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Best of Frank Scoblete

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Strategies for Video Poker

20 March 2001

Rule #1 of Video Poker Play is Know which machines to play.

Rule # 2 of Video Poker Play is Know the proper playing strategies.

Proper playing strategies for the various machines can be divided into three types: perfect strategies, optimum strategies, and generic strategies. Perfect strategies are just that: you will have the exact play for every possible hand based on the best return for the proper decision. Perfect strategies will take into account the value and suit of the cards you are discarding as well as the cards that you are keeping in order to differentiate small differences in expectation in obscure situations. Perfect strategies are extremely difficult to memorize but they do squeeze the last ounce of return from a given machine.

Optimum strategies are a lot less cumbersome as these strategies lump together certain hands (usually on the low end of the scale) in the interests of economy and easy memorization. Optimum strategies rarely take into account the value and suit of the cards you are discarding. The difference in performance between a perfect strategy and an optimum strategy is usually at most a few tenths of a percent, at the least a few hundredths of a percent.

Then there are generic strategies. These are single strategies that can be employed at a variety of machines of the same type. Usually a strategy will be termed generic if it is the optimum strategy or close to the optimum strategy for the best machine in its type (say 9/6 Jacks-or-Better) but can be used on other machines (say 8/5 Jacks-or-Better) as well. Here you might see great differences in performance from one machine to another, sometimes in the half to a full percent range or even more. Generic strategies are generally recommended if you have never played video poker before and you want to test the waters without much of an investment in time or money to do so.

Most articles such as this one must give generic strategies since to give over a hundred different optimum strategies would make the editor jump out a window! To give perfect strategies for all those machines would make the players follow him out as well!

There are three broad categories of video poker games in American Casinos: the aforementioned Jacks-or-Better draw poker, the extremely popular Joker Poker, and Deuces Wild Poker. Some games are linked progressives, some are stand-alone machines. The generic strategies given here can be used on any of them. However, given a choice between playing the best machine in the category and any other machine in the category -- go for the best machines.

These generic strategies will allow you to go to the casino tonight and play a strong game. However, if you get the video-poker bug, and many players do as it's an exciting game, then you owe it to yourself to learn the perfect or optimum strategies for the machines you decide to play. On all machines, you must play the maximum coin to get the benefit of the Royal Flush bonus.

While many video poker games offer the player excellent overall odds and, in some cases, an edge over the casino, a salient fact must be noted. Because the casino edge is figured based on the probabilities and payouts on all the possible hands, including such long shots as the Royal Flush, most sessions at video poker tend to be losers. The overall expectation might indeed be positive but it assumes that the player is receiving his or her fair share of Royal Flushes or Fives-of-a-Kind. Naturally, the longer you play, the better the chance that the odds and probabilities will work out in practice as they do in theory but you might have to play a long, long time for this to happen. You must be prepared, therefore, to lose a significant portion of your sessions and be in the red before you hit a Royal and zoom back into the black. Yes, it is possible that the very first hand you play will give you that mystical Royal Flush but I wouldn't bet on it. Therefore, you must have at least 500 times your single hand bet to sustain you at a video poker session. If you are betting five quarters, then you should have $625 behind you. If you are betting five dollars, then you should have $2,500 behind you.

Generic Basic Strategy for Jacks or Better Draw Poker

The following hands are listed in order of priority. The hands on top should always be played regardless of what you have to break up to play them. Hands are ranked as in regular poker: Royal Flush, Straight Flush, Four-of-a-kind, Full House, Flush, Straight, Three-of-a-kind, Two pairs, and a Pair of Jacks or better.

  1. All pat hands...stand
  2. Four cards to a royal flush...draw one card
    (break anything else including a flush or straight)
  3. Three of a kind...draw two cards
  4. Four cards to an open-ended straight flush...draw one card
    (break anything else)
  5. Two pairs...draw one card.
  6. Four cards to an inside straight flush...draw one card
    (break anything else)
  7. Pair of jacks or better...draw three cards
    (break anything except hands above)
  8. Three cards to a royal flush...draw two cards
    (break any thing except hands above)
  9. Four cards to a flush...draw one card
    (break anything except hands above)
  10. Four cards to an outside high-card straight...draw one card
    (break anything except hands above)
  11. Low pair...draw three cards
    (break anything except hands above)
  12. Four cards to an outside straight...draw one card
    (break anything except hands above)
  13. Three cards to a straight flush...draw two cards
    (break anything except hands above)
  14. Two cards to a royal flush...draw three cards
    (break anything except hands above)
  15. Three cards to an inside straight flush...draw two cards
    (break anything except hands above)
  16. Four cards to an inside straight with three high cards...draw one card
    (break anything except hands above)
  17. One, two, or three high cards...draw four, three, or two cards
    (break anything except hands above)
  18. All other hands...discard and draw five cards

Generic Basic Strategy for Deuces Wild Poker

The following hands are listed in order of priority. The hands on top should always be played regardless of what you have to break up to play them. Hands are ranked as follows: Royal Flush, Four Deuces, Deuces Royal Flush, Five-of-a-kind, Straight Flush, Four-of-a-kind, Full House, Flush, Straight, Three-of-a-kind. The strategy is divided into two parts: non-deuce hands and deuce hands.

Non-Deuce Hands

  1. All pat hands...stand
  2. Four cards to a royal flush...draw one card
    (break anything including a straight, a flush, or a straight flush)
  3. Four of a kind...draw one card
  4. Three of a kind...draw two cards
  5. Four cards to an inside or outside straight flush...draw one card
    (break anything except hands above)
  6. Three cards to a royal flush...draw two cards
    (break anything except hands above)
  7. One or two pairs...draw three or one card
    (break anything except hands above)
  8. Four cards to an outside straight...draw one card
    (break anything except hands above)
  9. Four cards to a flush...draw one card
    (break anything except hands above)
  10. Three cards to an inside or outside straight flush...draw two cards
    (break anything except hands above)
  11. Two cards to a jack or queen high royal flush...draw three cards
    (break anything except hands above)
  12. Four cards to an inside straight...draw one card
  13. All other hands...discard and draw five cards

Deuce Hands

  1. All pat hands...stand
  2. Three deuces and two garbage cards...draw two cards
  3. Four of a kind with one or two deuces...draw one card
  4. Four cards to a royal flush with one or two deuces...draw one card
  5. Two deuces and three garbage cards...draw three cards
  6. Four cards to a deuce straight flush...draw one card
  7. Three of a kind with one deuce...draw two cards
  8. Four cards to a one-deuce inside or outside straight flush...draw one card
  9. Three cards to a one-deuce royal flush...draw two cards
  10. One deuce plus garbage...draw four cards

Generic Basic Strategy for Joker Poker

The following hands are listed in order of priority. The hands on top should always be played regardless of what you have to break up to play them. Hands are ranked as follows: Natural Royal Flush, Five-of-a-kind, Joker Royal Flush, Straight Flush, Four-of-a-kind, Full House, Flush, Straight, Three-of-a-kind, Two Pairs, High Pair. The strategy is divided into two parts: non-joker hands and joker hands.

Non-Joker Hands

  1. All pat hands...stand
  2. Four of a kind...draw one card
  3. Four cards to a royal flush...draw one card
  4. Three of a kind...draw two cards
  5. Four cards to an inside or outside straight flush...draw one card
  6. Two pairs...draw one card
  7. Three cards to a royal flush...draw two cards
    (break anything except hands above)
  8. High pair...draw three cards
    (break anything except hands above)
  9. Four cards to a flush...draw one card
    (break anything except hands above)
  10. Any pair...draw three cards
    (break anything except hands above)
  11. Three cards to an outside straight flush...draw two cards
    (break anything except hands above)
  12. Four cards to an outside straight...draw one card
    (break anything except hands above)
  13. Three cards to an inside straight flush...draw two cards
  14. Two cards to a royal flush...draw three cards
  15. Ace and king...draw three cards
  16. Ace...draw four cards
  17. All other hands...discard and draw five cards.

Joker Hands

  1. All pat hands...stand
  2. Joker four of a kind...draw one card
  3. Four cards to a joker royal flush...draw one card
  4. Four cards to an inside or outside joker straight flush...draw one card
  5. Joker three of a kind...draw two cards
  6. Four cards to a joker flush with ace or king...draw one card
  7. Three cards to a joker royal flush...draw two cards
  8. Three cards to a joker straight flush...draw two cards
  9. High joker pair...draw three cards
  10. Four cards to a joker flush...draw one card
  11. Four cards to a joker straight...draw one card
  12. Joker plus anything else...draw four cards

The Faces of the Best Games

Jacks-or-Better Draw Poker
4,700 coins or 4,000 coins on royal flush with five coins.
Single coin line:
Straight Flush: 50
Four-of-a-kind: 25
Full House: 9
Flush: 6
Straight: 4
Three-of-a-kind: 3
Two Pairs: 2
Jacks or better: 1

Joker Poker
4,700 coins or 4,000 coins on non-joker royal flush with five coins.
Single coin line:
Five-of-a-kind: 200
Joker Royal Flush: 100
Straight Flush: 50
Four-of-a-kind: 20
Full House: 7
Flush: 5
Straight: 3
Three-of-a-kind: 2
Two Pairs: 1
Kings or better: 1

Deuces Wild
4,000 coins for non-deuce royal flush with five coins.
Single coin line:
Four deuces: 200
Deuces Royal Flush: 25
Five-of-a-kind: 15
Straight Flush: 9
Four-of-a-kind: 5
Full House: 3
Flush: 2
Straight: 2
Three-of-a-kind: 1


For more information about slots and video poker, we recommend:

Break the One-Armed Bandits! by Frank Scoblete
Victory at Video Poker and Video Craps, Keno and Blackjack! by Frank Scoblete
Slot Conquest Audio Cassette Tape (60 minutes) with Frank Scoblete
Winning Strategies at Slots & Video Poker! Video tape hosted by Academy Award Winner James Coburn, Written by Frank Scoblete
The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots by John Robison
The Slot Machine Answer Book by John Grochowski
The Video Poker Answer Book by John Grochowski

Recent Articles
Best of Frank Scoblete
Frank Scoblete

Frank Scoblete is the #1 best selling gaming author in America. His newest books are Slots Conquest: How to Beat the Slot Machines; Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo and Pai Gow Poker!; Beat Blackjack Now: The Easiest Way to Get the Edge; Casino Craps: Shoot to Win!; Cutting Edge Craps: Advanced Strategies for Serious Players; Casino Conquest: Beat the Casinos at Their Own Games! and The Virgin Kiss.

Frank and Casino City Times columnist Jerry "Stickman" teach private lessons in dice control. Frank's books are available at Amazon.com, in bookstores or by mail order. Call 1-800-944-0406 or write to Frank Scoblete Enterprises, PO Box 446, Malverne, NY 11565. Frank can also be reached by email at fscobe@optonline.net.

Frank Scoblete Websites:

www.goldentouchcraps.com
www.goldentouchblackjack.com

Books by Frank Scoblete:

> More Books By Frank Scoblete

Frank Scoblete
Frank Scoblete is the #1 best selling gaming author in America. His newest books are Slots Conquest: How to Beat the Slot Machines; Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo and Pai Gow Poker!; Beat Blackjack Now: The Easiest Way to Get the Edge; Casino Craps: Shoot to Win!; Cutting Edge Craps: Advanced Strategies for Serious Players; Casino Conquest: Beat the Casinos at Their Own Games! and The Virgin Kiss.

Frank and Casino City Times columnist Jerry "Stickman" teach private lessons in dice control. Frank's books are available at Amazon.com, in bookstores or by mail order. Call 1-800-944-0406 or write to Frank Scoblete Enterprises, PO Box 446, Malverne, NY 11565. Frank can also be reached by email at fscobe@optonline.net.

Frank Scoblete Websites:

www.goldentouchcraps.com
www.goldentouchblackjack.com

Books by Frank Scoblete:

Casino Craps: Shoot to Win!

> More Books By Frank Scoblete