Video poker is more skill
7 April 2003
By Mark Pilarski
Outside of putting coins in a slot machine and
pulling the handle, I am lost in a casino.
Others have recommended that I try video poker.
Before I try video poker, could you please share
some tips and strategies? Devin F.
In slots, no matter how adroitly you insert a
coin and how expertly you pull the handle--the
outcome is dumb chance, blind and underpaid. In
video poker, however, your well-honed skill it
into a game of proficiency. Besides
which--ho-ho--the pay is better. Certain video
poker machines are even programmed to pay out,
in theory, up to 100% when played at the expert
level; slots typically return far less.
The reason the casino can be philanthropic in
the video parlor is because the vast majority of
players don't play anywhere near the expert
level required for a win, nor do most players
have the slightest idea how to distinguish a
good machine from a bad one.
For the standard game of Jacks-or-better,
strategy step # 1 is to pick the game with the
best payout table. How? By learning to
distinguish between the "decents" and the
"dogs." The higher the pay-outs, Devin, the
greater the return. For example, on a
Machine Return Machine Payback (with expert
9 for a full house / 6 for a flush 99.5%
8 for a full house / 5 for a flush 97.4%
7 for a full house / 5 for a flush 96.3%
6 for a full house / 5 for a flush 95.2%
Here are a few more tips to sharpen your play to
expert level and improve your chances of
o If you decide to play a progressive video
poker machine that pays 8 coins for a full house
and 5 for a flush, play on a progressive where
the jackpot is more than $250 on a nickel
machine, $2,500 on a quarter, and $10,000 for
o Payout schedules are attached to the every
machine. Pick the right one.
o Always play the maximum number of coins in
order to be eligible for the bonus payout for a
o As long as you feel like a novice, Devin, play
on the lowest denomination machine, then, as
your skill develops, let it drive you upstairs.
o If your favorite casino offers it, use a
casino slot card to get credit for your play.
You might as well accept comp benefits for your
play on their video poker machines. Be sure to
ask how many points you receive per dollar
played, and then find out what those points are
worth in comps.
o Take your time to study every hand. You are
playing against a machine, that won't get
irritable or intimidating if your play is too
o In video poker, only 21% of the hands dealt
are winning hands of jacks or better, and 79%
are downright dogs. And herein lies the
difference between the winning and the losing
players: grooming those dogs--nearly four out of
five -- into winning greyhounds.
Below, Devin, are some playing strategies for
those doggoned hands.
Never keep a kicker card (a high-value card to
be used along with a pair) with any pair.
Holding a kicker to any pair reduces your return
Never draw four cards if you can draw three to a
Never break a straight to draw to a straight
Don't draw to an inside straight (where you have
four cards and need one in the middle to fill a
Always keep five-card winning pat hands with one
exception: if you can, draw one card to a royal.
Always keep a low pair vs. holding one high
Always keep a high pair vs. a four-card open
straight, a four-card flush or a three-card
Don't be timid to draw five cards when you have
Still with me? There will be a quiz.
Gambling quote of the week: "Comps are the
Marxist dialectic of casino play. The haves lord
it over the have-nots, and the have-nots want
what the haves have." Frank Scoblete