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Video Poker

Other than the evaluation of the hands, Video Poker bears little resemblance to the table game.

Video Poker is a recent phenomenon, first appearing in the mid Seventies. Even though early slot machines used cards and poker hands as payoff symbols, there were no choices for players to make; the reels stopped wherever the machine determined they would.

The increasing popularity of Video Poker can be traced to several factors and characteristics it has in common with many of the more popular casino games. For instance:

  • It is a fast game, much like craps.
  • Like Blackjack, it gives players the opportunity to make decisions and a reasonable control over the results.
  • Like many of the latest casino games, it is similar to poker.
  • It gives the possibility of a large payoff and is not intimidating, very much like a slot machine.
  • It can be inexpensive to play. You can play it for a low minimum, an investment as small as a nickel.

The popularity of Video Poker maybe attributed to the fact that the games return your investment for a pair of Jacks to Aces. In effect, this makes the player feel like a tie (or push) is actually a win. This is an important psychological factor that makes it seem like you’re winning more than you actually are. Most players considered that when they drop a coin into the machine, they consider that coin lost, so that when it reappears on an even-money payoff, you feel like you’re a winner. It’s a subtle but powerful point.

Perhaps the reason that Video Poker is becoming more popular is that even a casual player can determine the value of an individual machine. By reading the pay tables included on every Video Poker machine, you can determine how much that machine will pay back to players who use the optimal Video Poker strategy.

Playing winning Video Poker requires the player to follow three very important rules. First, you should only play machines that give you the highest payback.

Second, you must know how to use the best strategies to play those machines.

And finally, you should be aware of how those machines reach those payback percentages. You must be aware of whether that payback percentage is reached in a single large jackpot or whether it encompasses many smaller paybacks. It’s called the volatility of the machine, and how frequently payoffs are made.

Many machines can be played to pay back more than 100 percent of the money invested. How is this possible, won’t the casino lose money by putting these machines on the floor?

Yes, the casino would lose money if every player on that particular machine understood and used expert strategy. However, since only a small fraction of Video Poker players truly know how to take advantage of such a machine, the casino will not lose money by offering such a machine. And even if it was just expert players that were attracted to such a machine, they cannot all play the same machine at the same time. Therefore, the casino simply needs to surround that machine with others offering a significantly lower payout than that single 100 percent-plus machine, thus guaranteeing the casino the chance to win more money from those other players.

Finding the Best Machines

When Video Poker was first introduced, there were only a few people that realized that the pay tables would played a large role in determining how much and how frequently the machine made payoffs. With the analysis of the pay tables, it has become apparent to most, that choosing the correct machine to play makes all the difference.

Generally there are two types of Video Poker games – non-wild card games, such as Jacks-or-better and Bonus Poker or wild card games, like Jokers Wild and Deuces Wild. This is a general classification and there are many different versions of these machines, which is why it is so important to understand what makes a good pay table.

Let’s start with the non-wild card games. The first rule is never play a machine that does not return your investment on a high pair, such as a pair of Jacks or higher. Although these machines are disappearing, it was common to find machines that required the players to make two pair before returning their bet. Frankly this is just an unacceptable option, and there is really no need to play these machines now given the proliferation of Jacks or better machines.

Let’s examine a Jacks or better pay table. Normally the pay table is located above the screen or on the screen itself. Generally it gives you the payoffs for the number of coins inserted, usually from one to five.

Examine the various rewards. You’ll notice the hands correspond with poker hands. But because you’re not playing against any opponents, you get paid back at a progressing rate beginning with the high pair.

The area you should concentrate on is the payoff for the full house and the flush. The best machines are ones that pay nine for one (nine coins for one coin) on the full house, and six for one on the flush. This machine is called a “9/6”. Of course, a “9/6” machine is preferable to an “8/5” machine that pays eight coins for the full house and five for the flush. Other machines – 7/5 and 6/5 machines – should be avoided as they are far less favorable.

Bonus poker is a relatively new variation of the game that increases payoffs for different four of a kinds, at the expense of a full house and a flush. The best bonus poker machines offer a payback of eight for the full house and five for the flush. Machines that don’t reach this level have a lower payback percentage.

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