100.65% payback in video poker no joke if found

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I’m continuing last week’s column by continuing the discussion of Joker Wild video poker. This game is still available in numerous casinos around Las Vegas and offers a 100.65 percent payback.

As always, of course, it offers this payback ONLY if you find the full-pay paytable. You should be looking for the following:

    Hand    Pays*
    Royal Flush (Natural)    800
    Five of a Kind    200
    Royal Flush (Joker)    100
    Straight Flush    50
    Four of a Kind    20
    Full House    7
    Flush    5
    Straight    3
    Three of a Kind    2
    Two Pair    1
    High Pair (K’s or A’s)    1
* With Max-Coin play

There are a total of 50 entries on the strategy table for this version of Joker Wild. However, they are split up between joker hands (23) and non-Joker hands (27). When thought of this way, the process of learning the strategy table becomes much simpler.

First: The non-joker hands, which make up almost 90% of the total hands.

The top half of the non-joker strategy table has few surprises. Most of the hands are the pat hands for which there is little to decide. One key point is you will discard a straight to go for any four-card straight flush. You do NOT break up a flush, however, for these cases. A three-card royal ranks above a high pair, but below two pair and four-card straight flushes.

The bottom half of the non-Joker strategy table contains the hands with an expected value less than one, so these are the messier partial straights, flushes and straight flushes.

The key points here are NO playable three-card straights and NO playable three-card flushes. However, three-card straight flushes are quite playable. They are generally below a low pair (except for a non-inside three-card straight flush), but above the equivalent four-card straight.

So, if you have a three-card straight flush that is also a four-card straight, you stick with the three-card most of the time. The payout of only three on the straight makes a significant difference for these hands.

If you have a two-card royal that is A-K, K-Q, K-J or K-10, it will outrank holding only the single high card. However, it is preferable to hold a single A or K over a two-card royal of 10-J-Q (two of the three). A two-card royal consisting of an ace but not a king is not playable.

It probably is no surprise that on the non-joker half of things, three hand types make up about 70% of all our hands dealt – low pair, one high card and Razgu. This last hand – where we throw all five occurs about 12.5 percent of the time for hands without a joker, which is 4X more frequent than in jacks or better.

On the joker side of things, we find the lowest playable hands are four-card straights and four-card flushes. If after accounting for the joker you still have an inside four-card straight, you do NOT play this (i.e. 4-5-JKR-8-Q).

As in non-joker hands, a three-card straight flush is played over a four-card straight. Since every hand with a joker is by its very definition at least a pair, which one of the four remaining cards do you decide to keep if dealt nothing much but the joker? You don’t! Over 10% of our joker hands will result in a joker razgu where we throw the other four cards. There is no joker low pair hand in Joker Wild.

There are three secrets to winning at Joker Wild video poker. The first is to find the right game to play. There are a lot of different pay-tables out there and even a variation of Joker Wild that pays beginning at two pair, albeit harder to find and not nearly as lucrative.

The second secret is learning the strategy. It’s really not that hard a strategy to learn, but if you go in trying to adapt a jacks or better of your Bonus Poker strategy to Joker Wild, you’re going to get killed.

Last, but not least, you need to get your fair share of jokers. The payback is all in the joker hands and if you don’t get your fair share of them, you’re not likely to have a winning session. The good news is the payback is above 100%, so you only need your fair share. If you happen to get even more – all the better.

The calendar has turned to March so it’s time for a St. Patrick’s day special! One of our booklets has a green cover – Expert Strategy for Three Card Poker – so that’s this month’s special! (Yeah, it’s a stretch!)

For the month of March, order Expert Strategy for Three Card Poker for only $3.95 (instead of the regular $4.95). Send a check or money order to Compu-Flyers, P.O. Box 132, Bogota, NJ 07603 and learn how to play the most popular proprietary table game of all time.

(NOTE: For more articles by Elliot Frome, check out his blog at gambatria.blogspot.com)

About the Author

Elliot Frome

Elliot Frome’s roots run deep into gaming theory and analysis. His father, Lenny, was a pioneer in developing video poker strategy in the 1980s and is credited with raising its popularity to dizzying heights. Elliot is a second generation gaming author and analyst with nearly 20 years of programming experience.

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