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Video Poker strategy & rules @ Online-Poker.com
 
There are three things you need to do in order to understand a video poker machine and grasp its value to you. These should be included as the underlying bedrock of your video poker strategy.

1.You must be able to read the pay tables and know which ones have the highest payback.
2.You must know the best video poker strategy for the machines you choose to play.
3.You must know the volatility of a particular machine - what effect it will have on your bankroll.

Based purely on the mechanics, playing video poker is simplicity itself. However, playing it well entails a bit more effort and that's where your video poker strategy comes into play. Online and casino video poker is one game where the house advantage is definitely affected by how much knowledge the player has. The two main skills involved (proper machine selection and knowing the proper strategy for the video poker machine you're playing) get complicated because video poker comes in a never-ending variety of games.

How do you navigate this sea of machines? First, lets look at them in the broadest terms: there are non-wild card games such as Jacks or Better and Double Bonus. Then there are wild card games such as Deuces Wild or Joker Wild. Within these two general types, there are many varieties. Payout schedule return rates may vary from below 90% to above 100%
The best place to begin honing your video poker strategy is with the machine that started the whole phenomenon: the Jacks or Better game. The Jacks or Better pays off for a pair of jacks or higher, which is particularly good for beginners because of its easily understandable strategy. Better yet, the best version of Jacks or Better has a 99.5% payback percentage when played with expert strategy. This means it has only a 0.5% house advantage. In other words, in the long run, you expect to lose only 50 cents of every $100 you play. This is one of the best bets in the casino.

While there are many factors to consider in developing your video poker strategy, they are far too numerous to detail here. We will leave you though with an important factor, and possibly the most important thing to look at when developing your strategy - the pay table. The pay table strips away the game's mystery; its basically a window into knowing whether the game is worth your money. An example of a pay table can be seen below, and unlike slot machines, the pay table isn't just there for us to "oohhh and aaah" over all the pretty payoffs - it can reveal how much a game pays back if played perfectly.

Here is the pay table for a standard Jacks or Better game:
Hand Frequency % Probability Payout Return
Royal Flush 1 in 40,390.55 0.002% 800* 1.98%
Straight Flush 1 in 9,148.37 0.011% 50 0.55%
Four of a kind 1 in 423.27 0.236% 25 5.91%
Full house 1 in 86.86 1.151% 9 10.36%
Flush 1 in 90.79 1.101% 6 6.61%
Straight 1 in 89.05 1.123% 4 4.49%
Three of a kind 1 in 13.43 7.445% 3 22.33%
Two Pair 1 in 7.74 12.928% 2 25.86%
Jacks or better 1 in 4.66 21.459% 1 21.46%
Nothing 1 in 1.83 54.543% 0 0.00%
*Royal flush payout is based on max coins (4,000 coins for 5 coins played). || Total return: 99.54%

To illustrate we can take a look at the wizard of odds and his strategy for jacks or better. The wizard actually outlines three different strategies, a basic, an intermediate and an advanced. Each correspond to increasingly attractive payout rates.

** from wizardofodds.com
The following strategy is my "simple strategy" for jacks or better video poker. Using the strategy on a full pay machine will result in an expected return of 99.46%. Compared to the optimal strategy return of 99.54%, mistakes in the simple strategy will cost 0.08%, or one total bet every 1178 hands.

To use the strategy look up all viable ways to play an initial hand on the following list and elect that which is highest on the list. A "high card" means a jack or higher.

Full house or better
4 to a royal flush
Straight, three of a kind, or flush
4 to a straight flush
Two pair
High pair
3 to a royal flush
4 to a flush
Low pair
4 to an outside straight
2 suited high cards
3 to a straight flush
2 unsuited high cards (if more than 2 pick then pick lowest 2)
Suited 10/J, 10/Q, or 10/K
One high card
Discard everything

Terms:
High card: A jack, queen, king, or ace. These cards are retained more often because if paired up they return the original bet.

Outside straight: An open ended straight that can be completed at either end, such as the cards 7,8,9,10.

Inside straight: A straight with a missing inside card, such as the cards 6,7,9,10. In addition A,2,3,4 and J,Q,K,A also count as inside straights because they are at an extreme end.

Example: Suppose you have the following hand.

video poker hand

The top three plays are (1) keep the low pair, (2) keep the 4 to a flush, and (3) keep the 2 suited high cards. The 4 to a flush is listed highest and is thus the best play, so discard the 3 of hearts.