Video Poker Strategy

No one plays poker to lose; it happens, though.  Knowing the right poker strategy will keep your video poker playing both fun and profitable.  However, your strategy will change as your experience improves.  New players must first master quick strategy, that is general spit second decisions that yield relatively good odds of increasing the quality of your cards and your payouts.

Once you have mastered this, you can move on to a higher-level strategy.  In addition, different strategies have different payouts.  For instance, a Jacks or Better basic strategy pays out 99.46%, while an optimal strategy on the same game pays out 99.54%.  That's not a big difference, but it can add up.

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The second thing you must understand is that you will not become rich by playing video poker.  This game is perfect for making substantial winnings, but if you want "instant riches," you'll need to play a game with different payouts.

The Basics

There are a few hands that you will hold no matter what.  These are a royal flush, a straight flush, four of a kind, a full house, three of a kind and two pair.  That said, here are the caveats.

  • With three of a kind, discard the two undesirable cards and re-draw.  You may be able to get four of a kind or a full house with this.
  • With two pair, discard the single undesirable card and re-draw.  A full house is possible and pays better than two pair.

There are conflicting strategies about keeping a low pair or a single high card.  Most people will keep the single high card, which does offer a better chance of winning.  However, keeping the low pair can result in three or four of a kind.

If you have an inside straight, do not draw.  You should only draw to an outside straight; your chances of drawing a card that can be played are doubled.

Advanced Strategy

Advanced strategy greatly resembles that of the basics, with a few extras thrown in.  For instance, you will still keep a royal flush, a straight flush and a full house, while four of a kind will still find the desirable four held, while the undesirable fifth is re-drawn.  Two pairs should be held with the fifth card being re-drawn, as well.  Here are some other items in the strategy, with hands ranked according to payout.

Pat Royal Flush – Pays 800.000
Pat Straight Flush – Pays 50.000
Pat Four of a Kind – Pays 25.000
4 Royals – Pays 18.425
Pat Full House – Pays 9.000
Pat Flush – Pays 6.000
Three of a Kind – 4.308
Pat Straight – Pays 4.000
4 to Straight Flush – Pays 3.531
Two Pair – Pays 2.597
High Pair – Pays 1.5365
Unsuited 4 Royals – Pays .872
Low Pair (10 and under) – Pays .823
4 to Outside Straight, 0,1 or 2 High Cards – Pays .680
3 to Straight – Pays .620
Suited Queen and Jack – Pays .600
4 to Inside Straight, 4 high – Pays .595
Suited King and Jack or King and Queen – Pays .582
Suited Ace/Queen, Ace/King or Ace/Jack – Pays .567
4 to Inside Straight, 3 High - .531
3 to Straight Flush (2) – Pays .522
Unsuited Jack, Queen, King – Pays .500
Unsuited Jack and Queen – Pays .498
Suited 10 and Jack – Pays .496
2 High Cards, King high (unsuited) – Pays /486
Suited 10 and Queen – Pays .482
2 High Cards, Ace high (unsuited) – Pays .474
Jack only – Pays .471
Suited 10 and King – Pays .468
Queen only – Pays .468
King only – Pays .464
Ace only – Pays .4640
3 to Straight Flush (3) – Pays .443
Complete Discard – Pays .359

Additional Caveats in Video Poker

While the above is a guide, there are exceptions to the rule.  For example, here are some hands that should not be played at all.

  • All cards should be discarded with 4 to an inside straight with no high cards
  • The single high card should be kept in 4 to an inside straight with only one high card
  • The two high cards only should be kept in 4 to an inside straight with two high cards
  • The two highest low cards should be kept in 3 unsuited cards with ace being the highest
  • If you have a suited 10 and ace, keep the ace only and discard the 10

Video Poker Odds

Finding the best odds is vital in any form of gambling, whether you are sitting down at at table with several real players, playing online poker or enjoying video poker.  However, determining the best odds can be difficult.  In fact, it can be so complex and problematic that many different software programs have been created to help.

The pay table is the best way of determining the odds for a particular machine.  It's important to note that the pay table can change from machine to machine, sometimes even in the same establishment.  Most games offer payouts in proportion to the number of coins played.  A full pay machine is usually considered 9-6.  Casinos usually lower the payout for the flush and full house, resulting in most casino based video poker machines coming in at 8-5 machines.  The best way to pad your odds (increase the likelihood of a substantial payout) is to play the maximum number of coins per hand.

These are the odds of drawing respective hands in Jacks or Better, which most games are based on and remains one of the most popular games today:

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

Many video poker machines have bonus payouts for different hands when played with all coins.  In fact, almost all machines have a dramatically higher payout for that much-sought after royal flush with all coins, rather than only 4 played.  Playing all 5 coins each time will give you the highest payout possible, but you will also lose more money during "dry" runs.  Be prepared for these; if you cannot afford a long dry run on a certain machine, move to a lower cost machine and you'll find your funds last longer.