How to Win at Video Poker

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Entire books have been written on Video Poker strategy. There are many who claim that picking the right game and playing the optimum way can actually reduce the House Edge to zero or perhaps even flip it in the player’s favour. Certainly there are some common do’s and don’ts that lead to more successful play. Here are a ten of them:

  1. Always wager the maximum (five credits). The pay table for most Video Poker games offers a bonus for a Royal Flush won with Max Bet, thereby decreasing the House Edge.
  2. As a beginner, always play the lowest denomination available until a level of expertise is achieved.
  3. Never play Progressive Video Poker unless the jackpot has reached at least ten thousand times (10,000X) the minimum bet.
  4. Never hold a “kicker,” such as a solitary Ace, with a pair. Doing so reduces the average payout by as much as 5% over time.
  5. Never draw four cards when holding three of the five needed for a Royal Flush. The top hand can’t be made by discarding opportunities.
  6. Never break up a natural flush or straight in an attempt to draw one card to a straight flush, unless it’s a Royal Flush.
  7. Similarly, always keep a five-card winning pat hand, unless one card can be drawn to a Royal Flush.
  8. Never draw five cards when holding a Jack or higher ranking card, but never hold a ten when drawing four cards—draw five instead.
  9. Never draw four cards when it is possible to draw three to a Royal Flush. Instead, hold the two suited high cards, even if one is a ten.
  10. Don’t play too quickly. Video Poker is not a race. Hurrying to hold or draw cards can result in opportunities missed. Take sufficient time to study the hand and decide the best course of action.

As can be seen from the above, the basic winning strategy is to always be looking for opportunities to catch a Royal Flush and to keep winning hands, rather than chasing after slightly better ones. The more difficult decisions involve how to play hands that are unlikely to yield a Royal, such as the following.

Small Pair – In general, always hold a small pair unless one card can be drawn to a flush or two cards to a Royal Flush. There is no advantage to breaking up the pair to chase after an unsuited straight, even if it is an outside straight possibility. Also, there is no advantage to keeping two face cards, suited or unsuited, instead of the pair.

High Cards – This refers to the Ace, King, Queen or Jack. When two suited high cards are dealt, hold them both rather than discard one. If three or four high cards are dealt, hold the two that are suited or else the two lowest ones of they are unsuited. When two unsuited high cards are dealt, hold them both unless three cards can be held to a possible flush. In that case, hold the three suited cards. For those who insist on tossing one of two unsuited high cards, the Jack is the best one to keep, followed by the Queen, King and Ace, based upon their relative potential to form straights and straight flushes.

Tens – If “Tens or Better” is not the game being played, a solitary ten is virtually worthless. That’s why tens should not be treated as high cards unless they are dealt with a suited Ace, King, Queen or Jack. In that case, follow the guidelines for high cards, above.

Straight Draw – When four of the five cards dealt can be held for a possible straight, do so only if a) two or more of the cards to be held are high cards or b) no pair is held and the straight draw is open-ended (eight possible cards can complete the straight). As a general rule, inside straight draws should be avoided.

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