video poker Royal Flush

Can You Simplify Basic Video Poker Strategy?

This is the second part of our Jackpot Capital online casino video poker tutorial.  The first thing we must point out is that we are assuming two things.  The first is that you are playing Jacks or Better or a game based on it and that you are betting the maximum on each hand in order to be able to win the big extra payment for a Royal Flush.

Betting the maximum is the same as when you are playing progressive jackpots slots: you need to bet the maximum in order to qualify for the jackpot.  However, betting the maximum has its own risks.  At Jackpot Capital casino, we always emphasize the importance of responsible gaming. 

One of the most important aspects of responsible gaming is to bet in accordance with your bankroll.  So, if your bankroll doesn’t allow you to bet the maximum in video poker, the strategy is quite a bit different.  Similarly, if your bankroll doesn’t allow you to play a progressive slot for the maximum, you probably should play any of the many non-progressive slots we offer.  No less fun, they don't require betting the max.

Playing for a Royal Flush

It is quite unusual to get a Royal Flush.  Even though four to a Royal Flush is an unusual dealt hand, if you are dealt this hand, you have to play for the Royal Flush in all but one case.  The exception is when you were dealt a straight flush with 9 through king.  In that case, you keep the straight flush.

In all other cases where you have four to a Royal Flush, you go for the Royal Flush.  This includes breaking up a dealt flush, a dealt straight, or a winning pair.  If that should occur, you need to understand that even if you don’t get the Royal Flush, you might still get the flush, the straight, or the high card pair anyway!

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A Major Aspect of Video Poker Strategy

This is a big element in video poker.  You might give up a winning hand to go for a better winning hand!  The thinking will always be the same as in the example of keeping four to a Royal Flush: you go for the better hand if it is statistically correct to do so and even if you don’t hit that higher paying hand, you might still win with a lower paying hand.

Dealt Hands That You Keep

Here are the winning dealt hands that you keep:

  • Royal Flush
  • Straight flush
  • Four of a kind
  • Full house
  • Three of a kind
  • Two pair

Some of these decisions require an explanation.  We spoke about keeping a straight flush of 9 to king above.  Four of a kind is a stand alone hand but a full house could theoretically be improved to four of a kind.  However, a full house pays too well to throw it away for the small chance that it might become four of a kind.

Once again, two pair could be improved to three of a kind, a full house, or even four of a kind.  But two pair is a solid winning hand and if you keep both pairs, you have two chances to get three of a kind which would become a higher paying full house. 

What Do I Do if I’m Dealt a High Pair?

If the high pair also comes with the chance for a Royal Flush or a straight flush, you break the high pair and go for the better hand.  However, a dealt high pair is a very strong hand.  You can turn it into three of a kind, four of a kind, a full house, or two pair.  So, if you are dealt a high pair and there isn’t any reason to break it up, you discard the other three cards.

The only dealt hands that supersede a high pair are the ones we have spoken about above.

Three to a Royal Flush

The key to understanding why this dealt hand is ranked just below a high pair is that to break up a high pair in pursuit of a Royal Flush with only three cards to the Royal Flush is statistically not justified.

But in other cases, you keep the three cards to the Royal Flush not so much because you expect to get it but because you might improve the hand into a winning hand.  You might win with a high pair, a straight, or a flush.  It is unusual but keeping three to a Royal Flush may sometimes turn into three of a kind.

Four to a Flush

This is the next most powerful dealt hand so it requires an explanation.  You might have three to a Royal Flush and a low card of the same suit.  In that case, you give up the low card in that suit to go for the Royal Flush.  However, if the four to a flush do not also have three to a Royal Flush, you keep the four cards and go for the flush.

Low Pair

A low pair is a pair that does not win on its own.  Remember, you are playing Jacks or Better so a low pair is anything from a pair of twos to a pair of tens.  As weak as this hand is before the draw, it is the next hand on the chart.  You keep the low pair hoping for another pair, three of a kind, four of a kind, or a full house.

The Weakest Dealt Hands

Here are the weakest dealt hands in descending order from “best” to “worst”.

  • Four to an outside straight.
  • Two suited high cards.  This is the same as two to a Royal Flush.
  • Three to a straight flush.
  • Two unsuited high cards.
  • A single jack, queen, or king suited with a ten.
  • One high card.

This list also requires some explanation.  Any dealt hand that does not include one of the higher hands and also doesn’t include any of these weaker hands is a complete wash.  You discard all five cards.  Actually, discarding all five cards is a lot better than the rules that usually apply in draw poker when friends play it of a Friday night.  In those friendly games, you are usually required to show an ace to draw four cards and you can never draw five cards.

The list does not include four to an inside straight.  If that is the best your dealt hand offers, discard all five cards and start again.

The reason a ten suited with a jack, queen, or king is considered such a weak hand is because a ten is not a high card.  If you pair the ten, you still do not win the hand.

If you have three unsuited high cards, you should keep only the lower two.  This seems counter-intuitive but it is statistically correct.

Finally, even one high card is worth keeping.  There are 16 high cards so in at least one out of every three hands, you’ll get at least one high card.

High Return to Player Rate

Remember, video poker has become one of the most popular online casino games because it has such a high return to player rate and also because it gives players some poker game play without the bluffing. Read the above guidelines again...and maybe again....and you're well on your way to some great video poker fun.

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