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The General Principles of Video Poker Play

April 15, 2013

There are tons of different types of video poker out there, and mathematically correct strategies have been proven using computer analysis for many of them. However, not everyone has the time to sit around and memorize charts when they want to play video poker. Some people just enjoy playing and want to maximize their chances of having a good session while minimizing their chances of having to go through hours and hours of boring practice runs. By playing according to certain principles, you can boost your chances of winning without having to bore yourself to death with time spent studying.

The first principle that you have to understand is that you aren't always trying to make the big hand. Instead, you're trying to choose the discard combination that will maximize the amount of money you make on average. For example, suppose you are dealt ace-king-jack-seven-five in Jacks or Better video poker with no chances for a flush draw. A lot of people would default to drawing to the ace and the king while discarding the jack, seven and five. However, the correct strategy is to keep the king and the jack while getting rid of the other three cards. While it seems anti-intuitive to ditch the ace, remember that a pair of aces is no better than a pair of jacks when it comes to the payout table. On top of that, a combo of king-jack makes more possible straights than the ace-king combination, so you make more money that way.

Another principle is that you don't keep high kickers with low pairs in most games. If you were playing five-card draw poker against other people, it might be a good idea to keep an ace kicker with your pair of fours. However, when you're playing against the house with a standard paytable, keeping that ace actually hurts your profitability. The key here is that any two pair will get you the same payout, so it doesn't matter what your third card is.

Finally, you need to remember to always bet the maximum on each hand. If you aren't comfortable betting that much, find a game with smaller coin values. The reason it's so important to bet the most you can is that the royal flush payout is much higher. While you won't hit the royal flush payout all that often, it's important to get the maximum payout possible the few times you do.