Video Poker

Video Poker

Video Poker is a casino game derived from 5 card draw poker. Unlike traditional poker games (where players compete against each other), in Video Poker the player competes against the house.

Hand Comparison

Some of the more common hands to appear on Video Poker paytables are detailed below;

* Royal Flush – The Ace, King, Queen, Jack and Ten cards all of the same suit. On some games additional payouts will be made for Royal Flushes in certain suits or Sequential Royal Flushes, a Royal Flush in either ascending or descending numerical order.

* Straight Flush – five numerically adjacent cards of the same suit (Example – 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 of Diamonds).

* 5 of a Kind – only available in a game that uses Wild cards (usually either one rank of cards or the additional Joker cards, the Wild card can count for whatever card most benefits the player. 5 of a Kind hands involve using one or more Wild cards to create a hand with 5 cards of matching rank (Example – in a game where 2s are Wild, 4 of Clubs, Diamonds and Spades and the 2 of Hearts and Diamonds would be considered 5 4s).

* Wild Royal Flush – A Royal Flush where one or more of the cards is replaced by a Wild card.

* 4 of a Kind – four cards of matching rank (Example - 7 of Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds and Spades). This hand type often has conditional requirements to qualify for different payouts. For instance many games offering different payouts for certain ranks of cards or for 4 or a Kind with a certain rank of Kicker (the last card that is not of matching rank).

* Full House – three cards of the same rank and two cards of a different but matching rank (Example – 8 of Hearts, Clubs and Diamonds and Jack of Spades and Hearts).

* Flush – five cards of the same suit (Example – Ace, 8, 5, 2 and Queen of Spades).

* Straight – five numerically adjacent cards ignoring suit (Example – 7 of Spades, 8 of Spades, 9 of Clubs, 10 of Diamonds and Jack of Diamonds).

* 3 of a Kind – three cards of the same rank with 2 unmatched cards (Example – 9 of Spades, Clubs and Hearts with any two other cards that are not the 9 of Diamonds or a matching pair).

* Two Pairs – two sets of two cards of matching rank with one unmatched card (Example – 4 of Clubs and Hearts, 8 Clubs and Spades and a fifth unmatched card).

* Pair - two cards of matching rank with three unmatched card (Example – 6 of Clubs and Hearts and any three other cards that are not the six of Spades or Diamonds and are not of matching rank).

Multi-hand Games

Many Video Poker games, both online and offline, are now offered in a multi-hand format. The player selects the desired number of hands – usually 1, 3, 5, 10, 25, 50 or 100 hands, though not all variations will be available at all casinos and there are some less common hand totals available at certain casinos – and the desired number of coins. So if the player was playing a 10 hand game with 5 coins selected they would bet a total of 50 coins. A single hand is dealt then the player selects the cards they wish to hold. These cards are held for all of the played hands and each hand is re-dealt separately.

Double-Up Feature

Many Video Poker games, in the event of the player receiving a winning hand will offer a ‘Double-Up’ option. If accepted this offers the player the chance to risk their winnings on whether the next card will be Red or Black. This is one of the few games offered in any casino that is a ‘fair’ game, meaning that the house has no edge when the player uses the Double-Up feature. Of course, the player has no edge using this feature either; it simply increases the variance of the game.

Variations on this game are available, with some Double-Up features using a coin and others allowing a ‘Quadruple-Up’ if the player correctly guesses the suit of the next card.

Many games will allow you to continue doubling up repeatedly, though due to the use of this feature by advantage players to rapidly increase their balance when playing with bonuses, most online casinos either restrict the use of this feature while playing with a Video Poker bonus or put a cap on the amount that can be won using the Double-Up feature. The better casinos softwares will enforce this restriction automatically within the game software(the game simply won’t allow the player to double further than the allowed amount), but many online casino softwares do not do this, so players should be careful when reviewing the terms and conditions of any bonus they choose to accept.

Optimal Strategy

Learning the optimal strategy for any Video Poker game is a challenging endeavour that will unquestionably require a substantial time investment. The optimal strategy for different Video Poker games varies dramatically depending on the game selected. The differing paytables dramatically change the way the player should handle different hands.

One general rule that is applicable to almost all Video Poker games we are aware of is that the player should always bet the maximum number of coins on every hand. Playing with less than maximum coins generally results in a far poorer return for the player. It is also a good idea to take time to play some free video poker games and top casino bonuses before playing for real money.

House Edge

While Video Poker games often offer the player one of the lowest House Edge options to be found in any casino, the player has to be wary as seemingly small alterations to a paytable can make substantial difference to the potential return for the player. Amongst major online software providers we’ve encountered games with House Edges ranging from 0.06-6.26% when playing the full number of coins and up to 9.27% when playing less than optimal numbers of coins. Comparatively this last figure is worse for the player than most available online slot games.

It should also be noted that compared to many other card games on offer in casinos, Video Poker usually has a very high variance. This is caused by a large proportion of the return of the game being tied up in one or two rare hands (usually a Royal Flush and occasionally some other hand like 4 Aces) and means that the player can experience very long losing spells before hitting that jackpot hand. This means that compared to the likes of Blackjack, with comparative bet sizes, the player needs to be more deeply financed to survive the swings while playing Video Poker. It should also be considered that the swings within different Video Poker games can vary substantially. The general rule is the rarer the top payoff in the game the more likely that the player will sustain substantial losses before the big payoff occurs. Accordingly games with progressive jackpots are normally a risky enterprise though this is true across most casino games not just Video Poker games.

Winning Strategies

Offline

Offline a variety of differing techniques have been used to gain the edge over the game of Video Poker.

When Video Poker first rose in popularity and availability, many casinos were offering games that gave the skilled player an advantage over the house through use of the correct strategy for the game. The casinos could afford to do this because the number of players skilled enough to know the correct strategies for the games was low and where the correct strategy was not applied, as was the case with the vast majority of the playing population, the casino still had the edge overall.

As the correct playing strategies became more widely known and more players started to play well these opportunities became rarer and rarer. Today, while there are still a few games available with a player edge, these tend to be on low denomination machines that ensure substantial money cannot be made playing them.

The deterioration of positive paytables did not stop smart players from making money playing Video Poker. The use of promotions offered by casinos can often allow the player to make even a game where the house has the edge into a positive expectation venture. By using slots clubs (casino programs that return cash or credit to the player for every wager they make), coupons and even random prize draws where the player earns tickets in the draw by playing the smart player can  win overall playing various Video Poker games. To do this successfully requires an understanding of the exact (or very close to exact) value of a promotion to the player.

Other approaches, including targeting progressive jackpots that have passed the breakeven point, tournament play and watching gaming for game glitches/payout errors can create a positive situation for the player, but caution is to be advised as many of these opportunities are rare and if found require substantial capital to play safely.

To learn more about playing winning Video Poker we recommend reading the books of Bob Dancer and Jean Scott. Both these individuals are highly respected within their field and have extensive experience playing winning Video Poker.

Online

There are several methods of legitimately gaining an advantage over the online Video Poker games. By and large these involve the use of promotions, bonuses and comp point systems as the vast majority of games have a built in house edge. There are some games that offer the player the opportunity to gain an advantage over the house through use of the correct playing strategy alone. These games are rare but can be found by the diligent player. When looking for this type of opportunity it’s normally a good idea to look at games that carry a progressive jackpot.

It should be noted that online advantage play is not specific to Video Poker and in recent years the wagering requirements for player’s choosing to play Video Poker games has inflated to the point that Video Poker is now often a sub-optimal choice for the player. For more information on beating online casinos see BeatingBonuses.com.

Interesting Video Poker Stories

According to several reports, the former Mayor of San Diego, Maureen O’Connor, lost over a billion dollars playing Video Poker between 2000 and 2009, including $2 million dollars that belonged to a charity foundation set up by her deceased husband.

Supposedly she was ahead by over a billion dollars at one point but lost it all back and tens of millions more.

Given that a billion is one thousand million it seems highly unlikely that these reports are in any way accurate. Even progressive jackpots are rarely more than a few million at any one time, so to win a thousand million seems extremely improbable. More likely is that either press exaggeration has accounted for this figure, or the billion dollars is a reference to O’Connor’s turnover (total wagers) rather than the amount lost.