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Know the Best Video Poker Strategy

In this article, we’ll delve a little deeper into video poker strategy.  We’ll quickly review the basics and then get into a longer, more in-depth discussion about strategy.

Play Online

Online casinos are excellent for getting the much-needed practice to master the strategy for the video poker variation you want to play.   First of all, when you play at an online casino, you can play every day.  You don’t need to play for a long time—just enough to maintain your achieved skill level and hopefully add to your skill level. 

In the same way, pianists and other musicians practice the most basic elements of playing their instruments every day.  They don’t have to practice scales for a long time—just enough to maintain their skill level.  Then they can work on mastering complex pieces of music.  It is well-known that without the basic practice, it would be much harder to impossible to learn the complex pieces they want to play.

Singers do the same.  Athletes practice the basic movements they’ll need in competition.  So, the same goes for casino games that require adherence to a sound set of strategy rules.

Play for Free

One of the best things about online casinos is that you can play for free as long as you wish.  Thus, you can practice at no risk at all.  Some casinos, such as Springbok, offer a no deposit casino bonus for new players.  Playing with a no deposit bonus is even better than playing in free play mode - because in no deposit play, you keep your winnings!

Concentrate on One Variation

After you have mastered the strategy for one variation, you can branch out and work on learning another variation.  The most common video poker game is Jacks or Better.  You can play basic Jacks or Better and then you’ll have a good head start when you play other video poker variations that begin as Jacks or Better and then add the wrinkles specific to that variation.

Play the Best Pay Scales

A 9-6 pay scale is the best you can play in Jacks or Better.  This means that you win 9 units for a full house and 6 units for a flush.  Jacks or Better always pays in the high 90% range but 9-6 Jacks or Better pays the highest percentage—over 99%.

Now, let’s get into some of the nuances of playing basic Jacks or Better video poker.

Bet the Maximum

This is a very important strategy move because you’ll usually win a large bonus for a Royal Flush.  Always make sure that the video poker game you are about to play is a 9-6 game and has the extra bonus for a Royal Flush if you bet the max.

Bankroll Management

The advice to bet the maximum is sound advice but it does sometimes come up against the need to manage your bankroll well.  If you decide that the maximum bet in a given video poker game is too high for your bankroll, then you have two choices.  One is simply to play a game with a lower minimum bet.  That way the maximum bet might be in line with your bankroll.  The second alternative is to play fewer coins and giving up the chance to win the big extra jackpot for a Royal Flush.

Going for a Royal Flush

Some gamers feel that a Royal Flush comes up so infrequently that it isn’t worth the extra coins to bet the max and make the strategy decisions based on going for the Royal Flush.  There are two basic flaws in this thinking.  First, although a Royal Flush is quite rare, the payoff for getting one is huge.  In addition, if you have even just three to a Royal Flush, you have an outside chance of getting either a straight or a flush that pay off nicely and you’ll have at least two cards that can pair up to win the basic 1-1 payout.

If you have four to a Royal Flush, you have only one out for the Royal Flush but you have 9 outs for a flush, and between four and eight outs for a straight.  Plus, you have at least three chances for the basic Jacks or Better pair.

Four to a Flush

We advise going for the flush but many gamers feel that if they have a low pair they should give up the flush draw and go for making a second pair or a set with the low pair.  By going for the flush, you have 9 outs for the flush.  There are only three outs for a set and you do have some chance to get a second pair.  So, in the long run, going for the flush is the better strategy.

However, if the low pair is the best holding you have with no draw for a straight or a flush, you should hold onto the low pair.

Three Cards

If you are dealt a set, you hold it and hope for four of a kind or a full house.  But many video poker neophytes break up three to a straight flush or three to a flush if they have a high card that can pair and win.  If you only have three cards to a straight, the potential payout is too small to hold these cards.  In this case, you should hold only the high cards or chuck them all and draw five more cards.

The key here is that you still have the chance to get a flush even though the straight flush is a very long shot.  You also have the chance for a straight if you hold three to a straight flush. 

It pays to discuss what to do with three unsuited high cards.  The best strategy is to discard the highest of them and hold the two lower ones.  This is because you will have slightly higher chances to get the straight going down rather than up.  In this case, it’s a better strategy to go for a high pair than to go for the straight but you have slightly better winning chances if you hold two unsuited high cards than just one high card.

Conclusion

The key element in a lot of video poker strategy is to recognize that even when you receive advice to do something that you find counter-intuitive, there may be sound statistical reasoning behind the advice.

The chances of winning at video poker are very good.  Whether you win or lose, the gain or loss will be quite modest unless you do hit a Royal Flush.  So, play video poker for the challenge of making the right play on every hand.  And, of course, for the fun!