Video Poker Strategy for Advanced Players
Being able to adapt to any type of video poker out there is the hallmark of a player who understands advanced video poker strategy. Here we break down the fundamentals of how to reach this level of skill and the tools that you can use to form your own strategies for games based on sound mathematical principles without actually needing to do any math.
Getting Better at Video Poker as a Genre
There are two ways to approach learning video poker strategies, and the overwhelming vast majority of people choose one way over the other. The first way, and the most common, is to learn by charts how to play specific games in specific ways without actually understanding why it is that you’re doing what you’re doing.
The second way, which is what we’re going to focus on here, is learning how to play the genre of games instead of playing the specific variations.
Learning the principles that govern the larger genre of titles is not a simple task, but it doesn’t have to be overly difficult if you know which tools are available and how to go about using them in as practical of a manner as possible to learn the games and to develop your own strategies.
It’s this second approach to video poker that takes you to the advanced level, and one of the reasons for that is that you can use the general principles of the genre along with a more detailed analysis away from the games to developer a certain intuition about how different types of hands should be played, even if you have never played that specific version of the game before.
How to Analyze Hands Mathematically
The main tool that we’re going to use to develop our intuition for video poker strategies is a hand analyzer program. There are lots of video poker hand analysis apps out there that allow you to put in a game’s pay table (and wild cards, if applicable) to see how you should play certain hands and what all of the options are.
What’s great about these apps and programs is that they give you all of the mathematical information that you need for learning and for your hand analysis without you actually needing to do any math.
Here we’re going to go through a few things that you need to know about using these analysis tools and how you can use them to get better at the game in the more general sense.
The first thing to know is that video poker hand analysis programs give you an output based on what we call expected payouts (you may sometimes see it called expected value).
- This is listed as a multiple of the starting bet size, so a 2.500x win would mean that you’re winning two and a half times your bet.
- These assume that you’re making a 1x wager, and all of the values are scaled down to that amount for convenience even if you’re actually playing with five coins (as you should in many video poker titles).
- You can subtract 1 from the listed payout amount for your average profit on the hand if that’s a piece of information that you’d like to have.
- The amounts listed for the expected payouts are an average based on all of the card combinations that could come based on what’s the deck. This is what your hand will be worth in the long run.
Our ultimate goal in video poker is to play every single hand as best we can. What that means is that, of all of the possible combinations of discards (or standing pat) that we have available, we want to choose the one that has the best expected payout every single time.
These hand analysis tools can help us to learn how to do that.
Understanding the Results From a Hand
Let’s use a hand from Jacks or Better as an example for how the results for these types of tools will be listed. The hand we’ll put into a hand analysis tool for video poker will be AKT44 with a four-card flush draw.
When we look at the top three ways listed to play the hand, we get the following:
- AKT (Three-card Royal Draw) – 1.2868x
- AKT4 (Four-card Flush Draw) – 1.2766x
- 44 (Low Pair) – 0.8237x
This matches up with what people will know who understand Jacks or Better strategy, but the idea here is that you could extend this to other games to see how to play specific hands. Once you look at several similar hands and see similar results, you’ll start to develop a feel for it.
Switching Things Up
After you know how this type of tool works, then you can start switching things up to see how the same hand should be played in other styles of video poker. If we look at the exact same hand as above in All American video poker, then we get the following results instead:
- AKT4 (Four-card Flush Draw) – 1.6596x
- AKT (Three-card Royal Draw) – 1.3821x
- 44 (Low Pair) – 0.6953x
What you’ll notice first is that the four-card draw became the best hand, but there’s more to see in the analysis that can be easy to miss. If we compare these values to the values for Jacks or Better, we can pull out a few important points:
- The value of the low pair was worth significantly less. This is reflected by the lower two pair payout in All American (1x) compared to the payout for the same hand in Jacks or Better (2x).
- The value of the four-card flush draw increased tremendously. This is because the payout for a flush in All American is 8x, and it’s only 5x in Jacks or Better.
- Likewise, the payout for the three-card royal draw increased a marginal amount, and that reflects the larger wins for a straight or flush in this game, which are both 8x.
With this type of analysis and comparison of the same hand in multiple versions of video poker, you can learn how the games themselves differ in terms of strategy and how to adjust to certain types of hands as a result.
Learning the Differences Between Individual Strategies is Key
Learning these games from a mathematical standpoint using analysis tools like what we’ve described above is a key component of getting really good at video poker. The reason for this is that you get to learn the differences between the games instead of just learning how to essentially recite a strategy for very specific type of pay table.
As you can see from our above examples, you can set things up to see how the expected payouts change for different ways of playing the same hand in different styles of video poker. Once you see what actually changes about these values, you start to learn how to adjust between games in general instead of how to play one specific video poker machine at a time.
The end result is that you learn how to play the set of all video poker games instead of just one or two, and that’s a very strong skill set to have because it can even apply titles that you have never played before. You’ll be able to look at the pay table, point out a few things and adjust as you need to on the fly.
We have presented a very advanced view of video poker strategy here that is based around the process of systematically building your intuition with analysis tools. This is a process that will take you from knowing how to play a very small number of individual games to being good at the genre as a whole.
If you’re a big fan of video poker and of strategy in this genre, then this is an approach that will give you a lot of mileage and help you to get even better at your favorite games.