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Can You Improve Your Video Poker Winnings by Half or More? (I Did, and Here’s How)

| July 8, 2018 12:00 am PDT
Video Poker and Money

Video poker is one of the most strategic games in the casino. But almost every beginner starts playing the game with little knowledge of video poker strategy.

Sure, everybody has a vague idea on how to play this 5-card draw variation. For example, it’s easy to figure out that you should keep two aces in a hand with Ac-As-7h-3d-5c.

But video poker strategy is about more than just knowing how to play the obvious hands. You must also understand whether it’s better to break up a made hand to pursue a larger payout.

I was, unfortunately, part of the masses who started playing video poker with no concept of strategy.

I’d make routine mistakes, such as keeping ace or king-high in every situation where I didn’t have a made hand. I also prioritized smaller payouts when the correct strategy was to pursue a bigger prize.

After playing video poker for a few weeks, I finally got the motivation to begin improving my play. And this allowed me to see all the mistakes that I’d been making.

After pouring myself into strategy for a week, my results quickly improved. I was making around 50% fewer mistakes when I included my improved strategy knowledge and game selection.

This isn’t to say that my winnings increased by 50%, because even bad video poker players can earn around 90% or more payback. But my boosted knowledge of the game prevented me from making numerous mistakes.

Keep reading as I discuss what I did to quickly turn my video poker results around in just a week’s time.

Understanding Video Poker Games and Pay Tables

It only took me about 5 minutes of strategy research to figure out that I was choosing the wrong video poker games and pay tables. I mistakenly assumed that all video poker machines were the same in terms of one’s chances of winning.

I’d sit down to an 8/6 Jacks or Better machine, never realizing that the 9/6 Jacks or Better game across the casino offered a higher win rate. Likewise, I didn’t know that Jacks or Better offers higher payback than Bonus Poker.

The first order of business is to understand how pay table differences can change a game’s payback. The second step is to figure out how much payback each video poker machine offers at the top end.

I’ll begin with the pay table differences.

9/6 Jacks or Better Pay Table
Hand 1 coin 2 coins 3 coins 4 coins 5 coins
Royal flush 250 500 750 1,000 4,000
Straight flush 50 100 300 400 500
4 of a kind 25 50 75 100 125
Full house 9 18 27 36 45
Flush 6 12 18 24 30
Straight 4 8 12 16 20
3 of a kind 3 6 9 12 15
2 pairs 2 4 6 8 10
Jacks or better 1 2 3 4 5
8/6 Jacks or Better Pay Table
Hand 1 coin 2 coins 3 coins 4 coins 5 coins
Royal flush 250 500 750 1,000 4,000
Straight flush 50 100 300 400 500
4 of a kind 25 50 75 100 125
Full house 8 18 27 36 45
Flush 6 12 18 24 30
Straight 4 8 12 16 20
3 of a kind 3 6 9 12 15
2 pairs 2 4 6 8 10
Jacks or better 1 2 3 4 5

The 9/6 table is “full-pay” Jacks or Better, meaning it’s the best version. This game pays 9 coins for a full house and 6 for a flush, and it offers 99.54% payback.

8/6 Jacks or Better pays 8 coins for a full house and 6 for a flush, and it offers 98.39% payback.

You wouldn’t think that a 1-coin change in the full house prize would make a big difference. After all, this is a small change in a single payout.

But you can see that choosing the better table gives you an opportunity to earn 1.15% more over the long run.

It’s important to familiarize yourself with the different pay tables for any video poker machine that you’re interested in. You can use your smartphone in a land-based casino to see if a certain machine is full pay.

For example, full-pay Bonus Poker offers an 8/5 pay table along with 99.17% payback. 7/5 Bonus Poker, on the other hand, only offers 98.02% payback.

You also need to find out what video poker games are worth playing. The last thing that you want to do is dive headfirst into strategy for specific game, only to later find that it offers low payback.

Here’s a list of full-pay video poker games that are worth playing.

  • Full-Pay Deuces Wild – 100.76% payback
  • 10/7 Double Bonus – 100.17%
  • 10/6 Double Double Bonus – 100.07%
  • All Aces (Online) – 99.92%
  • Super Double Bonus – 99.69%
  • Triple Double Bonus – 99.58%
  • 9/6 Jacks or Better – 99.54%
  • 8/5 Bonus Poker – 99.17%

Know How to Find the Best Video Poker Machines

You can see that some of the above games return over 100% with perfect strategy. The catch is that you can only find these machines in Nevada casinos.

These games are worth seeking out if you live in the Vegas area or are taking a trip there. But you’ll be settling for less than 100% payback everywhere else.

A good way to find the highest-paying video poker games in your area is to use vpFREE2.com. This site lets you use filters to search different parts of the US and Canada.

Here’s an example.

  • Visit the “Casinos” section
  • Use the “Mid-West” filter
  • This displays some prominent midwestern casinos
  • Each casino’s video poker machines and payback are listed

Again, you’re only going to find +EV video poker machines in Nevada casinos. But you can use the vpFREE2.com filters to search for casinos in your part of the US or Canada.

Also note that you can find and play video poker games online. But the process for doing so works differently than what I discussed for land-based casinos.

Casino game makers normally supply dozens or hundreds of internet casinos. This makes it easier to find the top video poker games online because you can just look for casinos that license specific software.

The two highest-paying online video poker machines at the time of this writing include Microgaming’s All Aces (99.92% payback) and RealTime Gaming’s Aces & Eights (99.78%).

You can see the pay tables for these games below.

Microgaming’s All Aces (Double Bonus)
Hand 1 Coin 2 Coins 3 Coins 4 Coins 5 Coins
Royal flush 250 500 750 1,000 4,000
Straight flush 60 120 180 240 300
4 aces 400 800 1,200 1,600 2,000
4 2s-4s 100 200 300 400 500
4 5s-Ks 50 100 150 200 250
Full house 7 14 21 28 35
Flush 5 10 15 20 25
Straight 4 8 12 16 20
3 of a kind 3 6 9 12 15
2 pair 1 2 3 4 5
Jacks or better 1 2 3 4 5
8/5 Aces and Eights
Hand 1 Coin 2 Coins 3 Coins 4 Coins 5 Coins
Natural royal flush 250 500 750 1,000 4,000
Straight flush 50 100 150 200 250
4 aces or eights 80 160 240 320 400
4 sevens 50 100 150 200 250
4 of a kind 25 50 75 100 125
Full house 8 16 24 32 40
Flush 5 10 15 20 25
Straight 4 8 12 16 20
3 of a kind 3 6 9 12 15
2 pair 2 4 6 8 10
Jacks or better 1 2 3 4 5

Microgaming operates in licensed markets, meaning they stay out of unregulated online gambling jurisdictions like the United States.

RTG, on the other hand, does operate in gray areas like the US. If you can’t play Microgaming’s All Aces, then you can at least achieve high payback through RTG’s Aces & Eights.

Once I figured out how to find the best video poker games online and in land-based casinos, it gave me the ability to win more money.

Learn the Video Poker Strategy Basics

As discussed earlier, I was one of the many video poker beginners who started playing with limited strategy knowledge. This resulted in me surrendering plenty of long-term EV because I wasn’t giving myself a chance to earn the highest payouts.

It wasn’t until I found a video poker strategy chart that I began learning the basics. A strategy chart lists what hands you should keep in order of importance.

Here’s an example.

  • I have a two pair, which pays 2 coins per credit wagered
  • But my hand also contains 4 cards to a straight flush
  • The strategy chart shows that keeping 4 cards to a straight flush offers more long-term value

I’m breaking up a made hand in this example to pursue a larger payout. And even though it’s less likely that I’ll get a straight flush, this hand still offers better EV.

No video poker player knows perfect strategy off the top of their head without consulting a chart or another tool. Luckily, smart mathematicians and computer programs have done the work for us in crafting perfect strategy for each game.

The first game that I became interested in learning strategy for was Bonus Poker. I’d just finished playing Bonus Poker at the casino and wanted to learn more about it when I got home.

I eventually came across a Bonus Poker strategy chart that showed what hands to keep in each situation. This helped me memorize the best plays and increase my odds of winning.

Remember that you need to use a different strategy chart for each video poker machine you play.

The Bonus Poker chart I found won’t deliver optimal strategy on a Double Bonus game, for example.

Also note that not every video poker machine has a strategy chart that can be found online.

If you can’t find a chart, then you’ll need to use the next method for learning video poker strategy that I’m going to cover.

Use a Video Poker Trainer

After mastering the basics of video poker strategy, I began using a training program.

Video poker trainers see you play the game like normal. But the benefit is that they also point out correct and incorrect strategy choices.

Here’s an example.

  • I’m dealt 2d-Ks-Qh-5h-Ad
  • I hold Ad-Ks-Qh
  • The trainer points out that this is incorrect
  • I should’ve only kept Ks-Qh

The goal of using a video poker trainer is to develop good strategy through repetition. You’ll eventually become an expert player as you see which decisions are right and wrong.

You can find free video poker trainers that cover popular games like All American, Bonus Poker, Deuces Wild, Double Bonus, and Jacks or Better. Many of the websites that offer these trainers let you switch between different pay tables so that you can truly use optimal strategy.

But most video poker machines aren’t covered by free trainers. This means that you’ll have to buy a training program, such as Video Poker for Winners ($49.95 at VideoPokerforWinners.com) or WinPoker ($34.74).

Advanced video poker trainers come pre-loaded with a larger number of games than the free versions. This lets you customize pay tables so that you can practice perfect strategy.

This is especially helpful for Microgaming’s All Aces, which has an unconventional Double Bonus pay table that’s not covered by regular strategy charts and trainers.

You don’t need to buy video poker software if your favorite game is already covered by a free trainer. But keep these programs in mind if you want to practice for a rare online video poker variation or +EV game.

Make Sure You Get Comps

One more factor that I needed to improve upon greatly included getting comps. The sad fact was that I didn’t receive any comps in the beginning because I failed to sign up for the players club.

Land-based casinos require that you get a players club card so that you can use it with any video poker machine you play. The card records how many comp points you’re earning based on your total betting action.

A standard video poker comp rate is 0.1%. But this can vary based on the casino and if you’re playing a +EV machine.

Some casinos offer up to a 0.2% comp rate, which puts you in line for more rewards.

Vegas casinos with +EV machines usually only offer a quarter of the regular comp rate (0.05% or 0.025%) to counteract how they could lose money to skilled players.

Regardless of what rate you’re getting, you need to sign up for a players club card anywhere you play.

The amount of money that you get won’t be tremendous. But it still makes a difference over the long term for serious players.

Here’s an example.

  • Comp rate = 0.01
  • You bet $5,000
  • 5,000 x 0.01 = $5

The good thing about playing online video poker is that you don’t have to sign up for a program. Most internet casinos already enroll you in their loyalty plan when you begin making real money bets.

One thing to watch for, though, is online casinos that don’t offer video poker players any rewards.

Some internet casinos cut out video poker and other games with a low house edge. You obviously don’t want to play at these casinos if video poker is one of your favorite games.

Another point worth noting is that video poker usually only delivers 10% to 40% the same amount of rewards as slots. The reason why is because slots have a higher house edge and bring more money to the casino.

The result is that you end up earning fewer rewards at an online casino. Nevertheless, you can still earn plenty of cashback while playing games with high payback.

Conclusion

I didn’t become a master video poker player in one week. But I did improve rather quickly just by spending some time in different areas.

Every player should familiarize themselves with games that offer the best payback. You also must be able to spot pay table differences to ensure that you’re dealing with the full-pay version.

Another thing that players can do to improve is use a chart to learn the strategy basics. This is a great tool to quickly get up to speed on how to prioritize hands.

You can also use a video poker trainer to learn strategy through repetition. Correct video poker strategy will eventually become automatic when you use a trainer.

Finally, don’t forget to pick up comps whenever you’re playing in a land-based casino. Brick-and-mortar venues require that you sign up for the players club before you start receiving rewards.

Video poker mastery doesn’t happen overnight. But you can make a quick leap in a week’s time by doing everything that I’ve covered here.

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  1. BRIAN M WAGNER November 17, 2019 at 7:04 am

    In one of your examples you use a scenario where you have a made hand of two pair and also 4 cards to a straight flush. How can that be? It’s impossible.

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