Going deeper in video poker

Going deeper in video poker

July 10, 2018 3:09 AM


Last week, I covered the top 14 rows of the strategy table for full-pay Jacks or Better video poker. National Video Poker Day is less than two months away and I’ve got to do my best to teach as many of you as possible how to play video poker.

Over the past few months, I’ve been going over the basics of video poker, explaining Expert Strategy and how it is developed, and now walking through the entire strategy table for the best beginner video poker out there.

The top 14 rows from last week encompassed about 25% of our hands and were all of the hands that are net winners over the long run. Despite this, that doesn’t really make them more important, for a couple of reasons. The first is most of these 14 hands are incredibly obvious plays. I don’t think it takes much practice to know to keep the Four of a Kind or the Flush! It is all the hands that are not so obvious that require the lessons.

The other reason is the one I already mentioned. The other (losing hands) account for 75% of the hands we are dealt and thus it is very important that we get them right if we want to achieve 99%-plus paybacks!

So, without further delay, I give you the next 10 rows of our strategy table (see box in the next column).

You will quickly notice what I warned about a few weeks ago. We are now in the middle of the 4-Card Straight and 3-Card Straight Flush hands. With the exception of Low Pair all the other hands fit these categories. The only thing that differentiates all the 3-Card Flushes is the number of openings and the number of High Cards. Let’s examine what we have here.

Hand EV
4-Card Straight with 3 High Cards 0.87
Low Pair 0.82
4-Card Straight with 2 High Cards 0.81
4-Card Straight with 1 High Card 0.74
3-Card Inside Straight Flush with 2 High Cards 0.73
3-Card Straight Flush with 1 High Card 0.72
4-Card Straight with 0 High Cards 0.68
3-Card Double Inside Straight Flush with 2 High Cards 0.64
3-Card Inside Straight Flush with 1 High Card 0.63
3-Card Straight Flush with 0 High Cards 0.63


At the top we have the 4-Card Straight with 3 High Cards. This straight must not be an Inside Straight. Thus 10-J-Q-A is not part of this category as that is an Inside Straight. So, we are talking about only a 10-J-Q-K hand. This is the only 4-Card Straight that outranks a Low Pair – which means the hand would have to be 10-10-J-Q-K that is not a 3-Card Royal (as we learned last week). A Low Pair plays over every other 4-Card Straight, 3-Card Straight Flush or 2-Card Royal.

Now the fun begins. Three of the next five hands are the rest of our 4-Card Straights with the only differentiator being how many High Cards. As you can see, each high card is worth about 0.06 to 0.07 in expected value. Sometimes, these hands will fall out next to each other. But as the paytable changes, hands will shift in position as the expected value changes. Thus it is important to keep these separate to ensure accuracy.

From this part of our Strategy Table we learn a 4-Card Straight with X High Cards outranks a 3-Card Inside Straight Flush with a similar number of High Cards. So in these cases we keep the 4-Card Straight. In case you are wondering where the 3-Card Straight Flush with 2 High Cards is – this is a 3-Card Royal as it would have to be 10-J-Q and we covered this last week.

The remaining hands for this week are 3-Card Straight Flushes, varying by the number of gaps and the number of High Cards. While this can seem very confusing, it is not as bad you might think. Many of these hands really cannot overlap. You can’t have a 3-Card Inside Straight Flush with 2 High Cards while also having a 3-Card Straight Flush with 1 High Card.

What we learn from this is mostly that 3-Card Straight Flushes of just about every variety are playable. But, they are below 4-Card Straights and Low Pairs, which are the hands they tend to overlap with the most. What they play over is the hands we don’t see yet – Single High Card, Two High Cards, and even 2-Card Royals. So, a 5-6-7 (suited) with a J-Q (different suit) is played as the 3-Card Straight Flush and not the 2-Card Royal!

Next week, I’ll finish up the final 12 rows of the Strategy Table, where we will cover hands that tend to overlap a great deal with one another.