If you like your video poker simpler than it already is, Pick ‘em Poker video poker stands out as a game that you might seriously enjoy. It plays a little differently than common video poker by eliminating the need to discard cards from a five-card deal. Instead, you only have to pick one out of two cards which you feel will improve your hand the most.
One of the main reasons that people love video poker is its simplicity. If you have just a little bit of a background on the kind of Five-Card Draw poker that you might play at home, you can play video poker with little trouble either in casinos or on top gambling websites. And even if you don’t, you can still learn the game by playing just a few hands and getting a rhythm for basic gameplay.
If you’ve ever played video poker, you know that you have a little bit of control over your winning or losing each particular hand. That is because of the so-called “draw” round. After being dealt five cards, you have the chance to discard the ones that aren’t useful to you and then have them replaced with other cards from the deck in an attempt to make the most lucrative hand.
Yet making the right choice among the possibilities that you have can be a bit confusing. That is because the right mathematical play isn’t always obvious when there are the seeds of several potential winning hands in the deal. If you constantly make the wrong choice, you will end up hurting your chances of winning big at the game.
Pick ‘em Poker video poker acts as a remedy for this situation. Sometimes called Pick a Pair video poker, the game allows you to see the first two cards of your five-card hand. From there, you are given the choice of one of two hands you can add to the deal.
That is the only decision that you have to make. After you make that choice, the machine will deal out the final two cards, and the hand is complete. There is no draw round that you have to worry about with Pick ‘em Poker video poker.
As you might expect considering the lack of a draw round, it’s a bit more difficult to make certain winning hands playing Pick ‘em Poker, at least compared to regular video poker. Luckily, the pay tables for the game compensate by being a bit more lenient in how they pay those winning hands. Combining that with the easier strategy makes the game an interesting and exciting spin on video poker for those who try it out.
In the following article, we’ll take a look at the gameplay for Pick ‘em Poker video poker and compare it to other forms of video poker. We’ll also talk about the pay tables for the game and how those pay tables help to determine the payback percentages. Finally, we’ll talk about how you can learn strategy for the game and go over all of the game’s specific advantages and disadvantages.
Reasons to Play Pick ‘em Poker Video Poker
Although Pick ‘em Poker video poker is a variation of video poker, it’s played a little bit differently than most versions of the game. Yet it shares many characteristics with common forms of video poker. And those characteristics help to make video poker one of the more player-friendly games that you can find in a casino or on a gambling website.
What do you get from games like Pick ‘em Poker video poker? Well, for starters, they are easy to play. Within a few minutes, you can be up and running and playing for real money.
In addition, you don’t need anyone else to be involved. No dealers or casino employees or obtrusive patrons will get in your way while playing the game. As a matter of fact, you can play at your own pace and relax while playing video poker as if you were playing a slot machine.
Video poker improves upon slot machines in that the machines allow you to have some control over the outcome. With slot machines, you just have to hope your spin comes up a winner, and you really can’t do anything to help your chances. Video poker allows you to make decisions that will have an impact on your chances of winning or losing.
More than that, video poker allows the probabilities of making winning hands to govern your chances of winning. These probabilities never change. All you have to do is combine them with the payouts for winning hands and you can have a reasonable expectation of how well a machine is going to pay off over time.
Slot machines have no probabilities, and they generally pay off lower than video poker games anyway. In fact, the most lucrative video poker games, including Pick ‘em Poker video poker, pay off on the same level or even higher than table games that can be found at a casino or online.
With all of that in mind, it’s understandable that you want to know how to play Pick ‘em Poker video poker. But first, as we said, it’s a good idea to understand how it compares to basic video poker gameplay.
Playing Basic Video Poker
Here is the step-by-step process for playing basic video poker variations like Jacks or Better or Bonus video poker. Knowing this will help you compare and contrast with Pick ‘em Poker video poker. This way you can see how that game might be more or less to your liking.
Step 1: Bankroll
You need to put money into your video poker machine to play it and possibly win money in return. Some machines come with a denomination attached to them, while others let you choose.
Your bankroll will be broken down into units of this denomination, otherwise known as coins or credits. For example, if you are at a 25-cent machine and put in $10, you will receive 40 credits to play with.
Step 2: Bet
You have the opportunity to bet between one and five credits on most video poker machines. It’s always advised that you bet five credits, also known as the max bet. This is because most video poker games offer a much higher proportioned payout for the royal flush, the rarest and richest hand in the game, for five coins played than they do for one through four coins played.
Step 3: Deal
You are dealt five cards, which come from a simulated deck of 52 cards that is the digital equivalent of the 52-card decks you use at home. The hope is that the cards you are dealt will either comprise a winning hand, as determined by the game’s pay table, or at least something close to it. Luckily, you’ll have one chance to improve your initial deal.
Step 4: Draw
You will choose which of your five cards you wish to keep (if any) and which you would like to discard (if any). These choices will be based on your probabilities of making a winning hand using the remaining cards in the deck. For each card that you discard, you will be given one from the remaining 47 cards in the simulated deck to fill out your hand.
Step 5: Finish
After the draw, the hand is complete and you will be awarded credits if it was a winning one. You can continue to play as long as there are credits remaining in the machine. Alternatively, you can cash out and receive a ticket which can be used for other games in the casino or redeemed for cash.
Playing Pick ‘em Poker Video Poker
Now that you know how to play basic video poker, you’re ready to see the difference between that and Pick ‘em Poker video poker. Here is the step-by-step process for Pick ‘em or Pick a Pair. The two games, although differently named, are played exactly the same.
Step 1: Bankroll
This is the same as the instructions above for basic video poker. Keep in mind that, if you’re playing the game online, you will need to fund an account before you can begin playing.
Step 2: Bet
Again, there are no changes here. And since there is also the increased payout for five coins not only on the royal flush but also on the straight flush when you play Pick ‘em Poker video poker, the advice to always play the max bet becomes even more important to your chances of winning.
Step 3: Deal
Here is where things start to get a little different when you are playing Pick ‘em Poker video poker. You will only see two cards face up on the screen. These two cards will definitely be a part of your final hand.
There is no way to discard these two cards and improve upon them. But they will help you make your choice in the next stage of the process. For this example, let’s say that these are the two cards that are in your hand to start:
This is a promising start, but with three cards still to fill out the hand, anything can happen.
Step 4: Pick
This is the one moment where you have a chance to affect the outcome of a hand of Pick ‘em Poker video poker. You’ll be deciding between one of two cards which you can add to your two-card hand. Once you make the decision and hit the button to hold the corresponding card, there is no turning back.
Let’s say that you have the choice between the following two cards:
Ace of Hearts or King of Spades
This is a tough decision based on what you already have. On the one hand, the Ace of Hearts would give you three out of the five cards needed for a royal flush, the most lucrative hand in the game. Yet on the other hand, the king of spades gives you a pair.
Since a pair of nines or better is all it takes to get paid when playing Pick ‘em Poker video poker, you are already a winner if you hold on to the king of spades. And, of course, you can improve that hand with the remaining two cards to possibly two pair, three of a kind, a full house, or even four of a kind.
This hand is typical of the kinds of choices with which you will be presented when playing this game. Do you go for broke and try for the royal flush, or do you play it a bit safer with the pair?
Let’s say that you choose the latter and move on in your hand with the king of spades as the third card. Just to recap, at this point you now have:
You need two cards to complete the hand. Once you make your decision, the machine will deal out those two cards out of the 48 remaining in the deck. You’ll notice we said 48 in this case, as you have already seen four cards and none of those can be dealt to you at this point.
Imagine that you receive the following two cards to complete the hand:
You ended up with two pair. At this point, you would be paid depending on what the pay table has designated. (In the case of Pick ‘em Poker video poker, the payoff for two pair is generally 3 to 1, so you would receive three coins for every coin that you wagered.)
Step 5: Finish
No difference here than from regular video poker. You can either keep playing or cash in your remaining credits.
Note that there is no draw round in Pick ‘em Poker video poker. That makes it more difficult to score winning hands than is the case with regular video poker. When we get to the section on pay tables, you’ll see how the machine compensates you for this difficulty.
The choice that we gave you on that example hand was actually a tough one. In most cases, the choice between the two cards in Pick ‘em Poker video poker is one that even a novice video poker player will be able to make without too much thought.
That contrasts with normal video poker where you have five different cards to study and many more different possibilities in terms of the cards that you can hold and those that you can discard. For that reason, Pick ‘em Poker video poker is a bit less taxing on your thought process while playing.
In addition, Pick ‘em Poker is generally a much faster-paced game. Remember that you are only hitting a single button to get through each hand. Compare that to regular video poker, where you are hitting multiple buttons on a large percentage of the hands to hold on to multiple cards.
You might not think of that as too much of a difference, but it adds up over time, to the point where you can normally play many more hands per hour of Pick ‘em Poker video poker than you can of regular video poker.
That allows you to churn through your wagering money faster and potentially earn rewards from the casino at a higher rate because of it. That is something that sharp casino-goers realize is a very important benefit.
Pay Tables for Pick ‘em Poker Video Poker
As we mentioned above, you can’t get too concerned about the fact that it’s harder to make winning hands with Pick ‘em Poker video poker. That’s because the pay table will demonstrate that this is still a worthy video poker option. A pay table is a chart that lists the amount of payout you will get for each winning hand based on how many coins that you play.
The pay table is a crucial piece of information for video poker players. Slot machines have pay tables as well, but there is no telling how often you might receive a winning spin on a slot machine.
By contrast, the probabilities of a 52-card playing deck will dictate to you roughly how often you’ll get to see certain winning hands come up during video poker gameplay. Knowing how much these winning hands pay off will help determine your strategy when it comes to choosing between cards.
The same is true for Pick ‘em Poker video poker. Let’s take a look at the highest-paying pay table that you might encounter when you come across this variation of video poker. Because it’s the most lucrative pay table you can find, it’s often called the “full-pay” version of the game.
Full-Pay Pick ‘em Poker Video Poker Pay Table
Four of a kind
Three of a kind
Nines or better
First let’s talk about how to read this pay table. Simply follow the row for the winning hand over to the column for the number of coins played.
For example, a four of a kind achieved with five coins wagered pays off 600 coins. That total includes the original five-coin wager. Hence, your profit on the hand would be 595 coins.
A couple of things should stand out immediately regarding this pay table. First of all, you’ll notice how the pay ratio jumps for both the royal flush and the straight flush when you move from four to five coins. That is the prime reason why, as we mentioned above, you should really try to play a maximum five coins every single hand.
You might think you can get away with playing less coins so that you can save money. But if you’re lucky enough to hit one of those hands, you’ll likely be very disappointed with the discount for not playing the maximum. If you find that betting five coins is too expensive, it’s actually better to move to a cheaper machine instead of short-changing yourself.
You also might notice what seems like an odd payout for the straight flush hand with five coins wagered. The reason the payout is 1,199 coins has to do with taxes.
If you were playing a dollar machine and won 1,200 coins, you would have to claim the winnings, which is a hassle that many gamblers don’t want to endure. By keeping the payout at 1,199, the player need not claim the winnings and therefore enjoys a better profit.
Besides that, you might have a hard time figuring out why the pay table is anything special. For contrast, let’s show you the pay table for the video poker game known as Jacks or Better.
Jacks or Better is the most common form of basic video poker machine. It can be found most anywhere there are video poker machines, and it’s easily located online. The pay table listed below is the full-pay table for Jacks or Better
Full Pay Jacks or Better Pay Table
Four of a kind
Three of a kind
Jacks or better
What you’ll notice is that the payout for every winning hand on the Pick ‘em Poker video poker is considerably higher than on the Jacks or Better table. You’ll also notice that the cutoff for a winning hand on the Pick’ em Poker table is anything higher than a pair of nines, instead of the pair of jacks for Jacks or Better.
When playing Pick ‘em Poker video poker, you will have fewer winning hands. But the payout for them is high enough that you will actually make more playing this game, over the long haul, than playing Jacks or Better.
How do we know that? That’s where the payback percentages come into play.
Pick ‘em Poker Video Poker Payback Percentages
What is a payback percentage? It’s a number that is arrived at by considering both the probabilities of making winning hands and the payouts for those winning hands. Each machine’s payback percentage tends to be unique, allowing you to judge whether or not it’s a profitable game for you to play, at least compared to others of its kind.
The full-pay version of Pick ‘em Poker video poker, for which we listed the pay table above, has a payback percentage that sits at 99.95%. If you round that up, it’s an even 100%. And that makes it an excellent choice among video poker machines.
To understand it better, imagine that you put $10,000 into a Pick ‘em Poker video poker machine. Based on the payback percentage, you could respect to walk away from the machine with, on average, $9,995 left in your account when all of your original bankroll has been played. That is a minimal $5 loss.
Keep in mind that this is only an average amount. If you play a short session, your results might be drastically different. That’s because luck comes into play more when you only play the game for a short time.
But if you played the machine consistently, over a long period of time, eventually your payback percentage would come in at around 99.95%. Normally, anything over 99% is considered excellent for video poker. By contrast, the full-pay version of Jacks or Better comes in a little lower at 99.54%.
You might wonder whether it’s worth it to play a game where you can barely break even over the long haul. Don’t forget about the fact that you will earn VIP rewards from the casino the more that you play that will put you in the black. Along the same lines, an online casino will probably offer you a percentage of your initial deposit to be played for free.
With all that in mind, you can see why Pick ‘em Poker video poker is a solid choice. But you have to be wary of the fact that this pay table is not the only one for the game. It’s actually the most lucrative, meaning that the payback percentages will slightly drop from there with other pay tables that you locate.
How much will they drop? Well, there are some Pick ‘em Poker games that you might come upon with paybacks in the neighborhood of only 96%. That is a significant drop-off, and one that will affect your bottom line, possibly even if you’re only playing the game for a short time.
How can you tell that you’re dealing with a lesser pay table? You’ll see different payouts in the pay table for certain winning hands. Most common among these hands with alterations are the four of a kind, full house, and straight.
But the biggest hit comes if you come upon a version of Pick ‘em Poker video poker that pays you only 4 to 1 odds for a three of a kind hand, instead of the 5 to 1 listed above. Even without a draw round, a three of a kind hand is one that will come up with something close to regularity during gameplay (about 3% of the time.) The fact that the discount comes on a relatively common hand really drops the payback percentage.
For that reason, you should always be aware of the pay tables. You might not be able to find the full-pay version of Pick ‘em Poker video poker. But you should strive to find one with pay tables as close as possible to it, especially when it comes to the three of a kind hand.
Learning Strategy for Pick ‘em Poker Video Poker
Any time we mention a payback percentage when discussing video poker of any kind, we are referring to a player who plays the game perfectly. By that, we mean that they make the correct decision every single time. That is the only way to reach the quoted percentage.
If you make incorrect choices, your percentage will drop. But you have to understand what we mean by the concept of correct and incorrect. We are talking about it in terms of probabilities and something called expected value.
Each hand in common video poker will have an expected value, which essentially is how much the deal will make you if it’s played with the probabilities and pay tables in mind. You should be striving for the highest expected value with the cards that you hold and discard.
In terms of Pick ‘em Poker video poker, however, the decision-making process comes down to one card or another. This reduces the chances that you might make a mistake. Mistakes reduce the expected value of the hand.
Remember the example we showed you above? Choosing to go with the pair of kings was the correct mathematical play because that produces a better expected value than going forward with the three to a royal flush. If you played that hand an infinite amount of times, the pair of kings would make you more money than the other option.
Of course, on a single hand, that might not be the case. Imagine if you kept the king of spades in the hand above and the following cards came out after it:
Had you kept the ace of hearts, you would have walked away with a royal flush. But, when you consider all the possibilities that might come up with the last two cards, the queen of hearts, king of hearts, and king of spades will make for the more lucrative three-card combination.
But how can you possibly know that one play is right and another is wrong in the heat of the moment? Well, you might be a mathematical genius, in which case you could quickly figure it out in your head. Or you can get yourself some help, and these are the best two ways to do that.
Video Poker Training Software
First of all, you have to find software that can be customized to teach you about Pick ‘em Poker video poker. That might be easier said than done. Most video poker trainers are tailored to the common video poker variations such as Jacks or Better.
If you can find such software, however, you can improve your play to the point where you make very few mistakes, if any at all. This is because the software allows you to simulate actual hands of Pick ‘em Poker. Best of all, it tells you when you make the incorrect choice about which of the two cards to keep so that you don’t make that mistake again.
When you play like this for a while, you’ll begin to see every possible combination in terms of the two cards dealt and the two cards from which to choose. Drilling on these combinations over and over will help instill the correct plays in your head. You can then take that knowledge into the casino with you.
Strategy charts, sometimes known as strategy cards, might be a better way for you to learn Pick ‘em Poker video poker than video poker training software. And that’s simply because they’re easier to find. A little internet searching will turn them up without much trouble.
A strategy chart for Pick ‘em Poker video poker will show you all the possible three-card combinations you might receive in terms of the two-card deal and the third card which will be your choice. They then rank these combinations based on expected value when all of the probabilities are factored into the equation. All you have to do then is compare your own cards to these rankings.
Let’s go back to our example. Remember that you were dealt:
And had a choice between the following:
Ace of Hearts and King of Spades
When you look at the strategy chart for Pick ‘em Poker video poker, you might see a couple lines that look like this:
High Pair, Nines through Aces
Three to a Straight Flush, Ace High
Look at your choices again. You’ll see that the king of spades gives you that “High Pair.” By contrast, the ace of hearts gives you the “Three to a Straight Flush, Ace High.”
Since the “High Pair” is higher on the list, that makes it the better combination with which to move forward in the hand as you await the last two cards to be dealt. And that, in turn, makes the king of spades the right play for this hand of Pick ‘em Poker video poker.
How then should you use a strategy chart? Well, you could print it out and take it into the casino with you. But there are a couple negatives to that approach.
On the one hand, the casino might not like you consulting a kind of cheat sheet while trying to win money off them. And, even if they didn’t mind, think of how looking at the chart would slow you down. Remember that the faster you play, the more benefits that you get.
Your better option, therefore, is to memorize the strategy chart. This is no easy task, as you’ll find close to 30 different combinations among the options. It might take you a while to get all of that down pat.
But, if you do, you can walk into the casino (or play the game online) confident that you can achieve perfect play. And that gives you the best chance of maximizing your Pick ‘em Poker video poker winnings, which is the ultimate goal.
Choice between two cards is often obvious even for beginning players
Possibility of maximum payouts that are much higher than most basic video poker games like Jacks or Better
Ability to play more hands in a given time than other video poker games
Might not provide enough of a challenge for experienced players
More losing hands during play than in common video poker
Big disparity between full-pay and least lucrative pay tables
Conclusion on Pick ’em Poker Video Poker
Pick ‘em Poker video poker makes for a kind of quick and easy spin on basic video poker, which is already a pretty quick and easy game for most people to learn anyway. You also might find yourself getting frustrated at the inability to make even common winning hands. But when you do make those hands, you will be handsomely rewarded so that you quickly forget that frustration.
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