Most poker-based games are heavily influenced by mathematics, and video poker is no exception. While people who don’t like math might think this is a bad thing, the truth is that the math can help you improve your chances of winning.
You can use the five mathematical facts about video poker on this page to help you get started. You’re going to learn the secrets to the math behind every popular video poker game and how to use them to your advantage at the casinos or when playing real money video poker online.
Card Pool and Casino House Edge
Video poker machines use a set of cards, usually 52 or 53 from a standard deck of playing cards. The ones that use 53 cards use a standard 52 cards and a joker. Video poker machines also have pay tables, and the pay tables can be different, even if the base game is the same.
These two things are important to remember for many different reasons. The first important reason is because you will know the cards that are being used. When you know which cards are being used, it helps you determine the best play for every starting hand you can possibly receive.
The other important reason is that the pay table can be compared to the set of cards being used to formulate an exact house edge. You’re going to learn more about this in the section about strategy cards below.
You can find a wide variety of online video poker games, but I’m going to use the popular Jacks or Better game for examples on this page. It happens to be one of the best machines for amateur video poker players because there are still plenty of machines with good pay tables, it’s easy to play, and the strategy is pretty simple.
Jacks or Better uses the same deck of cards you’re familiar with, with 52 cards in four suits. Each game is played with a single deck, and you start with five cards. You decide which of the five cards to keep and which to discard, and the discards are replaced with new cards from the same deck.
This creates your final hand. And if you have a hand that’s listed on the pay table, you win.
Odds of Improving
In the last section, you learned why a specific set of playing cards was important. Now, you’re going to learn more about how you can use this information when you’re playing video poker.
Here’s how this knowledge can help using a couple different examples.
You start with the two of clubs, three of clubs, eight of clubs, jack of clubs, and king of hearts. This isn’t a paying hand according to the pay table, so you need to determine which cards to keep. You have four cards to a flush, so one possibility is to keep them and discard the king.
If you discard the king, one of the remaining clubs in the deck can give you a flush, and any of the other three jacks gives you a pair of jacks. This is a total of 12 cards that give you a paying hand.
The other possibility is to keep the king or the jack and king. If you just keep the king, there are three other kings in the deck. But you have four chances to get one of them. If you keep the jack and king, there are six cards that can pair either one, and you have three chances to get one of them. You also have a small chance to complete a straight, but the odds are small.
Do you know the best way to play this hand?
The key is to understand how much you get paid for each possible hand in combination with the odds of completing each hand. If you’re wagering five coins, a pair of jacks or kings pays five coins. But a flush pays 30 coins. Even if you have a slightly better chance to pair a king or jack, it’s far more profitable to draw to the flush.
What is the best play if you have a pair of threes, a queen, a six, and a seven? The deck only has two more threes, and it has three more queens. This might lead you to believe that keeping the queen is better than the pair of threes. But look at the pay amount for three of a kind compared to a high pair. A pair of queens only pays five coins, while the three of a kind pays 15 coins. It’s more profitable to keep the pair of threes than the queen.
One of the best strategies for casino games is to bet the smallest amount possible. But most video poker games have pay tables that are designed so that you’re actually better off wagering five coins instead of four or fewer.
Every other line on the pay table holds true for a five-coin wager, but the extra profit you get when you hit a royal flush is enough to make the best choice to always wager five coins.
If you don’t have enough money to wager five coins, you should either avoid playing or find a machine with a smaller coin size. You can find machines with good pay tables online that offer a coin size of a nickel, making a five-coin wager cost only 25 cents.
How Strategy Charts Are Developed
In a previous section, you learned how you can use your knowledge of the cards in the deck to determine the odds of improving your hand and how you can use the pay table to determine the proper play. The problem with this is that it requires a lot of math to figure everything out. This is where video poker strategy comes into play.
You don’t have to do the math to figure out the best play, because someone else has already put all of the information into a computer that ran all of the numbers. The people who did this created a strategy card that has all of the proper plays listed, no matter what cards you start with.
All of the popular variations of video poker have strategy cards. You should find a strategy card for every variation before you play. Start with a Jacks or Better strategy card.
Begin from the top of the card and read down until you find a hand that matches yours. Keep the cards listed and discard everything else. Ignore all of the hands listed on the card below yours. This is all you have to do when you play video poker.
Progressive Video Poker Math
Even when you know all of the odds and use a strategy card, almost every video poker game still has a house edge. What this means is that if you play long enough, you’re going to lose. While there have been a few video poker games you could beat over the years, the fact is that these opportunities don’t really exist anymore.
One exception to this rule is when you find a video poker machine with a progressive jackpot. These machines aren’t common, but there are a few available.
When you find a video poker machine with a progressive jackpot, do some research to find the best strategy and the house edge based on where the jackpot currently stands. Once you find out how high the jackpot needs to climb to turn the odds in your favor, all you have to do is watch the jackpot to see when you should start playing.
If you know how to find the best pay tables and use a strategy card, video poker machines offer some of the best odds in the casino. The information contained in the five video poker facts listed on this page is going to get you started on the right foot.
Now that you understand the method behind strategy cards, you can skip most of the difficult math and simply use a strategy card. Your bankroll will be happy that you did!