Not everyone wants to learn an entire video poker strategy chart, and they might be embarrassed about using a physical video poker strategy card.
For those gamblers, I offer some hints and tips that will enable them to get closer to the optimal payback percentage for Jacks or Better and Deuces Wild.
These tips won’t supplant the full strategies, but they’re better than nothing.
Video poker strategy can be as complicated as you want, but it can also be pretty simple. If you’re more interested in simplicity and practical applications, I can offer you the following tips and tricks for Jacks or Better. These tips should get you ahead of most novice gamblers who aren’t using strategy charts.
Never keep a kicker. A kicker is an extra high card that you hold onto when you have a pair. For example, if you have a pair of jacks with an ace, you might be tempted to hold onto the ace. But this is the wrong strategy in video poker.
In traditional poker, having that ace as your kicker will enable you to beat another player with a pair of jacks. That’s unnecessary in video poker. In fact, it just eliminates one potential way of improving your hand to 3 of a kind, a full house, or 4 of a kind.
Never keep just 3 cards to a straight or 3 cards to a flush. You’ll sometimes keep 3 cards to a straight flush, but it’s too hard to make your hand for such a low payout as you’d get with a straight or a flush.
Let the machine deal you a winner. Most of the time, you’ll keep a pat hand. One of the big exceptions is when you have 4 cards to a royal flush – it’s always correct to draw when you have 4 to a royal flush, because that’s your jackpot hand. The payout is big enough to make up for the fact that you’ll usually miss your hand.
You have a shot at pairing 3 or 4 different cards and getting a push, so it’s worth it to go for it here.
Also, JQKA is an inside straight, too, because you need a 10 to fill your straight. (There’s nothing higher than the ace to open up the other end of the straight draw.)
If you use a strategy chart, don’t second-guess it. Just because a move doesn’t make intuitive sense to you doesn’t imply that it’s the wrong move.
Deuces Wild can be easier than Jacks or Better once you realize a few things:
There are no high cards in Deuces Wild. You’ll never hold a single card in Deuces Wild unless it’s a deuce. Just look at the paytable for the game. High cards don’t make a difference in the payouts until you start looking at the royal flush, which is a longshot when you just have one card to it.
You’ll never discard a deuce no matter what. Deuces are the name of the game, and any strategy where you discard a deuce is incorrect. Always hold onto any deuces you get.
Some beginners will discard a deuce to try to hit the natural royal flush. That’s a mistake.
You’ll also never hold a deuce with just one other card. If you have one deuce, you’ll never hold just one card with it. You’ll need 2 or more cards working with it to make something worth holding. Again, this is because there’s no such thing as a high card in Deuces Wild.
4 cards to a straight and 4 cards to a flush aren’t as good as a pair. Because of the deuces being wild, you should hold onto a pair before drawing to a straight or a flush. The payouts are big on the 4 of a kind, so you should be trying to hit that 4 of a kind as often as possible.
You’ll never hold onto 2 pairs, either. You’ll always throw away one of the pairs – and it doesn’t matter which one it is, either, as there’s no such things as high cards in Deuces Wild.
Try to find Deuces Wild games which pay off at 5 for 1 for a 4 of a kind. It’s the most important hand in the game. You might have a hard time finding this, but under no circumstances accept a game with less than 4 for 1 for 4 of a kind.
You should be seeing a 4 of a kind once every 15 hands or so. This means that an average player on a Deuces Wild machine should see 40 hands per hour with a 4 of a kind, making Deuces Wild a lot of fun.
Regardless of how good your strategy is, volatility is going to have an effect on your games. Even if you find a game with a positive total return, you’re going to lose more often than you win.
These short-term fluctuations are true of any gambling game, regardless of your edge or the house’s edge. A game’s volatility is just a mathematical way of measuring the swings in fortune that you can expect from that game.
The first concept to understand related to volatility is hit frequency. That’s just a way to measure how often you’ll see a hand that’s a winner of some kind. In most video poker games, the hit frequency runs around 45%, which means you’ll see a winning hand almost half the time.
The higher the hit frequency is for a game, the lower the volatility tends to be.
The other factor that affects a game’s volatility is how much the rare hands pay off at compared to the relatively common hands pay out.
Deuces Wild is more volatile than Jacks or Better, for example. 6% of the overall return for the game comes from 2 hands – the royal flush and the 4 deuces hands.
You’ll only see a royal flush once in every 45,000 hands in Deuces Wild. That’s going to take over 90 hours of play, on average. And it could take longer.
You’ll only see 4 deuces once in every 5000 hands or so, which means that you’ll only see that hand once in every 10 hours of play.
While you’re waiting for those hands to hit, you’re going to see a 94% payback percentage on the other hands. The difference is made up from those big, rare payouts.
This is confusing for some folks who don’t understand the difference between volatility and house edge. You’d think that when you’re playing a game with a low house edge you’d be close to even most of the time, but that’s just not the case.
In fact, the video poker games with the highest payback percentages almost always have the highest volatilities, too. This means that to achieve the eventual long-term payback percentage you’re hoping for, you need a big enough bankroll to weather the hours and hours of not hitting the big hands.
And even lower volatility games like Jacks or Better can frustrate the average player. 2% of your return in Jacks or Better comes from the royal flush, which only shows up once out of every 40,000 hands on average.
Your payback percentage, while you’re waiting to hit that royal flush, is only 97.5%, which means you’re losing more money than you probably expect while you’re waiting to hit your royal flush.
Video poker doesn’t have to be hard, and neither does the strategy for video poker. The problem is that the simpler your strategy becomes, the less accurate it becomes. This is okay for the recreational gambler.
But the other thing to remember is that video poker is a random game with a high degree of volatility. Once you understand that concept, you’ll understand why you seem to be losing so much for so long before hitting the occasional big win.
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