Starting the proper strategy in video poker

Well, now I’ve knocked down your illusions and false hopes, the young fellah says it’s time for me to start you off on the proper strategy for video poker. But, you’re not gonna like it, not one little bit. Face the facts. If it was easy to beat slot machines, everyone’d do it all the time, and the real world and online casinos would all be busted. Fact is, you can’t beat slot machines in general and most video poker machines in particular. This is a strategy for some video poker machines only, it needs bankrolling and there’s a lot to remember. So join me in a bracer as we get started.

And just one more thing as we get going: this’s the proper strategy for playing video poker hands. You get the same hands in regular poker, you play them different. You’re not trying to beat another player’s hand. In video poker you’re given the pay tables up front. Those’re like your bible, the card combinations to answer your prayers.

So let’s think about those pay tables and the different video poker machines. If you’re playing a flat-top as opposed to a progressive machine, you’ll hafta play slightly different ’cause the probabilities shift as the progressive machines build their jackpots. If you’re playing quarter video poker machines with an 8-5 progressive jackpot, you’ll need a minimum jackpot for a royal of $2,200 to break even using the proper strategy. Once the jackpot goes up from that minimum, your edge’s improving with every $1,000 added. Why play progressive machines? ’Cause the maximum ain’t preset. On a flat-top, like the name tells ya, the jackpot never changes.

Then look at the returns on a full house and a flush. The best machines pay 9 for a full house and 6 for a flush. When you see 8-5, that gives the House an extra 2.2% edge. Both machines are identical. All that changes is the pay table. Now look at the jackpot for the royal. On Tens or Better slot machines, you’ll see payoffs that vary with the number of coins bet. So on a 9-6 machine look for:

1 coin — 250

2 coins — 500

3 coins — 750

4 coins — 1,000

5 coins — 4,000

Tens or better

See the hike between four and five coins. Don’t play the maximum number of coins, and you’ll get cents back. My father never said, “Speculate to accumulate,” ’cause that’s not how an actuary thinks. But even he would see that adding one more coin every time buys you the chance of a fourfold return. That’s calculate to accumulate the chance to win enough to cover your losses an’ better.

Now comes the big choice. If you play to get royals only, the great math god says you’ll get one every 21,745 hands. If you play an optimizing strategy, the probability is you’ll hit a royal roughly every 40,000 hands. This is the headline news. If you wanna make this a paying game, you hafta play for royals. I’m gonna say that again. There ain’t no strategy in the world can give you any profit unless you hit royals. And while you’re waiting for those royals to come along, expect to lose. How much you lose depends on how many hands you play before you hit the next royal. So, ’cause probabilities work over the long term, you might hit two royals on the same day. Or you might play a hundred and more hours, and not hit one at all.

So let’s say you’re playing flat-top quarter video poker machines. You’re in the groove and managing to play 400 hands an hour (a devilish 6.66 hands per minute which is why I put it in here — doncha just love those superstitions). That means you’re potentially losing $500 per hour. If you’re playing a dollar machine, that’s a potential $2,000 per hour loss. That’s right. You pays to play for the royals. You expect to lose and keep on losing between royals. If you’re getting average luck, you’ll get some winnings while you’re waiting, and your wins on royals should cover all your losses while waiting. Assuming, of course, you’ve been following the proper strategy.

Obviously, I’m gonna tell you how to keep those losses down. But ain’t no-one can play video poker and not lose money steadily until the next royal comes along. The rate at which you lose depends on how often you hit straights and four-of-a-kind. But you’re talking about starting off with a bankroll. Like one of those capitalist fellahs, you’re looking for a return on money invested. Don’t have that bankroll, don’t even think about starting this strategy. Just play for fun.

Right. That’s me done for now. Catch ya ’round.

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