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Video poker strategy

6 February 2014

By John Grochowski

No matter how dedicated the video poker player, it’s all but impossible to memorize the ins and outs of strategy for every game and every pay table. If you’re going to flip back and forth among Jacks or Better, Double Double Bonus Poker and Deuces Wild, you’re bound to make some mistakes.

It’s helpful to focus your play and practice time on a few games that you really like. And part of that focus should be on understanding game characteristics. Do you want a more volatile game that gives you the chance to win big but takes your money fast in the lean times? Would you prefer a more even-keel experience that keeps you in your seat for the long-haul, but with less potential for a day-making bonanza?

Let’s look at game characteristics of three of the most common video poker choices:

JACKS OR BETTER: This is one of the least volatile video poker games. If you’re looking for an even-keel experience that will keep you in your seat for a while, this is your game. The key is the 2-for-1 payoff on two pairs. On the full-pay 9-6 version, about 12.9 percent of all hands will result in two pairs, and those hands account for 25.9 percent of our overall return. That stretches your bankroll, while games that pay only 1-for-1 on two pairs, such as Double Bonus Poker or Double Double Bonus Poker, are wilder rides.

The flip side is that the only hand that’s going to leave you walking away feeling like you’ve won big is the royal flush, which comes up an average of once per 40,391 hands. The most common “big” hand is four of a kind, which comes up about once per 423 hands. In Jacks or Better, it’s a return of 25-for-1, or 125 coins for a five coin bet. That’s a nice payback, but not one that’s going to send you home feeling like you’ve won big.

On 9-6 Jacks, you get returns at least equal to your bet on 45.5 percent of hands, including returns of at least twice your bet on 24 percent.

DEUCES WILD: The full-pay version players loved for the first couple of decades of video poker popularity has waning availability even in Nevada, so let’s focus on the “Not So Ugly” version that pays 4-for-1 on four-of-a-kind and full houses, 3-for-1 on flushes, 2-for-1 on straights and 1-for-1 on three-of-a-kind. There are several versions that do that, but what sets NSU Deuces apart is that it raises the five-of-a-kind return to 16-for-1 and straight flushes to 9-for-1.

That secondary jackpot of 1,000 coins for a five-coin wager when you draw four 2s is what made this game popular. Fueling that secondary jackpot means the game has to be a little more volatile than Jacks or Better or Deuces Wild, but not enormously so.

In Not So Ugly Deuces, you get returns at least equal to your bet on 44.3 percent of hands, including returns of at least twice your bet on 17.6 percent. The percentage of hands where you get at least your bet back is not radically lower than JB or BP, but the payoff is larger than your bet on fewer hands, yielding a more volatile game.

DOUBLE DOUBLE BONUS POKER: The attraction here is souped up returns on four-of-a-kind. Four aces accompanied by a 2, 3 or 4 as the fifth card brings a 2,000-coin jackpot for five coins wagered, while four 2s, 3s or 4s with an ace, 2, 3 or 4 as the kicker brings 800. That aces-plus-kicker, half-a-royal pay has made Double Double Bonus one of the most played video poker games, even though its 9-6 full-pay version returns a little less overall than other full-pay games.

Other quads pay at least twice as much as on Jacks or Better. With no kickers, four aces return 800 coins for a five-coin bet and four 2s, 3s or 4s pay 400. All other four-of-a-kind hands pay 250 coins, so even if your quads are 5s through kings, there’s a $62.50 payoff to a quarter player vs. $31.25 in Jacks or Better.

In 9-6 Double Double Bonus Poker, you get returns at least equal to your bet on 44.7 percent of hands, and payoffs larger than your bet on 11.3 percent of hands.

In the end, you pay your money and you make your choice. Do you want the Jacks or Better experience, with lower bankroll requirements for a fighting chance to stay in action? Do you want the Double Double Bonus ups and downs, with the chance at big money? Or do you want something in between? Pick the game that suits your preferences and bankroll, and practice, practice, practice.

Look for John Grochowski at www.casinoanswerman.com, on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).

[Frank Scoblete's new book "Everything Casino Poker" has dozens of video poker machine strategies, some of which actually give the player the edge.)

This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at fscobe@optonline.net.

John Grochowski
John  Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field. Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago.

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