2nd Chance Royal Video Poker

2nd Chance Royal Video Poker

Does this scenario sound familiar to you?

Remember when you were a child and learning a new game, maybe a card game. Your turn came and, not understanding the rules of the game, you made a bad play. Upon realizing the consequences of your bad choice you ask for a second chance to play again.

"But that isn't how the game is played", Mom and Dad might tell you.

And so you begged: "Please, please, PLEASE let me take my turn again! I promise I won't ask again!"

And, of course, after they give in and let you go again, your second chance turn works out no better. It would be about this point the parents realized that bed time was coming on.

But we're all adults now, and so who would be interested in a second chance?

Just in case you are, IGT developed a 2nd Chance Royal Video Poker game in 2006. The game debuted in casinos in 2010.

2nd Chance Royal Video Poker Basics

Here is a VP game that lets you draw a second time if you don't like the results of your first draw. It costs you nothing. This is a true second chance game. But it's video poker, and it's video poker run by a casino for profit.

There must be a catch, right?

The catch is found in 3 places:

  • 1The pay table
  • 2The condition for a second draw
  • 3The betting requirements

To be eligible for a second chance draw you must make the maximum 5 coin wager. If you bet 3 coins, you get no second chance. If you bet 1 coin, you get no second chance.

The odds work better for the house if you bet anything less than 5 coins per hand. Of course, this is true for most video poker games, but the increase in the house edge is more apparent in 2nd Chance Royal.

You can only draw again, however, if you have 4 to a royal flush after your first draw. That seems like a pretty sweet deal.

But if you have 4 to a full house after your first draw, you're stuck with three of a kind.

The pay table adjusts the return to player to cover the improved chance (about 1.5%) of a player drawing a royal flush. The most obvious change is that you only win 200 times your bet instead of 800 as on the first draw.

Remember, the second chance draw is not costing you anything. It just doesn't pay as well as winning on the first draw. All other prizes paid on the second draw are paid the same as if they were won on the first draw.

How Video Poker Games Are Played

Unlike the games played in the poker rooms, video poker is you against the casino. There are no other players involved, and the casino is an active player (in the form of the game). And though this may sound like a slot game, video poker requires that you take an active role in the game. You must choose which cards to hold based on what you are dealt. Hence, there is also an element of skill involved. That is why video poker appeals to millions of gamblers who want some challenge.

On the other hand, video poker is considered a "transparent" game because you know everything that is involved in determining the probabilities of a player winning a game. All types of video poker replicate a form of the game that is played with a standard 52 card deck (plus an optional joker in some games). If a game only uses high cards, it still only uses as many high cards as are found in a normal deck.

Every hand is dealt from a fresh shuffle, as well. Calculating the probabilities of being dealt any given hand is straightforward enough. The fresh shuffle per hand rule ensures that card counting won't help the player. Eliminating card counting makes the game more accessible without undermining the challenge for players.

The expected return to player is typically high, ranging from 96% to 101%. If you favor games with a 98-99% estimated return to player you'll be doing about as well as blackjack and better than most slot games.

After you make your wager, the game deals you five cards. Based on what you're dealt, you choose how many cards to hold by clicking on them or touching the screen over each hold card.

The game then deals you new cards to replace the ones you don't want to hold.

At this point most video poker games are over and you are paid per what is in your hand.

But in 2nd Chance Royal if you have four cards to a royal flush you can draw again.

The second chance draw is simply added to a standard video poker game, creating a new variation on that game.

Here's an Example

You can play Jacks or Better or you can play Jacks or Better - 2nd Chance Royal. The pay table is adjusted to compensate for the player's improved chance of winning a royal flush.

How Does 2nd Chance Royal Video Poker Affect Payback Percentage?

As noted above, the pay tables for the 2nd chance variations on these video poker games must be adjusted to allow for the player's improved odds on the royal flush. Since the player is more likely to win a royal flush, the game must pay for that prize from the wagers made by players over time. The 2nd chance royal earns a lower prize, but everything else looks the same.

The pay table is a little bit misleading because it incentivizes the player to take a greater risk.

Let's look at 2 hands in 7/5 Jacks or Better:

The game is called "7/5" because it pays 7 times your bet for a full house and 5 times your bet for a flush.

The 2 hands we want to look at are the straight and the flush.

If you are holding either a straight or flush after your first draw - but you also have four to a royal flush - you have the choice of drawing again. If you finish with a royal flush you win 200 times your wager (as noted above).

But what happens if you finish with a less valuable winning hand?

The game pays you for both the original winning hand that you sacrificed and your new winning hand. So if you started with a straight flush (which pays 50X bet) and finished with a straight flush, you are paid 100X your bet.

That sounds fair, doesn't it?

But that will never happen.

It's impossible to discard from a straight flush and finish with a straight flush on the second draw. You also have an extremely low probability of going from a straight flush to a royal flush, and it's so low experts equate that chance with a 0 probability. You have a realistic chance to go from a straight flush to a flush, though, and you will be paid 55X your bet (combining the prizes for both hands).

But here's the catch: according to gambling math expert Michael Shackelford, the probability of finishing with a flush after drawing a straight flush is 0.000003. In normal 7/5 Jacks or Better your probability of finishing with a straight flush after the first draw is 0.000089.

And your probability of finishing with a flush after the first draw is 0.010730.

In other words, the game is not risking much on the casino's behalf. That is how ALL the second chance winning hand prizes are paid. When you go for the second draw, you change the probabilities of finishing with a win of equal or better value than what you had after the first draw.

Don't worry too much about the changes in probabilities, however. No one would ever go for the second draw if the game was truly so stingy. This is just an adjustment in the distribution of winning hands based on the normal probabilities of playing with a single deck of cards. That is why the game is so generous with most of the second chance prizes. The reward is gauged to match the risk.

If you sacrifice a straight flush and win a royal flush you'll be paid 250 times your bet (the prize for a straight flush plus the prize for a second chance royal flush). If you finish with nothing you are still paid the original prize.

In a nutshell, you have the choice of playing a normal 7/5 Jacks or Better game with all the standard odds OR you can play a second chance game where the odds diminish but the payoffs improve over what you would have sacrificed.

When Shackelford added up all the percentages and probabilities he found that the expected return to player was about the same. In fact, on the 7/5 Jacks or Better model he found a slightly better return to player.

What the Pay Table for 2nd Chance Video Poker Looks Like

Here's a normal pay table for 7/5 Jacks or Better. This is just an illustrative example. The second chance option can be added to many different types of video poker games and their pay tables may look different from this.

Royal flush 800 1600 2400 3200 4000
Straight flush 50 100 150 200 250
Four of a kind 25 50 75 100 125
Full house 7 14 21 28 35
Flush 5 10 15 20 25
Straight 4 8 12 16 20
Three of a kind 3 6 9 12 15
Two pair 2 4 6 8 10
Pair 1 2 3 4 5

Since you can only play the second chance draw if you bet 5 coins, the only difference is that you win 1000 for a royal flush plus your sacrifice win (1250 max for straight flush to royal flush).

Otherwise you simply add the two prizes together (sacrificed prize + final prize).

You are still paid for your original winning hand if you end up with nothing on the second draw.

2nd Chance Video Poker Strategy Tips

There is no strategy that will help you draw a better card.

You have three options to choose from:

  • 1Only play the basic game, never taking a second chance draw when you have a winning hand
  • 2Always go for the second chance royal flush regardless of what you are holding.

Your chances of finishing with a win will be best with option number 1 but you will win more large prizes with option 2. Because the game pays you the original prize you would have won even if you end up with nothing on a second draw, there is no reason NOT to take the second chance when it's available. Hence, there is no strategic advantage to option 1.


There are 2 ways to look at 2nd Chance Royal Video Poker:

It's either a more challenging way to play poker because no one likes to finish with nothing in their hand, or it's a better way to play than the basic game.

The "you can't lose" mentality of the second chance game appeals to gamblers who like to take more aggressive risks. When you are playing a game like this, "why not" makes sense, which is counterintuitive to all the standard arguments against games of chance. You are wagering on an unknown, unknowable, and unlikely outcome when you gamble.

But with a second chance game you risk nothing further than your original wager and you could win more than if you simply hold your cards.

What may be most surprising about 2nd Chance Video Poker is that no one thought to put together a game like this prior to 2006. The players who love this game know they are getting something for nothing. The casinos still keep an edge and what they hope to gain from offering a second chance game is to keep the players playing.

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