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It's a good alternative to slot machines since you still have the chance of hitting a big jackpot, but you're about five times more likely to actually get it.
Slot players should seriously consider graduating to video poker, because they're much more likely to win that way. The only catch is that to enjoy the good odds, you have to learn the proper strategy.
If you just guess then you could easily do worse than with slots. But you came to the right place, because we'll cover strategy here.
You decide which ones to keep by tapping the pictures on the screen or pressing buttons on the console. Then you hit the DRAW button and you get replacement cards for the cards you didn't keep.
You win if you wind up with a traditional poker hand like two pair, straight, flush, etc. We'll explain these below for those new to poker. The amount you win per hand depends on the paytable of the machine you're playing.
Here's a sample paytable. There are five columns in the paytable because your winnings depend on whether you played 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 coins.
Note that there's a bonus for the Royal Flush. Instead of winning coins 5 coins x , you win coins. So you should always play five coins "Max Bet" when playing video poker.
If you can't afford to play five coins at a time, switch to a lower-denomination machine. Yes, this is opposite of our advice about slots, and that's because the penalty for not playing max coins in video poker is greater.
One nice thing about video poker is you can know the return of the machine even before you start playing.
That's called the house edge. The return is the part that's returned to the player. The return on a video poker machine is determined by the paytable.
Just compare the paytable to the list at Wizard of Odds and you'll see that, for example, the Jacks or Better paytable above means that the return on that machine is If the paytable showed only 8 coins for the full house and only 5 for the flush, it would be a Compare this to slot machines, where you have no clue as to what payout you're getting.
And even if the return were listed, it would be lousy. The slot machine is the only game in the casino where your odds are a total mystery.
Why would you let the casino do that to you? Play video poker instead. Right after learning the proper strategy, the most important thing about playing video poker is to choose a machine with a good paytable!
Here are some pictures I just took in the same casino, same style game, same denomination. The only thing that's different is the paytables.
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.
The casino profit on the second machine is 2. 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.
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. There are a few caveats, though:. 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.
Your odds of hitting a royal flush the top jackpot are about 1 in 40, At hands an hour and 8 hours a day, you can expect to hit a royal once every 8.
But I estimate the odds of hitting a slot jackpot to usually be at least 1 in ,, 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.
Not bad. Except that the formula doesn't work for video poker in the short term. So you're more likely to lose 2. 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. Recently I played a bunch of video poker and recorded the results, which you can see in the table at right.
Often when you hold four cards and throw away one, the new card is the same value as the one you threw away. For example, let's say you have 9, 9, 2, 2, 5, you throw away the five, and then you get another five.
This might seem to happen way more often than it should. But that's an illusion caused by the human tendency to look for patterns.
A good example of how easily our perception can be fooled is to take the awareness test , where you watch a short video and count the number of passes the white team makes.
Most people fail. I did. Once I hit two 4 of a Kinds back to back. The probability of hitting it once is 0. The chances of hitting it back to back are 0.
That's four times less likely than hitting a royal flush. And I would have preferred the royal! By the way, purists will note that after you've hit a 4 of a Kind, the chances of hitting another four of a kind is just 0.
I played it down to zero credits, and then I hit Four of a Kind, which saved me. I played that down to zero again, and then I hit Four of a Kind again.
I played it down to zero credits a third time, and then hit Four of a Kind a third time! But that was the end of my luck. I didn't get it a fourth time, I just went bust.
Still, that was pretty unusual. Learn the poker hands 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 The 0.
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 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. 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.
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.
In Jacks or Better, which is the standard video poker game, the payout on a royal flush when playing five coins is significantly higher than all the others.
When you wager a single coin, a royal flush pays out at to 1. When you wager two coins, it pays out at twice that, or coins.
But when you wager five coins, a royal flush pays out at coins, which is 16 times the amount of a single coin. The best video poker game to start with is Jacks or Better.
Once you understand the fundamentals of Jacks or Better, all the other games become variations. The best pay table available on a Jacks or Better game offers a payback percentage of Your initial strategy goal in Jacks or Better is to find a full pay game, which is the variant offering that big All of the payouts for all the other hands are the same from game to game.
On a full pay Jacks or Better machine, a full house pays off at 9 to 1, and a flush pays off at 6 to 1. Other machines have lower payouts for these hands.
Some pay off at 8 to 1 and 5 to 1 respectively, while others pay off at 7 to 1 and 5 to 1. The lower payouts, of course, result in lower payback percentages on the machines, as follows:.
Why is this so important? The payout percentage determines mathematically how much you can expect to lose over the long run on a game.
The house edge is the percentage that the casino expects to win of every bet you make over the long term. It should be clear why finding a good pay table matters so much.
The next big consideration in video poker is learning the mathematically correct way to play every hand.
This is similar to learning basic strategy in blackjack. Video poker strategy for Jacks or Better is dramatically different than video poker strategy for Deuces Wild.
But all of the strategies have some things in common. You have 32 different ways you can play each 5 card hand. You have 2 options for each card—hold it or discard it.
The correct play in every situation is the one with the highest expected return. Computers are able to determine mathematically which play has the highest expected return.
A video poker strategy for a game takes into account the expected return for every hand. These strategies and tactics are not mathematically perfect—they have to be practical enough to actually be used in a casino, which means that accuracy is sometimes sacrificed to make the decisions easier.
Specific strategy tables are available for each variation on the appropriate pages. Here are some general tips that apply to most video poker games in most situations:.
These tips only make up the bare beginning of video poker wisdom, but everyone has to start somewhere. Not all video poker books are created equal.
The following recommendations are for books with accurate information. It includes information about stretching your bankroll so that you can have more fun in various casino destinations, but it also features tips for playing with profitability as your goal.
One of the major themes emphasized in Frugal Video Poker is the importance of practice, which is a lesson that most people need repeated multiple times before it sinks in.
This book serves as an excellent introduction to video poker, and includes the basic how to play info as well as examinations of and strategy tips for Jacks or Better, Tens or Better, Deuces Wild, Joker Wild, and Double Bonus Poker.
The sections about money management, hot and cold machines, and casino comps are also excellent. This is not a how-to book, but it includes quite a bit of real-life lessons which are probably more easily learned via anecdote than from explanation anyway.
Bob Dancer is considered by many to be the foremost video poker expert in the publishing industry. He analyzes almost every video poker game and variation out there.
His use of stories to illustrate the points he wants to get across is excellent. In this book, he provides a step-by-step plan for becoming a successful video poker player.
He focuses on first things first, like how to identify the best pay tables. Without that information, your memorization of strategy is next to useless.
He also includes information about learning expert strategies. He rounds out this data with advice on slot clubs, casino promotions, and progressive jackpots.
He focuses largely on the math behind the game. If you ever wondered why video poker is beatable and wanted to see the actual math behind the proof, then this is the book for you.
His strategy explanations are easier to relate to than many of the chart-based strategies out there, too. The book follows a logical structure, first explaining the data that someone needs to know before jumping into the actual strategies.
These begin with the strategies that are easiest to memorize and then move in to the more advanced strategies. Daily is also worth your money, especially if you enjoy Deuces Wild.
It was published in None of that makes this book less enjoyable, though—many professional video poker players got their start by using this book.
You can find lots of other books on the subject, but these are the best of the lot. Bob Dancer, in particular, is prolific, and he sells a large variety of comprehensive strategy guides for specific games and variations.
Video poker cheats try to get an unfair advantage over the casino by breaking the rules. The state of Nevada takes gambling seriously, and they take a hard line against cheaters.
But what constitutes cheating versus just smart play? After all, you can get a mathematical edge over the casino in some games just by using smart decision making.
For example, in some ve r sions of Deuces Wild , if you play well, you have an edge over the casino of up to 0. Any of the following behaviors would be considered cheating.
Some of them apply to video poker, but not all of them:. None of these activities are cheating, but casinos retain the option of banning players who use them.
Most casinos limit this to card counters. Counting cards in blackjack is an effective way to gamble with an edge over the casino. Learning how to play real poker with real opponents at an expert level is another way to gamble with a positive expectation.
The best sports bettors make far more money than any other kind of professional gambler, including card counters and pro poker players.
That will give you a good start on learning how to profit while betting on sports. The risk reward ratio for cheating at gambling makes it a poor gamble, even if you have no moral qualms about the activity.
You risk going to prison for years if you get caught, and casinos spend a fortune on surveillance in order to catch cheaters.
The upside includes the potential profits, but as I pointed out, you can make profits without cheating.
The only other upside is the pleasure that you receive by getting away with something. This page takes a look at some of the video poker experts on the Internet.
The bogus video poker experts outnumber the legitimate video poker experts by a huge factor. Bob Dancer — The biggest name in video poker is probably Bob Dancer.
He won over a million dollars playing video in Las Vegas during a six month period. He also teaches classes at casinos and writes some of the most detailed and accurate strategy guides available.
On his website, Dancer sells a variety of products to help novice and even intermediate video poker players improve their game. You can also buy video poker training software.
You can listen live on the Internet, and he also has an archive of his shows available for streaming on his website. You can also find Dancer occasionally teaching video poker seminars at the South Point Casino.
Check his website for his upcoming class schedule. All of his classes are free, but you must be 21 to attend. A particular focus of her books is the use of comps and slot clubs to get as much free stuff from the casinos as possible while playing video poker.
You can find her frequently-updated blog about playing video poker and gambling frugally at the Las Vegas Advisor website.
He is a moderator at the Wizard of Vegas forum. He writes a nationally syndicated column on gambling—in fact, he was the first casino gambling writer to work as a columnist at a major newspaper in the United States.
Dan Paymar — His book Video Poker—Optimum Play is one of the most well-thought-of and respected books in the video poker gambling community.
Dan Paymar has used his training and education as a computer programmer and engineer to analyze the math behind the game. His website includes playing strategies for at least a dozen different video poker games , as well as return tables for at least different games.
He also sells a video poker training software called, appropriately enough, Video Poker Wizard, which you can use to improve your strategic abilities.
Instead, they play the game at an extremely high level and enjoy all the perks that their skill entitles them to.
Even though they look and sound alike, the two games have significant differences that any serious gambler will want to be aware of. Both video poker and slot machines have pay tables describing the payouts for various combinations.
We know, mathematically, that the probability of being dealt this hand is We can do that calculation for every possible hand in the game, so we can determine two things:.
On the other hand, slot machines are programmed with an arbitrary set of symbol combinations with probabilities which are determined by the desired payback percentage for the machine.
We might know that three cherries pay off at 5 to 1, but we have no way of knowing what the probability of getting that combination is. This RNG can be programmed so that the symbol comes up once out of every ten spins, but it could also be set up so that the symbols comes up once out of every twenty spins.
To add to the obfuscation, different symbols might have different probabilities of showing up. Cherries might come up once every ten spins, but oranges might come up once every twenty spins.