Video Poker Calculators and Tools for Every Player
The beauty of a game like video poker lies in its elegant design, as a simple deck of cards becomes a series of complex puzzles waiting to be solved.
And as they did with blackjack back in the 1960s, mathematicians turned gamblers - or perhaps gamblers turned mathematicians - have worked diligently to solve every last video poker puzzle that can possible be formed.
Due to the game's relative simplicity, dealing out five cards and allowing for a single drawing round, all video poker variants can be boiled down to pure probability. Expressed as a formula, this would look something like "if X is the combination of cards dealt, Y is the combination of cards held that provides the highest possible expected return."
In other words, every possible combination of five cards you can start with produces an optimal play - and when you hold the correct cards, you'll enjoy the best odds possible given the situation.
For video poker experts back in our day, the only way to learn the "answer" to every video poker "question" we could expect to face was by studying complicated data sets. With a grand total of 2,598,960 possible five card starting hands using a standard 52 card deck, the basic game of Jacks or Better alone could take years to properly master.
And don't get us started on the addition of jokers to the deck in Joker Poker, or turning 2s wild in Deuces Wild, because these variants only left us with a headache during our video poker tutelage.
Playing every hand perfectly once required years of hard work, memorization, and practice - and then the casinos decided to make things even more difficult. By introducing several pay tables to be used within the same variant - 9 / 6 Jacks or Better was widely replaced by the inferior 9 / 5 and 8/6 pay tables - casino managers and game designers threw a serious wrench into the works.
Now, not only did we need heavy math to play our cards properly, but also to crack the pay table code to see which versions offered the best expected return rate. Without running through these calculations beforehand, a trip to the video poker parlor could easily leave smart, experienced veterans of the game sacrificing several percentage points' worth of long term equity by playing inferior pay tables.
You can tinker with online calculator templates designed to replicate video poker pay tables, inputting the exact payouts any machine offers. With one click of your mouse, these calculators will spit back precise data on that particular pay table's expected return.
This allows the modern video poker player to compare dozens of competing pay tables within a matter of minutes, before choosing the option that provides the best possible odds.
Even more interesting, at least in our estimation, are the online video poker trainers designed to offer a full fledged simulation of the real thing. Using any number of popular formats, these trainers display five random cards which can be held or discarded per usual.
But unlike the casino machines that claim your cash after a bad play, these trainers immediately inform you whether your previous decision was correct or not. Firing up one of these video poker trainers, and seeing how many optimal plays in a row you can land, is an extremely effective way to challenge yourself to improve.
And improvement is the name of the game when it comes to sustained video poker success. Despite what many players claim, few of us play every hand we see perfectly, and the occasional lapse is bound to occur - especially for beginners. As long as you're realizing where those mistakes were made, and actively correcting them, you'll always be improving and expanding your video poker knowledge.
By taking advantage of the latest instructional tools out there, you'll develop a much firmer grasp of the game's intricacies - and at much faster pace. Indeed, players today have the unique ability to absorb lessons that once took years to acquire in a matter of weeks. This truly is a golden age for video poker teaching, so if you're looking to learn, take a look below to find our list of the most effective video poker calculators and tools ever designed.
Video Poker Trainer
Note: This site is only available to Non-US players.
When you hit the home page, the first thing you would see is a five card layout in the center of the screen. Above that were the control panels, where you could set the trainer to your preferred variant.
The trainer was set to Jacks or Better with the 9 / 6 full pay table by default, but you could toggle between 8 / 5 and 6 / 5 pay tables as well.
And if you were looking to expand beyond the basic Jacks or Better game, the trainer also worked for Aces and Eights, Bonus Poker, Double Bonus Poker, All American Poker, and Joker Poker. Each variant also came equipped with the standard full pay table, along with several lower paying setups that are commonly found in casinos today.
Once you'd selected your game of choice, and the pay table specifications, the third dropdown menu let you decide between Random Mode or Hard Mode. Both versions of the trainer served highly specific needs, so we'll run you through the ropes of each.
When playing on Random Mode, the trainer would deal out five cards on a purely random basis. From there, your job is to hold and discard per the usual procedures, before seeing how the hand turned out.
Interestingly, and quite effectively in our view, the trainer didn't correct your actions as you made them. Put another way, this game allowed you the freedom to make mistakes before providing you with correction. This is the best way to learn, because you'll be running through your instinctual thought process first, before learning why that approach is less productive than the optimal play.
Only when the drawing round is complete will the trainer begin to dispense its valuable data.
Let's imagine the trainer deals out the following five cards to start the hand:
With these five cards displayed, you might be leaning towards going for the gusto and holding the Kd and Jd for a royal flush draw. Or maybe you like the safer strategy of holding all four diamonds and shooting for a flush.
Let's make the "rookie" play and try for the royal flush, before seeing what the trainer has to say. In this case, we held the Kd and Jd while discarding three, before landing the Qc, 9s, and Qh to make one pair of queens.
That's a winner, but this trainer doesn't offer congratulations of any kind, only a screen that lights up in red while displaying the following message:
"Incorrect, you were dealt Jd-8d-5h-Kd-2d and held Jd-Kd for an expected return of 2.882.
Holding Jd-8d-Kd-2d would give a higher expected return of 6.383."
As you can see, our decision to hold the two royal diamonds created an expected return of 2.882 coins. We're max betting at five coins - which is what you should always be doing in every video poker session - so that play actually created an expected loss of just over 2 coins.
On the other hand, if we had kept the four diamonds and drawn to a basic flush, that play would've produced an expected return of 6.383 coins. That's more than twice the equity, while offering a slight expected profit of just over 1 coin to boot.
Using the Random Mode on this trainer is by far the best way to prepare yourself for the rigors of real video poker. The situations you see will be entirely randomized, just like at the casino, but here you'll be given a full mathematical appraisal of every decision you make. Before long, those red lit screens will be replaced by the green that signals a correct play, because you'll constantly be absorbing the approach to drawing decisions that produces positive equity.
Another amazing way to use this trainer comes from the Hard Mode feature, which replaces random hands with targeted teaching.
For the most part, many of the randomly generated five card hands you'll see will be straightforward. You'll be holding pairs and other pat hands, while chasing only the stronger draws. But every so often, the deck conspires to deliver a truly confounding combination of cards.
With something like a four card straight flush draw and a pair of jacks, knowing exactly which way to draw can be extremely difficult - even for expert players who have years of experience.
The trainer's Hard Mode makes sure that you're being fed a steady stream of these borderline hands, and your job - as it always is in video poker - is to solve the puzzle.
We just switched over to Hard Mode and immediately received this doozy of a starting hand:
Here we have four cards to a straight flush, but it's an "inside" or one card draw in this case. We also hold a pat pair of aces, so the decision essentially boils down to this: do you keep the guaranteed payout for one pair, or shoot for the moon and try to spike the perfect 5h?
Well, let's see what the trainer has to say, shall we?
We enjoy the thrill of the chase, so we decided to roll with the straight flush draw and gamble it up. And what do you know, the trainer spit back the coveted green screen with the following message attached:
"Correct, you were dealt 3h-Ad-2h-4h-Ah and held 3h-2h-4h-Ah for the highest expected return of 11.915."
As it turns out, trying to extract maximum value out of the rare straight flush draw is actually the better play, at least when compared to holding just one pair. This may have been intuitive for you, or perhaps you leaned toward the "safe" but incorrect play.
Whichever way your instinct told you to play the hand, the trainer will let you know immediately whether those instincts were correct. And soon enough, after putting in a few hours on this invaluable video poker training tool, they will be more often than not.
If you're anything like us, you're probably dying to know exactly how much more equity the straight flush held over the pair of aces. Well, we are too, but unfortunately when you land the correct play on this trainer, it only lets you know that your play did indeed offer the highest expected value. What's missing is the gap between that play and the second best option.
Fortunately, the Video Poker Trainer homepage contains a secondary Calculator page, which can be used to recreate hands in precise order. Once you've designed a sample hand, the calculator will display the best possible play up top, along with all other possible plays below.
This is a great way to check on scenarios like the example above, or simply to see how much better an optimal play happens to be when compared to the alternative.
We fired up the calculator and input the straight flush versus pair of aces example hand, which let us know that holding the two aces offered an expected return of 7.683 coins. That's decent, all things considered, but it can't come close to the 11.915 coins we'd expect to win by drawing to our gin card.
Between the trainer's dual mode setting, and the calculator accessory, this site provided unparalleled video poker instruction designed to take your game to the next level.
Wizard of Odds
The brainchild of legendary casino game analyst and designer Michael Shackleford, the Wizard of Odds gambling strategy platform ranks among the industry's most valuable resources.
As the Wizard, Shackleford tackles every conceivable casino game under the sun, spanning the spectrum from table games to slots, and indeed, video poker. His site's full video poker section is a marvel to behold, but we're particular drawn to the Pay Table Analyzer tool.
To begin, you'll select from a dropdown menu that is set to Standard Video Poker by default. Choosing that option and clicking the Continue button brings you to a second screen, and this time you'll stay with the default Jacks or Better option - unless you're trying to analyze another variant that is.
The appeal of the Wizard brand is Shackleford's commitment to thorough investigation, so you'll find several dozen variants on this second dropdown menu. Everything from widely played versions like Tens or Better and All American Poker can be found, along with obscure variants like Fives Wild and One Eyed Jacks.
We'll stick with Jacks or Better for this example, but sufficed to say, if you find a new video poker game anywhere in the world, chances are good Shackleford's analyzer already has it covered.
The third screen you'll see displays the pay table for your game of choice, and this will be set to max betting by default. You can toggle the coin denominations downward from 5 through 1 though, so feel free to play around.
The most important aspect of this analyzer is the payout entries next to each hand. These will be set to the game's full pay table by default, but the analyzer's aim is to provide players with expected return comparisons for any possible pay table adjustment.
Using the standard full pay table for Jacks or Better, and max betting at 5 coins, the payouts for a full house and flush are set at 45 and 30 coins, respectively. Remember, the full pay table for Jacks or Better is set at 9 / 6, so multiplying each payout by five for the coins in play gives us the corresponding 45 and 30 payouts.
Leaving these payouts intact, we can now click the Analyze button to see a wealth of data on this particular format of Jacks or Better. To get a better idea of the information that will be instantly at your disposal, check out the results we received for 9 / 6 full pay Jacks or Better:
|Four of a Kind||125||3,924,430,647||0.002363||423.27||1.361344||0.059064|
|Three of a Kind||15||123,666,922,527||0.074449||13.43||0.299155||0.223346|
|Jacks or Better||5||356,447,740,914||0.214585||4.66||0.000004||0.214585|
Now, we're no mathematical geniuses mind you, so we won't pretend to understand every revelation contained in these long strings of numbers.
With that said, it is interesting to learn that the odds of a landing a royal flush in Jacks or Better - either dealt or on the draw - stand at 40,391 to 1. Conversely, you have a 4.66 to 1 shot of making one pair of jacks or better.
Those nuggets of information are interesting, but the analyzer's true purpose can be found down in the lower right hand corner of the table. That figure of 0.995439 defines the expected return for this particular pay table, and all you need to do is slide the decimal place over two spots to the right to get the more familiar figure of 99.54 percent.
Most of us knew the baseline expected return for 9 / 6 full pay Jacks or Better, but this analyzer lets you compare any possible alternative pay table to see where you stand.
The 8/6 pay table hopes to confuse unsuspecting players, because it looks nearly identical to the 9 / 6 version at first glance, and it has become a staple along the Las Vegas Strip. By clicking the Back button on the analyzer - don't click Back on your browser or you'll be forced to start over - you can head back to the pay table screen and plug in the 40 and 30 payouts that result from an 8/6 scheme and max bets of 5 coins.
Let's see how this version of Jacks or Better compares to the original:
|Four of a Kind||125||3,924,430,647||0.002363||423.27||1.361344||0.059064|
|Three of a Kind||15||123,666,922,527||0.074449||13.43||0.299155||0.223344|
|Jacks or Better||5||356,447,740,914||0.214585||4.66||0.000004||0.214583|
It doesn't take a genius to see that the figure of 0.983927 found in the lower right hand corner has taken a hit.
After sliding that decimal place over two spots to the right, we get an expected return of 98.39 percent for the 8/6 pay table on a Jacks or Better machine. That's 1.15 percentage points worse than the 9 / 6 full pay version - a significant reduction in equity from a statistical perspective.
Now, we know you might be wondering why we need this analyzer at all - especially given the fact that most video poker resources already list variants by their various pay tables and associated expected returns.
That's a good question, but we have a better answer: flexibility.
With the advent of online casinos, most of which contain software to replicate all variants across the board, the video poker landscape is in flux like never before. The competing software designers - Microgaming, Real Time Gaming, Playtech, and the like - have all configured their own slightly different pay tables - and each one produces a unique expected return.
The Wizard pay table analyzer lets you plug in any possible pay table schematic to see exactly how these adjustments effect your expected return.
And even if you limit your play to the live arena only, brick and mortar casinos are continually adjusting their machines to respond to industry factors. This is why you'll seldom see a 9 / 6 full pay Jacks or Better machine anymore, and the positive expectation marvels known as full pay Deuces Wild machines are becoming increasingly endangered.
We can't expect the video poker world to remain static, and pay tables will inevitably be adjusted and downgraded as casinos try to cut costs. Our job as savvy players is to recognize this trend and respond in kind.
And with Shackleford's powerful Wizard pay table analyzer bookmarked in your browser, you'll always be capable of calculating exact expected return rates for any combination the casinos can throw at you.
The vpFREE2 platform isn't necessarily a specific tool to wield, but more a collection of useful resources all found under one umbrella.
One of our favorite resources is the site's Search page, which acts as an aggregator for player generated reviews.
By toggling through and selecting your variant of choice, your preferred coin denomination (or all to cover the gamut), and your region within North America - the Search function gives you the scoop on that particular game.
For example, if you wanted to find that elusive 100.76 percent expected return offered by full pay Deuces Wild machines, vpFREE2 has you covered. According to our search results, which were confined to Las Vegas for clarity, that positive expectation game can be found at quarter stakes within the Aliante Casino. And if you're unfamiliar with that particular property, a helpful user of the site even added directions to get you there without a hassle:
"Just inside entrance between slot club and Farm 24/7 Cafe."
And if you're not a fan of the Aliante Casino for whatever reason, don't fret, as the vpFREE2 search reveals 35 total listings for full pay Deuces Wild machines in Sin City.
The site's search function expands to several different regions as well, including the East, West, and Gulf Coasts, along with the Mid West, all of Nevada, Reno, Laughlin, and even online casinos.
A secondary search page for individual casinos allows you to map out the floor of any casino in North America. You'll know exactly which machines can be found in your favorite venue, right down to the variant and coin denominations.
Simply put, if you're trying to locate your favorite video poker machine anywhere on this great continent, the vpFREE2 site will find it for you in a flash.
Use these video poker calculators and tools to learn how to make the perfect play every time. They also help you win more and lose less. This can add up to a great deal of money over time.