Video poker strategy

Video poker is one of the most popular games not only online, but also in land-based casinos around the world. In simple terms, it is a mixture between games of chance (slot machines, for example) and games where skills are more important (Texas Hold’em poker). As poker players are well aware, luck can be relied on in the short term, but ultimately skill and strategy are the only things that work.


It is very difficult to strike a balance between luck and skill in video poker. Of course, if you are not on a short foot with poker (or drank a few extra glasses at the bar) and can hardly tell a royal flush from a cocktail waitress’s neckline, you are unlikely to be able to collect a royal flush.

Unless you have the right combination on hand that will give you the highest theoretical payout, you will never come close to the theoretical payout of the video poker you are playing. Let’s take a look at this with an example. You have a pair on hand with the ability to play a set or four of a kind. It is also possible to get a royal flush (as well as a flush draw). Based on the probability and payout percentage of each possible hand, you can calculate the expected return on each hand. Any video poker strategy is based on expected profit .

How can we calculate this expected income?

It is quite difficult to do this, and not many poker players know how to calculate the expected income based on the cards offered by the slot machine. The easiest way is to let the computer do all the calculations and calculations, and based on these results, we can draw up a set of rules that will help us EVALUATE EVERY COMBINATION in video poker.

Let’s take a look at the example we described above. We will see how the computer calculates the expected income for the two most obvious options we have:

  • Leave a pair – two aces
  • Leave Royal Flush Draw


(Skip the next two paragraphs if math isn’t interesting to you)

When we LEAVE A PAIR OF Aces , we are left with 16,215 possible combinations to play the hand, considering all possible cards. For a couple, all these combinations will be winning. Of these, we have 1159 chances of staying with one pair, 2592 chances of getting two pair, 1854 chances of getting a full house, and 45 variants of four of a kind.

When we LEAVE ROYAL FLASH DRO we are left with 47 possible combinations . In 27 cases, we will not collect anything. In 8 cases we will get a jack or better, in 3 – a straight, in 8 – a flush and in one case a royal flush. So when we consider making a royal flush (1 out of 47) and multiplying it with a payout for a royal flush, we get the partial expected value for our hand of 85.11. We then compute the expected value for every possible winning combination we can get – jack or better, straight and flush – and add all the partial expected values ​​together to get the total expected value when playing a royal flush for our hand, 92.34. When we do the same calculation for two aces, the expected value is 7.68. Therefore, keeping a pair would be a big mistake.

Determining the video poker strategy

A basic video poker strategy will help us make the right decision in various difficult situations that can sometimes arise when playing video poker. The computer will do all the necessary calculations and, based on the expected values ​​of the various cards held and the probabilities of various outcomes and payouts, we can compile a list of which cards are worth keeping.

You can keep a couple of fives and, at best, hope for a set or full house
Or you can leave open-ended straight draw and hope for a straight
Based on the expected return of both options, holding a pair of fives would get 4.118 and an open-ended straight draw of 3.404. As you can see, when playing Jacks and Better video poker at full pay with a full paytable, a low pair has a higher expected return than an open-ended straight draw. Of course, this may not be the case, especially if you play different video poker games with different pay tables. It all depends on the difference. When there is little difference in pay tables and games, the video poker strategy can be applied everywhere. But in the case of large differences in pay tables and rules of the game (as, for example, in games with wild cards), the strategy can be completely different.

Simple and optimal strategy

Players use two types of video poker strategy. A simple (or basic) video poker strategy groups some hands with similar expected returns. As a result, this strategy is much shorter and much easier to learn . The difference in expected payout using this strategy is very small when comparing the maximum payout amount that can only be achieved using the optimal strategy.

The difference between the theoretical payout of Jacks and Better with full pay, simple and optimal (or ideal) strategy is 0.08%. The difference is the result of mistakes players make in the simplification process.

Video poker strategy table for Jacks or Better game with full pay
Combinations from highest priority to lowest likelihood are shown below. Therefore, comparing the cards from the previous example, you will see that a low pair (nines) has a higher priority (and, accordingly, the expected return) than an open-ended straight draw.

A placeCombination
oneRoyal Flush, Street Flush, Four of a Kind
24 cards to Royal Flush
3Full House, Flush, Street, Seth
four4 cards to Straight Flush
fiveTwo pairs
6High Pair (Jacks or Better)
73 cards to Royal Flush
84 cards to Flush
nineLow steam
tenOpen-ended Straight Draw
eleven2 cards of the same suit
123 cards to Straight Flush
thirteen2 high cards of different suits
1410 King, 10 Queen, 10 Jack of the same suit
15High card

Pitfalls of video poker strategy

As you can see, video poker is a pretty tricky game and it can seriously hurt your chances of winning if you don’t use the right strategy. Especially in the long run.

Thus, despite the fact that in some games, such as “Jacks and Better” , payouts reach 99.54%, without a perfect strategy, your theoretical payout will be much lower. Moreover, it will proportionally depend on the number of mistakes you make and the number of played combinations. Therefore, it is important to set your priorities.

Do you want to control the outcome of the game?

Basically, the outcome of the game is predetermined due to incorrect decisions. Or do you just prefer to have fun and rely on luck when playing in the casino? If so, then you will be more interested in slot machines where skills are not required and it is impossible to make a mistake. If the slot machine has a theoretical payout of 95%, then this is what you get, no matter how hard you hit the button.

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