Video Poker, The Game

By far the most popular slot game in land-based casinos is found on the video poker machine. Two factors set this game apart from other slots. First, they generally offer the best payback percentage (the relationship between the amount of money played to the amount returned). Second, they require skill.

Before we examine these two critical factors, let's first understand how to play video poker.

The video poker machine deals five cards. You choose which cards to keep or discard (depending on the machine). New cards replace the cards you throw away. The object of the game is to make the best hand by keeping good cards, throwing away useless cards and drawing new cards that might improve the current hand.

The following list of hands appears in order of best to worst, as an example of what you should be looking for. Each hand name is followed by an example.

1 A Royal Flush consists of the ace, king, queen, jack and ten of the same suit (hearts, diamonds, spades or clubs). 2 Five of a Kind is made up of four like cards and a wild card (joker or deuce or some other designated wild card). 3 A Straight Flush consists of five sequential cards of the same suit (5, 6, 7, 8, 9 of diamonds, for example or A, 2, 3, 4, 5 of hearts). 4 Four of A Kind consists of four like cards (four kings or four threes for example). 5 A Full House consists of three like cards combined with a pair (A, A, A, 6, 6 or K, K, K, Q, Q). 6 A Flush can be any five cards of the same suit. (K, 10, 6, 4, 2, A, all clubs is a club Flush). 7 A Straight consists of five sequential cards without regard to suit (5, 6, 7, 8, 9). 8 Three of A Kind means your hand has three like cards plus two cards that are not related (K, K, K, 4, 2). 9 Two Pair consists of two sets of like cards with one unrelated card (A, A, K, K, 4) 10 One Pair is nothing more than two like cards combined with three unrelated cards (4, 4, K, J, 8). 11 No Pair. This is a hand that has none of the above combinations.

This is the normal ranking of poker hands. In video poker there may be some exceptions. For example, Four of A Kind might rank higher than a Straight Flush; four Wild cards (as in Deuces Wild, for example) would rank just below the Royal Flush.

The video poker player must look first at the payout schedule on the machine to determine which hands pay better than others because the ultimate goal is to create the best five-card hand. This is a very important step. For example, if you are dealt the king of clubs, the king of diamonds and the queen, jack and ten of clubs, you have paying pair-the kings. But, you also have four cards to a royal Flush, the hand with the highest payout. Therefore, you would want to discard the king of diamonds and hope that the randomly drawn card under it is the ace of clubs. If, on the other hand, you have those same kings and three unrelated cards, you would keep the kings and discard the other three cards. This gives you a chance to get four kings, a full house, three kings, or two pair.

Most video poker machines will pay back between 96 and 100 percent to the player - that's right, one hundred percent. It all depends on the payoff schedule and your level of skill. Unfortunately, each type of game (Deuces Wild, jacks or better, bonus poker, double bonus poker, double double bonus poker, Joker wild, and so on) requires a different strategy because of the different outcomes of the draw. Therefore, it's important to learn the different strategies for each game. Even within game categories there can be different strategies. For example a Joker Wild machine that returns your money for a high pair requires a different strategy from that of a Joker Wild that returns your money for a pair of kings or better.

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