Posted in Guides June 2, 2020

The Best Video Poker Strategy

Video poker is a popular game that can be found in both brick-and-mortar casinos and online casinos worldwide. It combines elements of skill-based games like Texas Hold’em with games of chance like roulette. While luck may play a role initially, it is ultimately the player’s skill that determines the final outcome.

How to Improve Your Odds?

The balance between skill and luck in video poker can be tricky. If you are unfamiliar with the game or don’t know the difference between a straight and a royal flush, making the right decisions can be challenging.

Should You Keep a Pair of Kings or Try for a Royal Flush?

Let’s examine some common tough decisions in video poker. Once you understand the strategy, these decisions become easier because you understand the math behind the game.

In this scenario, you have a pair of kings and are considering potential draws for three of a kind, four of a kind, a royal flush, and a flush.

To determine the expected value of each hand, you need to consider the likelihood and payout of each possible outcome. Calculating this manually can be difficult, but the computer can do the calculations for you and create guidelines to evaluate each hand.

For example, if you have a pair of kings, there are 16,215 possible outcomes. Since you already have a pair, all outcomes will be winners. Some of these outcomes include two pairs, a pair, three of a kind, a full house, and four of a kind.

On the other hand, if you decide to keep the royal flush draw, there are only 47 likely outcomes. Eight times, you will get jacks or better, 27 outcomes won’t result in a winning hand, eight may result in a flush, and only one may result in a royal flush.

By considering the likelihood and value of each outcome, you can calculate the expected return for each hand. In this case, keeping the royal flush draw has a total expected return of 92.33%, while keeping the pair of kings has a return of only 7.67%. This clearly shows that keeping the pair would be a big mistake.

Should You Keep a Small Pair or Try for a Straight?

Another tough decision arises when you have a pair of fours and the option to aim for a three or four of a kind or a full house, or to keep an open-ended straight draw and aim for a straight.

Looking at the expected value of both choices, aiming for the straight draw has an expected return of 3.404%, while holding the pair of fours has an expected return of 4.118%.

It is evident that the pair of fours has a higher expected value than the open-ended straight draw. However, this is true only for a specific paytable in a full-pay game and not necessarily in other video poker variations.

These examples show that a universal video poker strategy can exist with small variations in games and paytables. But when significant variations are present, such as in Deuces Wild, an entirely different strategy is needed.

Optimal vs Simple Video Poker Strategy

Video poker veterans use two types of strategies: a basic or simple strategy, which groups outcomes with similar expected values, and an optimal strategy, which takes into account every possible outcome.

The difference in expected value between the basic and optimal strategies is small. For instance, in full pay Jacks or Better, the difference in theoretical payout between the two strategies is only 0.09%. This difference exists because players make mistakes.

Using a simple strategy can be much easier to understand and implement, compared to an optimal strategy.

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