Strategies for Playing Video Poker
Video poker seems like an easy game at first. All you have to do is get at least the minimum required hand for the particular video poker game and you get your money back. The better the hand you get, the more you win in relation to what you bet.
Here's the basic breakdown structure for payouts for our example, Jacks or Better:
- Get a pair of tens or less and you lose your money
- Get a pair of Jacks, Queens, Kings or Aces - get your money back
- Get two pairs and you win 2x your bet
- Get a three of a kind and win 3x your bet
- A straight will win you 4x your bet
- Completing a flush wins 6x your bet
- The full house wins 9x your bet
- Four of a kind - 25x bet, Straight Flush - 50x bet, Royal Flush - 800x
Jacks or Better
For example, in the classic video poker game Jacks or Better, the rules are nearly identical to five card draw poker. You are dealt five cards and you get to decide which cards to hold and which cards to keep. Unlike regular 5 cards draw, you are allowed to discard all five cards. The object is to get at least a pair of jacks in your hand in order to win your money back.
If you did not receive a card higher than a 10, you will probably want to discard all five cards unless you are one off of a straight or a flush. If you are two off of the straight or flush, your odds are better to re-draw and try to make a high pair. Most video poker games I know of only use one deck. Since no one else is being dealt to, you have a higher percentage of getting large cards returned if you discard all five low ones. I know that this will usually only result in a push at best, but this is better than losing most of the time when you try to get two cards.
Strength of your hand
This is an abbreviated Video Poker Strategy for what to do with the cards in your hand. It is based off Jacks or Better Video Poker.
- All low card, no connectors - Discard all five
- One high card - Keep it and discard the other four
- Suited 10-J, 10-Q or 10-K - Keep both and discard the other three
- Two Unsuited high cards - Keep lowest two high cards (if more than two) and discard the other three
- Three cards to a straight flush - Keep them and discard two
- Two suited high cards - Keep those two cards and discard three
- Four to an inside straight draw - Go for the straight
- Low pair - Go for the three of a kind
- Four to a flush - Go for the flush
- Three cards to a royal flush - keep all three and draw two
- High pair - Keep the high pair in most circumstances and discard three
- Two pairs - the only move is to keep both and go for the full house
- Four to a straight flush
- Three of a kind (discard other two), straight, flush, full house dealt - all must be kept
- Four cards to a Royal Flush
- Royal Flush - this is always the jackpot in any video poker game.
In a game with wild cards, the jackpot will be a natural Royal Flush, or one without a wild card.
If you get a low pair in your hand and a high card, what should you do? Keep the low pair and go for three of a kind? Keep the high card and try for a qualifying pair? Keep all three and try for two pairs?
All three of these have there own school of thought. Your odds of getting the third low card is about 1 out of 6 to 8 times. Your odds of getting the matching high card is about 1 out of 2 or 3. Your odds for getting two pair is slightly better than getting three of a kind, but it shouldn't matter what the third card is that you are keeping. Aces and 4's pay out the same as 3's and 4's so there is no reason to save onto a card to make two pairs.
What if you get two high cards, lets say a Jack and a Queen? What should you do? Choose to keep one of the high cards or keep both? Discard both?
I would say that in my experience the best move is to keep both high cards, provided that a high pair will qualify for a win in the video poker game you are playing.
Here is the breakdown on your odds of getting a pair on this: you have been dealt 5 of 52 cards. If you keep two high cards, you will receive 3 of the remaining 49 cards. By keeping two cards, you have a chance at getting one of six cards to complete a pair. One out of every 8 cards will pair one of your two cards. You get three chances for the 1 in 8 card.
If you keep one high cards, you will receive 4 of the 49 cards. By keeping one card, you have three cards in the deck that will make your pair or 1 in every 16 cards. You will have 4 chances at that 1 in 16 card coming.
The chances of randomly getting a 5 cards qualifying hand if you discarded both cards is less likely than either way mentioned above.
What do you keep if you get three high cards dealt to you?
You're only going to want to keep two of the three cards in this circumstance most of the time. If two of the three high cards are of the same suit, keep those two cards. If all three cards are different suits, keep two cards of consecutive rank.
The only time you will want to keep all three cards is when you are three cards to a straight or royal flush. In the picture shown, you probably have just as good of a chance to complete the straight or flush as you do getting the three of a kind. You may choose to go for the flush by selecting the fourth club, but having a chance to complete a Royal or straight flush should be taken.
Other Head Scratchers
I've got a pair of Aces and a flush draw, what do I do? If you are in a similar situation, you have to go for the flush draw. Flushes are usually 6x or so the about of your bet. While you do have the amount you wagered won back if you hold on to the aces, you will only have a significant change at 2x or 3x is you don't go for the flush.
Straights are a little different than flushes. Since they are worth less than flushes, it isn't as big of a reward to go for it. This is especially true if you don't have an "open-ended" straight, or four connectors in a row (5, 6, 7, 8). The better odds are to hold onto a high card or dump all of your low cards and try to make a hand that way.
If you have the open-ended straight, you should most likely go for the straight. Your odds of completing the straight are almost the same as completing a four card flush.
The closest call you would have to make is an open ended straight and a high pair. This would be just about even with the edge going slightly towards keeping the pair.
You will always want to discard one card and try to draw for a Straight Flush or Royal Flush.
If you are dealt a three of a kind, what are the odd's that you will draw a four of a kind compared to a full house? The full house is between 2 to 3 times more likely to hit.