Most players know that different video poker games mean different playing strategies. Jacks or better is quite different from double-double bonus so it is easy to see a different playing strategy is required.

What many video poker players may not know is even a minor change to a game’s pay table can cause changes to the playing strategy.

This article reviews some strategy changes caused by changing the pay table.

Contents

1. Playing strategy defined

Playing strategy is simply a planned method of playing video poker. Formal playing strategies are designed to return the maximum overall return from play. They are simply a list of cards to save based on which cards are dealt.

2. Jacks or better playing strategies

Let’s look at an example of strategy for jacks or better. There are two generally available pay tables for jacks or better

  • The first is the “full pay” table paying 9-for-1 for a full house and 6-for-1 for a flush. This game returns 99.54% with perfect play.
     
  • The second pay table pays 8-for-1 for a full house and 5-for-1 for a flush. As the availability of the full pay game waned, the 8/5 pay table became more popular. This is probably the most common jacks or better pay table in casinos today. This version returns 96.14% with perfect play.

Consider the following initially dealt hand:

Ace of clubs, King of diamonds, Queen of spades, Jack of spades, and 3 of hearts – or more cryptically Ac-Kd-Qs-Js-3h.

Notice that this hand has the possibility of a royal flush, a full house, a flush and a straight, as well as high pairs and three or four of a kind. In the most common jacks or better pay table today, both the full house and the flush pays are reduced by one credit from the full pay version (8/5 versus 9/6 for full pay).

Will this impact the proper hold for the sample hand? Let us see.

The two top holds for both pay tables are:

  • Ac-Kd-Qs-Js
  • Qs-Js

For the full pay (9/6) game the returns are:

  • Ac-Kd-Qs-Js: 2.9787 credits for five credits played
  • Qs-Js: 3.0019 credits for five credits played

For the 8/5 version the returns are:

  • Ac-Kd-Qs-Js: 2.9787 credits for five credits played
  • Qs-Js: 2.9463 credits for five credits played

The first hold (Ac-Kd-Qs-Js) returns the same in either game because none of the possible final hands is a full house or flush. 

Video Poker

The second hold, however, has several possibilities for a full house or flush. Because of the reduced payouts for these two hands, holding the Qs-Js is the proper hold in the full pay game, but the four card straight (Ac-Kd-Qs-Js) is the proper hold for the 8/5 version.

3. Double-double bonus playing strategies

Now let’s look at the double-double bonus game. Two different pay tables are generally available.

  • One pays 9-for-1 for a full house, and 6-for-1 for a flush. This game returns 98.98%.
  • The other pays 8-for-1 for a full house and 5-for-1 for a flush. This game returns 96.78%.

Consider this dealt hand:

Jd-Jc-Kc-Qc-4h

This hand has two obvious holds – the two jacks (Jd Jc) or the straight flush/royal flush hold of the king, queen and jack of clubs (Jc-Kc-Qc).

How do these two holds perform on the two pay tables?

9/6 pay table returns:

  • Jd-Jc           7.2323 credits for five credits played
  • Jc-Kc-Qc     7.3451 credits for five credits played

8/5 pay table returns:

  • Jd-Jc           7.1795 credits for five credits played
  • Jc-Kc-Qc     7.1462 credits for five credits played

Once again, the reduction of pays for the full house and flush impact the hold. The proper hold for the 9/6 game is the Jc-Kc-Qc, However, the proper hold for the 8/5 game is the Jd-Jc.

4. How to determine and play the proper strategy

As this article has demonstrated, playing strategy can change between different games. It can also change if the pay table changes. 

Video poker players must make sure to verify the pay table as well as the game in order to play the proper strategy.

While there are video poker strategy cards available at gambling stores and in casino gift shops, they usually only are good for one pay table.

In order to make sure the strategy used is proper for both the game and pay table, a video poker strategy app should be used.

Some of the apps available today have both practice play and strategy chart generation features. Look for these online and use them to both practice and generate a strategy chart for use in the casino.

5. Summary 

  • Most video poker players know the playing strategy for different games is different. 
  • Some may not know that the playing strategy also can change if the pay table changes. Two examples of changed strategies are presented.
  • In order to make sure you have the proper playing strategy, purchase a video poker strategy app or a practice app that has strategy generation included.
About the Author
By

Jerry “Stickman” has been involved in casino gambling for nearly 30 years. He is an expert in blackjack, craps, video poker and advantage slot machine play. He started playing blackjack in the late ‘80s, learned several card counting systems and used these skills to become an advantage blackjack player and overall winner of this game. He also acquired the skills necessary to become an overall winner in the game of craps, accomplishing this by a combination of throwing skill and proper betting techniques. Stich is also an overall winner playing video poker.