Video Poker Strategy

Since there is an element of skill in video poker, strategy is important to video poker success.The Internet is loaded with free strategy advice, and free video poker online games give you a chance to test out your strategy without risking real money.

To help build your video poker strategy you can play video poker strategy simulators or free games at online casinos. You can also participate in online forums for video poker players and read blogs by video poker fans. The video poker strategies online will be for specific games like Jacks or Better.

How to Choose a Video Poker Strategy Source

The Internet offers great strategy sources and awful strategy sources. If you’re new to the world of video poker, it’s hard to know if the information you’re reading is accurate or not. One way to test a site’s authenticity is to ask yourself: “Would I feel comfortable buying something from this website?”

If you wouldn’t trust a site with your credit card, you probably shouldn’t trust its advice.

One way to tell the good advice from the bad is to stick to information from trusted video poker sources. People like Bob Dancer and Jean Scott have been playing and writing about video poker for years, and they are trusted sources for video poker advice and answers to video poker questions.

Video Poker Pay Table Strategy

Since each video poker machine and game variety has its own pay table, the easiest way to build strategy for a specific video poker machine is to read that machine’s pay table. The differences in pay tables are why the strategy for Jacks or Better video poker isn’t the same as the strategy for Deuces Wild.

The more you play video poker, the more you’ll recognize a good pay table. Look for pay tables that reward high pairs and better. These machines reward skill more than luck, since most machines that pay out at a minimum of two pair use wild cards and random chance to determine winners.

Reading about video poker odds can help you pick games with the best rules. Search for video poker odds and you'll find plenty of sites that list the house edge for a game like Jacks or Better, as well as a breakdown of that game’s pay table. 9/6 Jacks or Better offers a 99.54% payback percentage. That’s a higher payback than any slot machine. A small change in the pay table can make a big difference in your payback percentage though. 8/5 Jacks or Better only offers a 97.3% payback.

Read the pay tables and choose the machines that offer the best payouts.

Basic Video Poker Strategy Tips

These words of wisdom apply to most video poker games. Consider these the video poker rules of thumb:

  • No single high card is more valuable than a low pair.
  • Some hands you should always hold: royal flush, straight flush, four of a kind, full house, three of a kind, and two pair. There’s one exception: when you hold a three of a kind, you should always discard your other two for a chance at a four of a kind or a full house. Many players holding two pair will always discard the useless fifth card because it gives them a shot at a full house as well.
  • Sometimes you should choose to break up a flush or a straight. If you are four cards in to a royal flush, you have to go for the royal. Royal flushes are rare and they pay off well enough to ignore the flush or straight winnings.
  • On most machines, a pair of jacks or better is a winning hand, but you should break up a jacks or better pair if you are close enough to a royal flush or other straight flush.
  • Don’t draw to a four-card inside straight in video poker. When the card missing from your straight is in the middle of the straight, you are playing against optimal strategy.

Positive Expectation Video Poker Strategy

If you play video poker with expert strategy, some video poker games that can be turned into positive expectation games.

Video poker machines with over a 100% payback percentage are positive expectation games, meaning you can expect to win money over time if you play them with perfect strategy. Some payout tables for the game Deuces Wild, for example, offer a payback of 100.71% when played with perfect strategy. Most casinos don’t offer positive expectation Deuces Wild games, so if you find one you should jump on it while you have the chance.

Can I Play Video Poker Professionally?

Everyone gets lucky sometimes, and you may win enough money in a single video poker gaming session to think you could get by just playing Jacks or Better 40 hours a week. Unfortunately, video poker is not one of those games that offers a big enough advantage to make a bundle on over the long term.

No one is going to get rich playing video poker thanks to the built-in edge the casinos holds over video poker players. Let’s pretend you play 300 hands per hour betting $1.25 per hand. You’ll have bet $375 in that hour. If you play on a Deuces Wild machine that offers you a 0.77% edge, played with perfect strategy, and didn’t mess up one time, you’ll have earned about $2.88. You’re not going to make a living, but you will have enjoyed some good cheap entertainment. When was the last time you got paid for having fun, even if it is just two bucks?

What about a larger bankroll? Can that be turned into video poker riches? If you have a larger bankroll and are betting $25 a hand in the same scenario as above, you’ll be spending $7,500 an hour on video poker bets, and if you don’t make a single mistake, you’ll earn about $57 an hour, which is a livable hourly income. You might find that playing perfectly for 40 hours a week is harder than you think, and every mistake reduces your potential income. And you’d need a huge bankroll to cover losing streaks.

Gambling involves ups and downs, and both winning and losing streaks should be built into your gambling strategy. Big wins in video poker usually require thousands of bets, and along the way the casino will figure out a way to put some of your money in their pocket. If you’re playing video poker for fun, the high payback percentages are a big enough draw. If you’re trying to earn a lot of money playing video poker, you’ll probably be disappointed.