If you choose the machine on the right, you'll lose your
money six times faster! And your chances of winning
will be far less. If the reason isn't obvious then
consider this: If the player is getting back 99.54% and
97.29%, that means the casino is keeping 0.46% and 2.71%.
The casino profit on the second machine is 2.71 ÷ 0.46 = 5.9
So it really pays to hunt out the good machines! But it's actually pretty easy, because the readers of a website called VPFree2 scout out the best machines and post their locations on the site. Using that site you can see that you can there are 9/6 Jacks or Better machines on the Strip at Cosmopolitan, New York New York, Riviera, Treasure Island, and others. And in downtown and off-strip casinos, the good games are more common, and available at lower denominations.
Despite the importance of finding the best machines, most
players don't. That's why casinos can offer both
decent and lousy machines in the same casino and be confident
that gamers will still play the lousy ones. They have to
keep some good machines, otherwise they'd lose all the
players who know what they're doing. But most of the
machines will be bad, and most gamers will play them
anyway. Heck, in Vegas even casinos and supermarkets have
video poker, with absolutely terrible paytables, but people will
still play them rather than going across the street to a casino
where they can get seven times better odds. Go figure.
Some games actually have a return of over 100% with proper play, such as a special flavor of Deuces Wild which pays out 100.77%. There are a few caveats, though:
Whether you seek out the 100%+ machines or the 99%+ machines, I can't stress strongly enough that it's essential to learn the proper strategy. If there are only two things you take from this page, it's to find the games with the best paytables, and play those games according to the published strategies.
of making a good hand
Actual results of my last session
|4 to a straight
|4 to a flush
Your odds of hitting a royal flush (the top jackpot) are about 1 in 40,000. At 600 hands an hour and 8 hours a day, you can expect to hit a royal once every 8.3 days on average. But I estimate the odds of hitting a slot jackpot to usually be at least 1 in 262,000, so you're far more likely to hit the jackpot with video poker.
Elsewhere on this site I show you how to figure your average loss for an hour of play. In summary, you multiply the house edge by the bet size by the number of rounds per hour. On a 9/6 quarter Jacks or Better machine with proper strategy, that would be 0.5% x $1.25 (remember we're playing 5 coins at a time) x 400 hands per hour = $2.50 per hour. Not bad. Except that the formula doesn't work for video poker in the short term. That's because you'll hit the royal only once every 66 hours on average, and while you're waiting for the royal, the return on the game isn't ~99.5%, it's ~97.5%. So you're more likely to lose 2.5% in the short term rather than 0.5%. So we can expect our hourly loss to be closer to $6.25/hour than $1.25/hour while we're waiting for the royal. Still, $6.25/hour is pretty cheap. On a slot machine your loss would be closer to $40 an hour. So you can see why I'm so eager to switch you from slots to VP.Incidentally, a Four of a Kind happens about once per hour.
If you're new to poker, here's what the names of the poker
hands mean. If you know this already then skip to
the next section.
Each VP variety and paytable has its own strategy. The strategy for Jacks or Better is different from that for Deuces Wild, and within each style of machine, each paytable can have its own strategy. Learning all those strategies is tedious, so I recommend you figure out which video poker game you like best, and then learn the strategy for it. If you get bored with that game then you can learn another strategy at that time. For now, let's start out with an lesson on Full-Pay Jacks or Better. I chose this game because:
The strategy below is the Wizard's simplified strategy for Jacks or Better. You give up just a tiny part of the return (99.46% instead of 99.54%) and in exchange you get a strategy that's much, much easier to learn and remember than the perfect strategy. The 0.08% penalty costs you only $0.60 per hour of play on average, assuming a quarter machine played at 600 hands per hour.
With this strategy, you play the highest hand in the list that matches your cards. Here's the list, and for reference, here's the paytable again, based on one coin played.
The Wizard's Simple Strategy
Remember that if you use this strategy for anything other than 9/6 Jacks or Better you're playing wrong, and that will cost you!
Let's go through some examples.
The minimum hand you need to win is a pair of Jacks. So in this hand we'll hold the Jack, hoping that we'll draw another Jack. We hold the Jack by tapping the picture of the Jack on the screen, or pressing the button for it on the console. Then we'll tap the DRAW button to get four new cards, hoping that one of them is a Jack to match the Jack we held.
We could get even luckier. We might draw two more Jacks, and then we have a Three of a Kind. Or three more Jacks, and then we have a Four of a Kind. But those are unlikely; our most likely win would be a draw just one more Jack to make a pair of Jacks.
Okay, so how did we know that this was the proper play? Simple: We looked it up on the strategy list above. "One high card", #15, was the best hand we had on that list.
This is similar to the previous hand. There's one high card -- a queen -- so that's what we'll hold.
Oh boy, we have two high cards! We'll hold both of them,
because then we can make a pair by drawing either a Jack
or a Queen. True, we're only gonna get three more cards for a
potential match rather than four this way, but our odds are
still better for making our pair. We might also get a full house
if we're lucky. This was play #13 in our list above.
Wow, three high cards! Well, hold your horses there, cowboy. We don't hold all three. That's because if we did then it would be impossible to get a full house. When we have three unsuited high cards, we'll take the lowest two -- in this case the Jack and the Queen. This is #13 on our list above.
Three more high cards. But there's a big difference vs. last time: This time two of them are the same suit. When you have multiple high cards you hold the ones of the same suit, because they can turn into a Flush, or even into a Royal Flush, which is the jackpot. So in this case we hold the Jack and the Ace. This is #11 on our list above.
Let's mix it up a little with a hand very different from the rest. I hope this one is easy for you. You have three 5's. This is a winning, paying hand, even before you draw for replacements! Hold the three 5's, and hope you're dealt another 5 for Four of a Kind.
This isn't quite as good as our previous hand. We have a pair of 5's, but by themselves it's not enough to win. We'll hold the pair and hope to get another 5 to make a Three of a Kind. This is play #9 on our list.
Here we have four to an outside straight -- 5, 6, 7, 8. Either a 4 or a 9 will turn it into a straight. We hold the four to an outside straight and draw a replacement for our useless 2.
This is an inside straight -- 4, 5, 7, 8. There's a gap in the middle. Remember that we never draw to an inside straight with Jacks or Better.
So what do we hold here? Nothing. We don't have even the minimum hand in our strategy list. So we don't hold anything, we just draw five new cards. This isn't an uncommon occurrence -- you'll often get just plain bad hands where you have to throw the whole thing away.
At first glance this might look like a junk hand, but look closer. Four cards are the same suit -- we have four to a flush. That's what we hold, throwing away the 5. This is play #8 on our list.
Another seemingly-junk hand, but not. We have three to a straight flush -- the 5, 6, and 9, which is what we hold. We know that we'll never draw to an inside straight, but this is different because we're drawing to a straight flush. Take a look at the paytable and see how hefty a payout we'd get if we made the straight flush.
We probably won't make the straight flush, but all the occasional times with a hand like this that we turn it into a regular flush, regular straight, or three of a kind -- along with the infrequent straight flush -- make holding the three to a straight flush a better play than throwing everything away and hoping for a miracle from five brand-new cards.
Here we have two choices: Hold the four to an outside straight and go for the straight, or hold the two 7's and go for a three of a kind or four of a kind. What to do?
Here's where our strategy list comes in. Notice that a low pair is #9, while four to an outside straight is #10. The low pair is higher on the list, so we hold the pair. In fact, you almost always hold pairs in Jacks or Better. We'll discuss exceptions below, but in general, always lunge for a pair, and then do a quick check to see if you have anything better, since you probably won't.
Here's one of those cases where something beats a pair. Namely, four to a flush. We'll hold those four cards and go for the flush.
Here's the way to remember it: A pair beats a would-be straight, but not a would-be flush.
Another toss-up. Do we go with the pair or with the high cards? Remember what we said earlier: Always lunge for the pair. In this case we hold the pair. It's #9 on our list, vs. #11 for the two suited high cards.
Decisions, decisions! Our possibilities are to:
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Strategy list to the rescue. The high pair wins at #6 (vs. #7 for the three to a Royal, and #10 for the four to an outside straight.)
Strategies. The Wizard of Odds has come up with simplified strategies that are very easy to play and remember, and which work almost as well as professional strategies. He's also got a bunch of other useful stuff on video poker.
Jeff Lotspiech's Video Poker. Strategies, risk of ruin calculator, practice on the web, more.
Bob Dancer's site. Bob is the most famous professional video poker player around, and his site shares his insights. He also sells useful VP-related software on the site.
Reason I like Bovada #5:
Many online casinos give you a big matching bonus when you sign up and make a deposit, but there's a catch. You have to do a lot of betting before you're allowed to cash out your winnings, and play on the most popular games doesn't count! It's common for blackjack, craps, baccarat, roulette, and Jacks or Better to be excluded. Sometimes it's everything but slots.
And sometimes you can't even find the fine print. Many casinos put their 100% bonus in big screaming letters but make you hunt all over the site to find the rules.
That's why Bovada is a welcome relief. They allow play on just about every game to count towards the wagering requirement (everything except Pontoon and Caribbean 21). It's that simple. Just no opposite betting, like both red & black on roulette at the same time. All casinos ought to be as easy as Bovada about this.
Bovada's signup bonus is a modest 10%, but it's simple. The wagering requirement in order to cash out the bonus is 15x the deposit plus the bonus, and play on just about every game satisfies the requirement.
Finally, at some other casinos if they think you're abusing their bonus offers, they'll actually seize your winnings. Frankly, that's criminal. But if Bovada suspects you of bonus abuse they'll still pay you, they just might not offer you any future bonuses.
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Also, know that Parkinson's drugs encourage gambling.