Understanding Return in Video Poker

Playing video poker is a great way to spend a couple of hours and blow through a set amount of money. However, for professional gamblers, video poker can be an excellent way to make money. This money is called a return.  Each win is not counted as a separate return; rather, the actual return is a combination of the total amount won over a period of time, multiplied by the odds of winning various types of hands.

In a sense, the expected return is what drives a player to hold or discard specific cards. Only cards with the highest expected return should be held.  However, there will be times that an experienced gambler will discard cards with high return in favor of the possibility of an even higher return from the hand. Understanding the return value of each hand is vital, as is understanding the odds of drawing the card or cards you need to complete that hand.

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Understanding the payout of each hand means knowing the game in depth.  For instance, a standard, "full pay" Jacks or Better game is 9/6, meaning you are being paid 9/1 for a full house and 6/1 for a flush. You must calculate the odds of getting the cards you need to complete your hand, and multiply that by the amount you will receive for the total percent of your return.

The question boils down to determining each of 32 ways in which your hand can be played and opting for the one that holds the most promise of payback.  This ensures a high return, and the most enjoyment from the game.  However, for a better understanding of the process, you will need to understand video poker odds, which can be overwhelming.

Each hand has its own odds of being drawn or completed.  For instance, a royal flush can be expected to be drawn every 40,390 times, while two pair comes up around one in seven times.  Obviously, the odds are much longer for higher payouts (it has to be that way because of the rarity of getting specific cards in a specific order from a random dealing machine). However, all odds change with the game.  For instance, Jacks or Better offers odds of 1 in 86 for a full house, while the game of Jokers Wild gives odds of 1 in 63.  However, the higher the odds, the higher the payout for the hand and the greater the expected return.

Here are the odds of drawing respective hands in Jacks or Better:

- Royal Flush – 1 in 40,390
- Straight Flush – 1 in 9,148
- Four of a Kind – 1 in 423
- Full House – 1 in 86
- Flush – 1 in 90
- Straight – 1 in 89
- Three of a Kind – 1 in 13
- Two Pair – 1 in 7
- Jack or Better – 1 in 4

As you can see, determining the odds of a particular hand can be a difficult thing. Of course, other hands possible have even longer odds.  The basic thing to remember is that the best method of calculating return is the odds of drawing a particular card or cards to get the payoff.