Video Poker Odds

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Although Texas Hold’em has all but taken over the tables of poker rooms around the world, traditional Five Card Draw remains the favourite among fans of Video Poker, and despite the vast number of game variations now available. More specifically, Jacks or Better is the version almost all poker players know and love, and the one upon which almost all other forms of the game are based.

In determining the odds that apply to Video Poker, one must first examine the likelihood of various winning hands occurring. A losing high card hand or one containing a pair lower than Jacks can be expected on about 55% of all deals. A single pair of Jacks or better—neither winning nor losing—comes up about 21% of the time. That means only 24% of all hands—roughly one in four—will result in a winning combination.

For this reason, it is very important to pay close attention to the pay tables used for winners. The Jacks or Better video poker machines all pay even money for a pair of Jacks, Queens, Kings or Aces. But the payouts on higher ranked hands can vary greatly. For example, a Royal Flush typically pays 800-for-1, but this can range from 500-for-1 on the low end to 1,000-for-1 at the top level.

To entice players, game makers create variations that increase the odds for the rarest of hands, such as four Aces or a Royal Flush in sequence A-K-Q-J-10, and reduce them for the lower ranking winners—two pair, three of a kind, straights, flushes and the full house. The version known as Double Bonus Jacks or Better, for example, raises the payout for four Aces from the standard 25-for-1 up to 160-for-1. It also lifts the payouts on other four-of-a-kind hands, but it drops the two pair payout to even money.

Four of a kind occurs less than 0.24% of the time, and four Aces just 0.0199%. Two pair happens with a frequency of almost 13%. That’s equivalent to trading a return of £13 per £100 wagered for one of 0.000199 x 160 = 0.03184 per wager, or just over £3 per £100—i.e., giving up ten quid. It is not a promising tradeoff, even when the slightly higher payouts on the other four-of-a-kind hands are taken into account.

Therefore, players are well advised to seek out machines offering the optimum payout levels. Specifically, the two pair should return 2-for-1, three of a kind should be worth 3-for-1 and a straight should pay 4-for-1. For a flush, the payout to look for is 6-for-1 and for a full house 9-for-1. Above that, four of a kind must be valued at least at 25-for-1 or higher, while a straight flush should be rewarded at 50-for-1.

Video Poker machines are often referred to by the odds offered on their full houses and flushes, so a “Full Pay 9/6 Jacks or Better” game would offer 9-for-1 on the hull house and 6-for-1 on the flush, with all other payouts being standard. By contrast, “8/5” Jacks or better pays 8-for-1 and 5-for-1, respectively, while “7/5” pays even less for the full house.

When engaged in a game of “Full Pay 9/6 Jacks or Better,” the House Edge is only about 0.5%. It rises dramatically, however, as the pay table is tilted toward big payouts for rare hands and reduced payouts for more common ones. For instance, “8/6” Double Bonus Jacks or Better gives the House an advantage of 3.77%, while “7/5” Triple Double Bonus provides a 5.08% margin to the House.

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