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Video Poker Odds

Video Poker is widely considered to be a game of skill, because in order to become a winning player, you have to follow proper strategy and discard the right cards every time you’re dealt a hand. While it is possible to do that by following one of the popular Video Poker flowcharts, becoming proficient with the game simply requires you to understand how Video Poker odds work.

The basic principle is very similar to all the other poker games – there are 52 cards in a deck, which means that once you see the 5 cards that you’ve been dealt, you should be able to calculate the probability of being dealt a card that would complete a winning hand with 100% accuracy. For example, if you’re dealt 4 suited cards, you should realize that you have 9 outs to complete a flush because there are 13 cards of the same suit in a deck and 13-4 = 9. Since there are 47 cards left in the deck in total, you have a 9/47 or 19.15% chance of scoring a rather large payout. Quite obviously, hitting a flush isn’t necessarily the only winning scenario here, as you could be drawing to a straight at the same time.

The Odds of Being Dealt a Winning Hand and Improving Common Video Poker Hands

Quite obviously, calculating everything on the fly might get slightly tiresome, so you should consider learning your odds in some of the most common situations by heart. For example, the average odds of being dealt one of the Video Poker jackpots are as follows:

Royal flush – 1/650,000

Straight flush – 1/9,150

Four of a kind – 1/423

Full house – 1/90

Flush – 1/86

Straight – 1/80

You should also learn what are the odds of completing some of the most common combinations, which is guaranteed to prevent you from making some rather costly mistakes and contribute to your overall understanding of the inner workings of the game:

Improving one pair to two pairs – 1/6

Improving one pair to three of a kind – 1/9

Improving two pair to a full house – 1/12

Improving three of a kind to a full house – 1/16

Improving three of a kind to a quad – 1/24

Completing a one card flush draw – 1/5

Completing a two cards flush draw – 1/24

Completing an open-ended straight draw – 1/6

Completing an inside straight draw – 1/12

Video Poker Odds and Proper Strategy

In the end, Video Poker is all about going for the plays that offer the highest return on your investment over prolonged periods of time. Consequently, you should always weigh the odds against the potential payout. One of the most common mistakes people make when playing games like Jacks or Better is focusing on a large payout instead of looking at the bigger picture. For example, if you’re dealt 4 cards to an inside straight with two high cards like Q and K, you should never try to complete your straight.

The potential payout might be very tempting, but the right way to play that hand would be to discard everything and keep your high cards, because the return on your investment is actually higher for QK than it is for something like QKT8. In fact, an inside straight draw in Jacks or Better is so bad that you should discard everything unless you have 3 or 4 high cards. Yes, you might hit your straight 8% of times, but that straight is still going to pay 4:1. In fact, with the amount of money you’ve already committed, you’re going to get more bang for your buck if you drop the trash and try to draw from scratch.

The return on your investment is 0.3597 if you discard everything, but it’s only 0.08*4=0.32 if you try to stick with your inside straight draw (it’s actually slightly higher due to the fact that hitting Jacks or Better offers a 1:1 payout, but it’s still better to drop your cards). Quite obviously, if you’re holding an open-ended straight draw, you shouldn’t discard it, as the return on your investment is slightly higher than 0.16*4=0.64 (the exact number is 0.6809).

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