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The Basics of Video Poker
Video Poker for Fun and Profit
by Dan Paymar

It may sound silly to “define” video poker, but it’s surprising how many people think and act as if it were just like poker. They hold kickers, prefer aces over jacks, and even try to bluff the machine. So let’s take a realistic look at the game.

The main attractions of video poker are that the player’s wits are pitted against the machine, the action is fast, and one has a realistic chance at a big jackpot. Moreover, there is an opportunity for a long-term profit even as you’re having fun.

Video poker resembles the traditional slot machine in several ways. The cabinet, coin slot, coin payout hopper, bill validator and slot club card reader are all basically identical to those on a reel slot. The most obvious difference is that on a slot machine the player wins when the reels stop with a particular combination, such as three bars, while a video poker player wins when the final five cards form a recognizable poker hand, such as a straight. In either case, all of the winning combinations with their respective payoffs are shown on the front of the machine or on the screen, and the machine automatically counts up the indicated number of credits when one of those combinations occurs. The biggest difference is that the player gets to select which cards to hold and then draw in an attempt to improve the hand. Video Poker does have an element of luck, governed by a random number generator programmed into its internal computer just as the reel slots, but unlike a reel slot where you just pull the handle and hope for the best, video poker also has an element of skill.

After being dealt your initial five cards, you choose which cards to hold, then draw to replace the others in an attempt to effect a winning poker hand (or to improve an existing winner) just as you would do in a live draw poker game. If the final hand is in the payoff schedule, the machine makes the payoff; otherwise, your bet is lost. The skill is in knowing which cards to hold for the best potential payoff. The vast majority of players don’t bother to learn a playing strategy, and thus give up an average of about two percent more than necessary to the machines.

The very best reel machines offer no more than 99% payback. Compare that to paybacks ranging from 99.5% to 101% when you use my easy Precision Play method with the recommended video poker games. Is it any wonder that video poker has become so popular? Yet most people don’t know the difference between full pay and short pay, and they don’t bother learning how to play well or even how to recognize the good games. My goal is to make it as easy as possible for you to become a skilled player.

While it is true that games offering over 100% payback are rare outside Nevada, this does not nullify the value of a strategy. Even if you play where high paying games are not available, an accurate strategy will minimize your losses and give you the best chance of a winning session. It’s not even necessary to learn all the details of a “perfect” strategy. On most games, you can achieve within 0.01% of a game’s potential payback without worrying about “penalty cards” or other minute details.

Don’t be taken in by claims of teaching you how to beat the slots or any other negative expectation game. Instead, play video poker, “The Intelligent Player’s Slot Machine.”

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