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Split Card Poker

Most video poker variants include a single special feature that distinguishes it from other games. This feature in Split Card Poker is that 2 cards can occupy a single spot on the screen. This (naturally) improves your probability of getting a good hand.

The 2 cards that occupy this individual spot are called “Split Cards”. They’re always suited, of the same rank, or of adjacent ranks. As with most of these variants, you activate this special feature by doubling the number of coins you’re betting on each hand.

How to Play Split Card Poker

All video poker games share certain gameplay features, which are explained in detail on our main video poker page. They’re almost all variants of 5 card draw. You place a bet of between 1 and 5 coins on your hand, then you’re dealt 5 cards.

This is followed by the opportunity to discard between 0 and 5 cards. (In other words, you can keep or discard any combination of cards.) You’re dealt replacements for the cards you’ve discarded, and then you get paid off based on a pay table which is organized by the standard ranking of poker hands.

One tip we share on every page we write doesn’t change:

Always bet 5 coins on every hand.

When you bet 5 coins on a hand, you trigger a higher payout on the royal flush. It pays off at 250 to 1 if you bet 1, 2, 3, or 4 coins, but it pays off at 800 to 1 if you bet 5 coins.

Split Card Poker is a multi-play video poker game. In these games, you’re able to play multiple hands at once. The initial hand is the same on all lines, but the replacement cards are dealt independently for the additional lines. If you bet 1-5 coins, Split Card Poker machines play just like a standard game.

Betting 10 coins per line triggers the “Split Card” functionality. Your wins are still paid off as if you’d bet 5 coins, though—the extra 5 coins just trigger the bonus feature. You don’t get to choose which card becomes the Split Card, either—the computer does that for you. Here’s how that works:

The computer chooses a card at random from your initial hand or from your hand after drawing. That becomes the Split Card. The 2nd card is in the same suit as the original card, and it’s either the same rank or an adjacent rank.

Example

You’re dealt 5 cards, and the queen of spades is chosen as the Split Card. The 2nd card in that position is also the queen of spades. But it could just as easily be the jack of spades of the king of spades. This increases the probability of a flush, a straight, or another high-paying hand. The probability of getting each of those variations is the same.

It’s possible that you could wind up with a hand that would qualify for multiple rankings on the pay table. If that happens, you get paid for the highest of those hands. You don’t get paid for each of them.

Split Card Poker Odds and Pay Tables

One of the other things that a lot of these newer video poker variants have in common is that they’re really just older video poker games with a bonus feature added to them. These bonus features are optional and usually require you to pony up some extra coins in order to activate them. The original game that has the extra feature added to it is called “the base game”.

Split Card Poker is available in the following base game versions:

The pay tables and returns for these games all work the same way until you factor in the Split Card. But since we don’t have detailed, accurate information about how likely it is to get a Split Card on a hand, it’s impossible to calculate how it affects the payback percentage.

You can visit the appropriate page for each base game to get the payback percentage for the various pay tables. Most video poker games have a 95% or higher payback percentage. The best games have a payback percentage of 98% or more. Of course, that assumes you’re playing with perfect strategy.

Split Card Poker Strategy

We’re sure there are strategy adjustments that need to be made to account for the Split Card option, but we’re not entirely sure what they are or how to calculate them. Our usual go-to source for this kind of information is Michael Shackleford’s site, and he does offer a detailed analysis of the game there. But he had no strategy advice to share there.

We can share some general strategy advice, though. It helps to have some card sense. If you know that there’s a 1/47 chance of filling a draw, you can calculate the expected value of drawing to that hand versus standing on a pat hand that might not pay as well.

Example

You’re dealt a hand with a pair of jacks. But it’s also a 4 card draw to a royal flush. If you hang on to the jacks, you have a 100% chance of getting at least even money. You also have a 2/47 (or 1 in 23.5) of drawing to a 3 of a kind. You might also improve to some other hands, like 2 pairs, 4 of a kind, or a full house. The payouts for all of those are low compared to the payoff if you hit the royal flush. If you draw to it, you win 800 to 1. You’d rather have a 1 in 47 chance of getting an 800 credit win than you would a 100% chance of getting even money.

All of these strategy insights apply to Split Poker as well as to regular video poker.

Summary

Split Poker is one of the more interesting twists on regular video poker. It’s just one wrinkle tacked onto one of the more traditional base games. It’s also a game where the bonus feature’s exact effect on the payback percentage is a little unclear.

It’s probably worth trying for the novelty of it, but we doubt it’s going to become a mainstay of your gambling hobby.