Advanced All American Video Poker Strategy With Examples
One of the most difficult non-wild video poker games is All American because of its atypical payout structure. It’s a very anti-intuitive game, especially if you’re familiar with more typical strategies, and the best way to learn to play it on a high level is by looking at hand examples like the ones we walk through here.
All American Video Poker Advanced Strategies
In the video poker world, there are two main types of games: those with wilds and those without. In the latter group, virtually all titles are more or less variations of Jacks or Better, so once you learn those basic strategies, you can intuitively find your way around most situations.
All American Video Poker strategy is different in this regard because of its flat payout structure for mid-strength hands that completely changes the values of made hands and all of the most common draws.
Because of this drastic change, it’s really difficult to learn to play this game on a high level just by looking at a few guidelines and having at it in front of a machine (online or otherwise). If you try to take this approach, you’ll make plenty of mistakes by simply going on “auto-pilot” and not making the appropriate adjustments.
To avoid this type of problem, we’re going to work through a number of instructive hands here that range from fairly simple to particularly advanced to give you a feel for what things are really like once you’re in the middle of playing.
The Essential Characteristics of All American
Before we get into the example hands, we’re going to briefly look at the pay table for this game and what you need to think about in terms of adjustments:
- Royal Flush – 800x
- Straight Flush – 200x
- Four of a Kind – 80x
- Full House – 8x
- Flush – 8x
- Straight – 8x
- Three of a Kind – 3x
- Two Pair – 1x
- One Pair (Jacks and Up) – 1x
First, you will see that a straight flush has a much higher payout than usual. This places into the general idea of flushes and straights, both made hands and draws, being worth more in this game.
Second, we see that full houses, flushes and straights all have the same payout, which is higher than you’d normally see in any other game for flushes and straights. Again, we see that these two hands (and their respective draws) are more valuable relative to pair-based hands.
Finally, two pair hands give the same payout as a single pair of jacks or better. The end effect of this is pair-based hands are worth less, which has an effect on how you play low-tier, high-card hands compared to the usual strategies.
With those general characteristics and ideas out of the way, we’ll jump into some instructive hands.
High-end Hands and Draws
We’re going to start by looking at scenarios with made hands and draws. This will be in contrast to high-card hands and minor draws that we’ll get into down below.
Hand 1: KhKsQsTs5s
If you don’t learn anything else from our discussion here, then learning how to play this particular hand is the best thing you could learn for your play, and here’s why:
From the general concepts we described above, you’ll see that single pairs are worth less (even high pairs) and flush/straight draws are worth more.
As such, consider how you’d normally play this hand. You would see that three to a royal is better than four to a flush, but you’d also see that the high pair is worth more than either. However, consider the average payouts here to see where things change:
- Flush Draw (KQT5) – 1.64x
- Royal Draw, Two High Cards (KQT) – 1.63x
- Pair of Kings (KK) – 1.41x
This is completely backward compared to the ranking that you would normally expect. It’s worth noting that if the combination was KQJ instead of KQT, then the royal draw would be better because of the high card power giving you more chances to hit paying pairs.
With that said, there are two lessons to learn here:
- Flush draws are worth more than high pairs (even if there aren’t extra high cards in the draw).
- Three to a royal is not better than four to a flush if those three cards include a ten.
These are some advanced ideas, but they’ll help you to play high-end hands in All American video poker in much better ways.
Hand 2: JsJhTd9c8d
There’s a general rule in non-wild card video poker that high pairs are better than open-ended straight draws (ie: draws to a straight where eight different cards can make the hand). However, as we saw above, general rules aren’t worth much when playing All American, and that’s what makes advanced strategies for this game so complicated and anti-intuitive.
Consider the average payouts for this instructive hand:
- Pair of Jacks (JJ) – 1.41x
- Open-ended Straight Draw (JT98) – 1.40x
As you can see here, it’s razor thin on which of these hands is better, and the open-ended straight draw only lost here because it had no other high cards. To show what we meant, if you were drawing to QJT9 instead of JT98, then the draw would be worth 1.47x and be the clear winner.
That gives us the following rule:
- Open-ended straight draws are always better than a high pair except in the specific case of JJT98.
The example hand we gave here is actually the only single exception to the rule of open-ended straight draws being worth more in this game.
Low-end Hands and High-card Spots
The differences between general video poker strategy and All American that have been shown above will cover a lot of spots that you run into on how this game works in a functional, hand-to-hand sense. They’re things that you won’t be able to figure out in the middle of playing on an intuitive level, and that’s why they’re so important to learn by heart ahead of time.
However, when you play with high-card hands and low pairs, things are complicated as well, and again, the general praxis of how to handle these situations is completely different, which you’ll see in the following instructive scenarios.
Hand 3: 9c7h6s5s5h
We’ve seen before how pairs are worth less while draws are worth more in All American video poker strategy, but to really get into the detailed scenarios where advanced ideas apply, we have to see where these two general principles really take us with the values of our hands.
There’s no other scenario that better illustrates this than looking at inside straight draws with low pairs, and as we can see those are the obvious two options for playing this hand, we’ll jump straight into their average payouts:
- Pair of Fives (55) – 0.70x
- Inside Straight Draw (9765) – 0.68x
In virtually every type of non-wild video poker, a low pair will always be worth more than an inside straight draw no matter what. However, the fact that these values are so close together in this example shows that all may not be what it seems, and we’ll illustrate that briefly in a similar, but slightly different hand.
Similar Hand: Jc9h8s7s7h
If we increase the rank of each of these cards by two, then something interesting happens to the payouts for the two ways to play it:
- Inside Straight Draw (J987) – 0.74x
- Pair of Sevens (77) – 0.70x
What we’re seeing here is the effect of having a high card available in the draw. The jack can catch a high pair for a payout, and that’s not the case up above with 9765. That leads us to an important rule:
- An inside straight draw is only better than a low pair if it includes at least one high card.
Like most of the rules we’ve looked at here, it’s more complicated than the recommendations that you’ll see for basic strategies for video poker in general because it’s based more conditions than usual.
Hand 4: AsKsQdTsTd
This is the type of complicated hand that a lot of people never really decide to study because it looks like something you won’t have to worry about very often. However, it’s a spot where the wrong play is such a serious mistake that we want to look at it directly.
The first thing you should always do is look at the ways to play a hand that seem reasonable. Here, you can play with three to a royal, four to a Broadway (AKQJT straight) or the low pair of tens.
Advanced All American strategy is all about being able to figure out which option is better than the others in an anti-intuitive environment, and this is a good example of a hand where most players will struggle to do so correctly unless they stick to the key principles of advanced strategy that we have outlined above: Pairs are worth less, and draws are worth more.
- Three to a Royal (AKT) – 1.41x
- Four to a Broadway (AKQT) – 0.87x
- Pair of Tens (TT) – 0.70x
While the three to a royal might seem obvious, what’s not obvious is how easy it is to miss that you have that way to play the hand because of the visual complication of the hand.
More often, you’ll be stuck between the option to play the low pair or the four to a Broadway, and even in the lesser case of AKQT (compared to KQJT), it’s better to go with the Broadway draw. A big part of the reason for this is that straights are worth more than usual, but the high-card value of picking up high pairs is also important.
Hand 5: KcJdTs9s6s
In our fifth and final instructive hand, we have five cards that are only barely connected, and we have to figure out how to best play them. We’re just going to jump into the options here and go from there:
- Inside Straight Draw (KJT9) – 0.81x
- Three to a Straight Flush (T96) – 0.69x
- Three to a Straight (JT9) – 0.49x
There are some complications here that are worth pointing out. First, the inside straight draw has two high cards. Second, the straight flush draw has two “gaps” that have to be filled in.
For example, if the 6s becomes the 7s, there will only be one “gap,” and the straight flush draw will be worth more than the inside straight draw with an average payout of 0.95x.
We’ll look at a similar hand that has the same two options but with these complications changed up:
Similar Hand: JsTs9h7h5h
Once again, we have the options of the inside straight draw, with one high card this time, or three to a straight flush with two gaps. The straight draw gives 0.74x with one high card, and the 0.69x payout for the straight flush draw remains.
If we drop the 5h back to being the 6h instead, then the straight flush draw shoots up to being worth 0.95x instead. To explain how valuable this is, it’s much better than a low pair.
There’s no denying that All American is probably the most complicated non-wild video poker title out there. However, it’s the kind of thing that a lot of players look forward to because the strategies to be great at the game are particularly advanced with a certain degree of complication that gives this game a high level of depth.
We’ve covered this title with instructive hands to simulate trying to find the right answers while in the middle of playing, and that’s a skill set that translates over to actual performance at the machines.