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Newbie video poker questions

27 February 2020

Along with questions about the fine points of casino games and tales of memorable casino trips from veteran players, my email box brings a steady stream of questions from newcomers.

Lately, that stream has included several inquiries from video poker newbies trying to understand basic strategy points.

For this week, let’s take Jacks or Better, the game on which many others are based, and explain basic strategy concepts – a refreshers for video poker veterans and a crash course for newcomers.

The expected value figures below are for 9-6 Jacks or Better, but the broad strategy tips also apply to 9-5, 8-5 and 7-5 games. Jacks or Better has the easiest strategy among non-wild card games, but it serves as a good basis before you tackle the more complex strategies.

A few things to remember:

  • Low pairs are more valuable than individual high cards, or multiple high cards in different suits. Dealt a hand such as Jack of clubs, 4 of spades, 4 of hearts, 7 of hearts, 10 of diamonds, players often hem and haw over whether to hold the Jack or the pair of 4s.

The chance to pair up the Jack means you will have paying hands more often if you discard the pair and hold the high card. However, winners when you hold the pair will be more valuable, with every winning hand being at least two pairs.

Average players often see this hand as a close call, but it’s not. The average return per five coins wagered is 4.12 coins if you hold the pair, and only 2.43 if you hold the Jack.

  • Low pairs also are more valuable than four-card straights. Dealt 5-6-7 of mixed suits to go with your pair of 4s, your average return will be about 4.12 coins if you hold the 4s, 3.40 if you go for the straight.

  • Flushes, on the other hand, are worth chasing even if it means breaking up a low pair. Dealt 2, 4, 7, 10 of hearts and a 4 of spades, average returns are 5.74 coins for holding the four hearts, and 4.12 for holding the pair.

  • We do not chase inside straights in this game. Dealt 4-5-6-8-10 of mixed suits, we would not hold 4-5-6-8, we’d just toss all five cards and try again.

The difference between 4-5-6-8 and 4-5-6-7 is that with the first, we can complete the straight only by drawing one of the four 7s, while with the latter hand, we can complete it with any of the four 3s or the four 8s, giving us eight possible winners.

The only time we chase inside straights that can be completed only with one of four cards is when the hand includes at least three high cards. Dealt 3-9-J-Q-K of mixed suits, we should discard the 3 and hold the other four cards.

  • Do keep an eye on that royal flush jackpot. Dealt Jack of clubs, King of diamonds, Queen of diamonds, and 7-4 of off suits, your best play is to hold King-Queen, discard the Jack-7-4 and leave open the royal flush possibility.

  • Part of expert strategy is betting maximum coins. The big jump in the royal flush payoff from 1,000 coins for a four-coin bet to 4,000 with a five-card bet means that the payback percentage is highest when you bet the max.

Don’t overbet your bankroll, but given equal pay tables, you are better off betting five coins on a quarter game than betting $1, whether as four coins an a quarter game or one on a dollar machine.

Look for John Grochowski on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).
Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski