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How to Play Video Poker

The Basics

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Winning a slot machine jackpot is based solely on luck. You put your money in the machine, hit the spin button and hope that Lady Luck will invite you to dance. There are no decisions to make that will change the outcome of the spin. On the other hand, many table games require skill and the decisions you make can determine whether you win or lose. Most table games when played properly have a lower house edge than the slot machines. Knowledgeable Blackjack players know that learning basic strategy will reduce the house edge to less than one percent.

One reason why more people don’t play table games is the intimidation factor that comes about from sitting down at the table with other players. They would like to play games of skill but are concerned about making the wrong play and looking foolish so they feel more comfortable with the solitary play of the slot machines.

Video Poker is a game that requires skill and it bridges the gap between slot machines and table games for many players. In most casinos video poker machines, when played correctly, offer a lower house edge than the slot machines. Over the last few years video poker has been gaining in popularity and the casinos are adding more machines to the gaming floor. When video poker machines first appeared on the casino floors in the late 1970’s the only game offered was Jacks or Better draw poker. Today there are over 100 variations of video poker.

How to Play
Video Poker is based on the game of draw poker and has virtually the same rules except that you are not playing against any other players. The machine deals five cards on the screen. The player then has the option of drawing up to five new cards. (In some instances you may not want to draw any new cards) You keep the cards you want to keep by pushing the “hold” button that corresponds to the card on the screen. When you have made your choice you hit the “deal” button and the cards you discarded will be replaced by new cards. Your win or loss is determined by the outcome after of your final hand after you hit the draw button. How much you win is based on the pay table that is posted on the front of the machine.

The Return
One advantage that video poker has over regular slot machines is that you can determine the return of the game by reading the pay table on the front of the machine. Most video poker games use the combinations of hands that can be made from a standard 52 card deck. I say most because there are some Joker Poker Games that use one ore two Jokers added to the 52 card deck. One popular variation of the game is Deuces Wild which uses a 52 card deck but the deuces are wild cards. With a set number of combinations that can be made from the cards used in the game the payout can be calculated by how much the machine pays for each winning combination.

There are 2,598,960 hands that can be produced with a 52-card deck. The RNG (random number generator) in a video poker machines is set to simulate the probabilities of drawing any one of the combinations of hands. Because this is a set probability the casino gets its edge by adjusting the pay table of the machines.

Although you will not be able to make the calculations in you head. There are software programs (more on those later), strategy cards, books and internet sites where you can obtain the information you need to determine the payouts for each pay table. By knowing how to read a pay table you can make sure you are playing the machine with the best return. Some casinos will put two identical machines that have different pay tables next to each other. You want to make sure you are choosing the one with the highest return. See pay table link in the sidebar.

Video Poker Strategy
It is not enough to just know the payback of a video poker machine. In order to achieve the maximum return you must play the game using a set mathematical strategy. It is very important that you learn the strategy for each game and play them correctly. Making a few mistakes in strategy when playing can increase the house edge against you. Each video poker game has its own strategy. For example you can not use the strategy for Jacks or Better when playing Deuces Wild.

The game that you should learn first is Jacks or Better. Most of the other games are variations of this one. Although space does not allow me to give you the complete strategy in this issue, you can read and download a free strategy chart for Jacks or Better, Deuces Wild and Double Bonus Poker by clicking on the software link on the sidebar.

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