Dream Card Poker
When discussing video poker variations, it’s sometimes useful to categorize the variations according to HOW they vary. For a long time, the big differences from one game to another were based on 2 things—the pay tables and the number of wild cards. But over the last 10 years or so, a new way of mixing things up became popular.
Games like Dream Card Poker are examples of this trend. These games offer additional features in exchange for additional wagers. In the case of Dream Card Poker, this additional feature takes the form of an occasional “dream card”, which is similar to, but not exactly the same as, a wild card. This feature is activated when the player places a 10 coin bet instead of a 5 coin bet.
We’ll explain more about how the eponymous dream card works, how it affects the pay tables and strategy, and whether or not it’s a good bet, on the page below.
How to Play Dream Card Poker
Video poker games, for the most part, all follow the same pattern. You put money into a gambling machine and get credits. You’re then given the option of betting 1 to 5 credits per hand. You’re dealt a 5 card hand on the video screen, and you have the option of keeping or discarding any combination of those cards. (This gives you 32 options to choose from, total.) You get paid off based on the poker hand ranking of your final combination.
The most basic of these games is called Jacks or Better, so named because the lowest paying hand is a pair of jacks or higher. Other common variations include Bonus Poker, Deuces Wild, and Joker Poker. Bonus Poker is just a variation of Jacks or Better with bonus payouts for a 4 of a kind. Deuces Wild is more or less the same game as Jacks or Better, but deuces are treated as wild cards, and the payoffs for the hands vary based on that. And Joker Poker is played with a 53 card deck, which includes a wild card—the joker.
The reason you need to understand these other variations in order to learn how to play Dream Card Poker is because Dream Card Poker isn’t a standalone game. It’s a variation or option that’s layered on top of an existing game like Jacks or Better or Bonus Poker.
Here’s how the “dream card” works:
It’s like a wild card, but it’s chosen on the deal, and it stays as whatever card you chose at that point. The game suggests what it thinks is the most appropriate card in your situation, but you can choose any of the other 48 cards in the deck that you like.
You’re dealt a hand with a queen as your highest card and no likely alternatives. The rest of the cards are low and unsuited, so you don’t have a decent probability of getting a flush or a straight. So you decide to make the dream card a queen of another suit.
The other 3 cards are discarded, and the dream card counts as that queen regardless of which other cards are dealt. There’s no way, in this situation, for example, that you could improve to a royal flush or even a flush. If you were playing with a wild card, you could, and that’s the difference.
It makes for an interesting variation to have an “almost” wild card in play.
The other thing to understand is that you don’t get a dream card on every hand. The dream card comes randomly.
Dream Card Poker Pay Tables and Probability
As with most other video poker variations, Dream Card Poker doesn’t have its own pay tables. It just uses the pay table for the game that it’s based on. It’s possible to have a Jacks or Better version of Dream Card Poker, but it’s also possible to have a version based on Bonus Poker.
The payback percentage does change based on the addition of the occasional “dream card”, though. It ALWAYS improves, in fact, but depending on the variation in play and its payback percentage, the amount that it improves varies from 0.02% to 1.55%.
The probability of getting a dream card varies from 26.7% to 59%. The game is available layered on top of the following base games:
- Jacks or Better
- Deuces Wild
- Bonus Poker
- Bonus Poker Deluxe
- Double Bonus Poker
- Double Double Bonus Poker
- Triple Bonus Poker
We were surprised to see that a dream card would be available in a wild card game like Deuces Wild, but it is. This means you’ll see a higher hit ratio on these games, even if the payback percentage doesn’t change too dramatically.
The best possible pay table for this game is the Deuces Wild with the following payouts:
This has some similarities with a “not so ugly” Deuces Wild game, but it isn’t exactly the same. The payback percentage for this variation, with the dream card option activated, is 99.91%. That’s one of the lowest house edge games you’ll find in any casino. You’d be hard-pressed to find odds that good in a blackjack game, in fact, unless you’re counting cards.
Dream Card Poker Strategy
One aspect of video poker strategy is the same no matter what game you’re playing. You always play the max coin bet (5 coins). The reason for this is the increased payout for the royal flush. When you bet 5 coins, the payoff for a royal flush is 800 to 1, but when you bet 4 coins or fewer, the payoff is reduced to 250 to 1.
Even though a royal flush is a relatively rare hand, the huge difference in payout for that hand has a significant effect on the overall payback percentage for the game.
The 2nd aspect of this game is to always go with the Dream Card Poker option activated. Since this option always increases the potential payback percentage for the game, turning it down is always a negative expectation (-EV) play.
The rest of the strategy for Dream Card Poker is easy enough. You just follow the appropriate strategy for whatever game the version of Dream Card Poker that you’re playing is based on. According to multiple sources, the game’s recommendation about which card the “dream card” should turn into is always correct. You just have to be careful not to make any boneheaded moves before drawing.
Sometimes you will get a card which will force you to make a hard decision. For example, you might get a dream card that gives you a draw to a potential flush but which also gives you a draw to 3 of a kind or 4 of a kind. For the most part, you’ll go with the hand that’s more likely to be a sure thing. The exception is if you get 4 cards to a royal flush. The payout for that hand is so high that it’s almost always the right play to try to draw to it.
You can view the strategy tables for the variations that Dream Card Poker sits atop on our site. We include strategy tables for all the major video poker games, including:
Dream Card Poker is an interesting way to use a wild card that isn’t really a wild card in video poker. The strategy is relatively easy, too—always bet max coins, always take the dream card option, and go with the hand that’s most likely to provide you with the greatest expected return.