing “well” and coming out ahead almost as often as not, then playing according to the best strategy would be the best way to go.