Casinos are in their business for one reason: to make money. In order to do this, they must make sure you lose more than you win, and they do this by making all their games pay out less than the actual odds (what is known as the house advantage, or edge). Most people who visit casinos are tourists who are eager to get a thrill by playing slot machines, which have a high house edge. However, next to the slots are sometimes machines that can give you the profit at the expense of the casino: video poker. (For another game where the odds are in your favor, visit my page How to Win at a Casino: Play Blackjack with Card Counting.)
Although your choice to play video poker properly will, indeed, make you a winner, it is still a game of chance. Inevitably, you will fall upon a streak of losing. Do not bet any money you cannot afford to lose. Betting just isn't any fun if you don't do it responsibly.
Video poker has been a staple game in casinos since the 70s, and has emerged as one of the casino's most popular games. The question is: If the house edge is as low (even negative, as we will discuss) as it is, how come casinos keep it? One answer is the fact that, if played incorrectly, the house edge is actually quite high, even higher than some slot machines! In order to win gambling at video poker, you must employ proper video poker strategy.
Video poker has many variants, but they are mostly all related. You are dealt five cards from a deck, and select which ones you would like to hold. You then hit deal, and all non-held cards are replaced with other cards from the deck. You are then paid (or not) according to the payout table. The standard video poker game, Jacks or Better, pays for any hand that is a pair of jacks or higher.
It's clear that one incentive to play video poker is the simple rules, which has without a doubt led to its success. However, you cannot abide by simple 5-Card Draw poker rules in order to make your video poker excursion pay off.
Finding profitable paytables
Unlike blackjack, a video poker machine with a potential player advantage is quite difficult to find. With the advent of the Internet, many gamblers have learned that the best way to play video poker is by finding high-paying machines. From the point of view of the casino, video poker can lose them money if too many people know optimal strategy, and thus they have had to replace higher-paying machines with lower-paying ones.
The hardest part is, really, just finding the best machine to play on. I highly recommend checking out the machines (either at a land-based casino or online), writing down the paytables, and plunking them into this analyzer by the Wizard of Odds. Look for machines that return 1 or over; they are hard to come by. If you cannot, get them as close to 1 as possible.
Employing optimal video poker strategy
If you've found a machine that gives you the best return for your money, all that's left for you to do is figure out how to get it to pay those returns by using the proper strategy. I highly recommend this index of various video poker games and their optimal strategies to figure out how to play video poker to win. These strategies work by having a hierarchy of optimal plays, starting at the bottom with discarding everything, to the top of keeping all cards for the highest payout available. You simply analyze all possible plays you can make with the cards you are dealt, and pick the highest on the list.
After playing a couple tens of hands, you should get a feel for what proper strategy is for your game. The technicalities typically come with handling potential straight flushes. If you are ever unsure, check your cheat sheet list. However, here's two general rules of thumb that are typically applicable:
- Always pick a non-ranking pair over a high card. The possibility of getting a three-of-a-kind or more far outweighs the safety net provided by the single high card getting matched.
- In Deuces Wild, if you are dealt 2 deuces or more, you'll most likely just keep the deuces. Exceptions are for very high-ranking hands. Don't keep a 3-of-a-kind if you have 2 deuces, and don't keep a 4-of-a-kind if you have 3 deuces.
Hopefully you have a better picture of how you can win gambling with video poker. Always remember that the advantage you may have is a long-term net profit that is highly susceptible to plenty of ups and downs. Bet responsibly, and good luck!