Quads: the remedy for winning video poker

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This past week, I played a fair amount of video poker and something struck me: If you want to win at video poker you have to get your Four of a Kinds.

You need Royal Flushes too – but that is more over the long run, adding about 2% of payback to the game. This is pretty constant no matter what type of video poker you play. Minimally, Quads add 5.9% to the game.

I say minimally because this is the impact for Jacks or Better. It goes up considerably for other versions of the game.

If you are playing correct strategy, you should get Quads 1 in 423 hands. Depending on your speed of play, we’ll call this 1-2 hands per hour. So, if you don’t get the Quads you “should,” you’re only talking about 1-2 hands per hour that something else happened.

Maybe you lost or got Trips, but unless you got a Royal, your hour likely did not go so well. All other things equal, you were playing the game at about 93.5%. If you didn’t get a Royal, it was at 91.5%

So, a video poker machine that is cold in Quads may pay less than an average slot machine. Of course, we don’t know when a machine will be cold or hot. The only thing we know is, over the long run, it will be “medium.” At the end of the weekend, you’ve played 4,230 hands; the average number of Quads is 10 but you only have an 8% chance of having exactly 10.

In the long run, we’ll get our Quads and unlike the Royal Flush, that long run is much closer than you’d think. But in the short run, we are addicted to those Quads if we want to have a winning session. You’re not likely going to have a Royal in any one 2-3 hour session. If you do, it better have been a winning session.

Quads don’t work the same way. You’re almost assuredly going to have them over a 2-3 hour period. If you didn’t, the likelihood you won is very, very small. If you got less than you should, a winning session is very unlikely. If you got more than you should, your chance for a winning session is much higher.

Keep in mind, without those Royals you’re still playing a game that is 2-3% in the house’s favor. So, a winning session will require more than just a little more than average – or it will require some Bonus Quads.

What caused me to realize it this week? I played three times – twice for a couple of hours and once for about 15 minutes. For the longer sessions, I won on one and lost on the other. The win was still a bit of a grind until I hit a nice big (well little) set of Quads (3’s) with a kicker and recovered what I had been losing until that point and won a bit too.

What really sealed it is what happened in the 15-minute session. I hit three Four of a Kinds including a Bonus without the kicker. I won as much in those 15 minutes as I did in the longer sessions. Hitting 3 Quads in 150-200 hands was worth as much as hitting perhaps 1 or 2 more than average over a 2-3 hour period.

The moral is, when playing video poker, we’re all addicted to Quads.

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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