Video Poker

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Introduction to Video Poker

Video poker is a skill based casino game that offers very high dividends for players who have mastered the skill. The long term average returns for video poker variants are in the region of 99.5%. Video poker is based on draw poker, which was the popular poker variant before Texas Hold’em took over. However players do not compete against each other but play individually against the house. Also video poker is not played on tables in land casinos. Land casinos offer video poker games on computer operated consoles like slots. However, video poker is mostly popular as an online casino game.

History of Video Poker

The first video poker machine Poker-Matic was launched by Dale Electronics in 1970. However it was not till 1979 that video poker became popular. The turning point was the introduction of Draw Poker by IGT, then known as SIRCOMA. This was based on the Random Number Generator and not spinning reels. Surprisingly, this same technology led to the popularity of video slots. Video poker attracted that type of player who was intimidated by the atmosphere at the table games and found comfort wagering alone in the privacy these machines offered. The popularity of video poker was enhanced with the introduction of new variants.

The second phase of the growth of video poker came with the widespread use of the Internet. In 1994 Microgaming produced the first online casino software, which led to the establishment of full fledged online casinos where players could wager with real money. Many players residing in countries or cities that did not have live casinos could play video poker from the comfort of their homes. The advancement of Internet technology has led to more graphics and audio rich games. At the same time software developers have been making the content more exciting. Multihand games where players can wager up to 100 hands simultaneously are common.

Rules for Video Poker

The basic video poker game is played as follows. The player is first dealt five cards. He can ask to replace as many of these cards as he wants. The cards that he wants to retain are marked hold. The objective in this decision making is to try and end up with as high ranking a poker hand as possible. Once the cards not marked as hold are replaced, the software compares the final hand obtained with the payout table for that game and awards payouts as applicable.

The mechanics of wagering is as follows. The player first selects the coin size from the range offered. Then the player selects the number of coins he wants to wager. This can be from 1 to 5. In all but one cases the payouts increase in proportion to the number of coins. Only in the case of Royal Flush is the pay out with 5 coins significantly more than the five times the payout with 1 coin. Once the wager is placed the player clicks on the Deal button and five cards are dealt face up. The player clicks on the Hold button below the cards he wants to retain. Then he clicks on the Draw button to replace the remaining cards. The payout if any are credited to his balance and the player is ready to play a new hand.

There are a number of variants of video poker. The mechanics of the game are the same only the payout table changes. The most common variant is Jacks or Better. In this variant the payouts begin with a hand containing a pair of jacks. Variation has been introduced in video poker games by introducing wild cards (Deuces Wild) or jokers (Joker Poker) that can substitute for any other card so as to make the highest ranking poker hand.

General Strategy

The strategy in video poker is to retain those cards that maximize the expected payout. It considers both the probability of the higher ranking poker hand occurring and the payout that will accrue. The most common video poker variant is jacks or better and a simple strategy that players can conveniently remember and use is being described. Other video poker variants have a similar strategy with minor variations.

The fundamental rule is never break a winning combination in the hope of getting something better. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. But every rule has exceptions and there are two exceptions to this. If a player is holding four cards to a royal flush then he must discard the fifth card even if it makes a paying combination. If the dealt hand contains six, ten, jack, queen and king of clubs, the player must break the flush and discard the six of clubs. The second exception is that a player must keep four cards to a straight flush even if he has to break a jacks or better pair.

The second rule in video poker strategy deals with unmade hands or hands that do not have any winning combinations as dealt. In this case players should hold cards to make the following combinations in decreasing order of importance - four cards to a royal flush, four cards to a straight flush, three cards to a royal flush, four cards to a flush, low pairs, four cards to a straight, three cards to a straight flush, two cards to a royal flush, two unpaired cards higher than Jack and one card higher than Jack. Low pairs are a pair of tens or lower, which do not pay out. In the event that a player cannot make any these combinations he should not hold any card and replace all five cards.

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