Putting on your
best poker face!

Nov 4, 2003 12:45 AM

The game of video poker is basically five-card draw poker. Machines offer several variations to the game, with more being developed every day, but the three that most players concentrate on are: 1. Jacks-or-better draw poker; 2. Joker’s Wild poker; and 3. Deuces Wild poker.

Video poker machines are played with pennies, nickels, quarters, 50¡ pieces, $1 or $5 tokens. Most people play either the nickel, quarter or dollar machines.

The play begins after the player inserts coins, bills or ticket vouchers into the machine. In order to win the highest royal flush jackpot or the progressive jackpot (which continues to grow as coins are played), always play the maximum number of credits, which is usually five, but can be a greater amount.

After the coins are inserted, the machine "deals" five cards to the player, who must decide which cards, if any, to discard. You play your hand based on the payouts for winning hands, which are listed just above the video screen.

Some machines indicate a possible winning hand, such as "Three of A Kind" on the video screen, but don’t always rely on the machine to figure your hand for you.

After deciding which cards to keep, you press the "hold" button under each card, then press the "draw" button. (Some machines combine the deal and draw buttons into one.)

The cards you’ve discarded will be replaced with new cards and, if you have a winning hand, its payoff will be indicated on the screen. At this point your winnings will drop into the coin bucket, or you will be given credit for the amount of the winning hand.

A note about credits: Credits allow you to play faster, without having to continually push coins into the slot. But always remember that the credits are yours, and you can collect your coins at any time by pushing the "Cash Out" or "Collect Winnings" button. It is not uncommon for players to move to another machine and forget their credits in the old machine.

Obviously, the key to playing video poker is knowing which cards to hold and which ones to discard. We won’t go into the mathematics of how the strategy is formulated, but given here are two suggested guidelines for Joker Wild poker and Deuces Wild poker, both of which are very popular with players.

Joker Wild Strategy

The addition of a joker to the deck results in more winning hands of three of a kind and higher but fewer high pairs because the even-money payoff is now on kings-or-better. Also, the overall winning payoff schedule is reduced, and the chances of hitting a "natural" royal flush are slightly less because of the addition of the 53rd card to the deck.

Nevertheless, Joker Wild poker is very popular because hands such as straight flushes and four-of-a-kinds are more common, and the "mini-jackpot" paid on a five-of-a-kind is not out of reach. Once again, you must decide between the full payout and progressive machines. Whichever you choose, always try to find a machine that pays the following jackpots for one coin bet:

Royal flush (natural) 800 coins

Five of a kind 200 coins

Royal flush (joker) 100 coins

Straight flush 50 coins

Four of a kind 20 coins

Full house 7 coins

Flush 5 coins

Straight 3 coins

Three of a kind 2 coins

Two pair 1 coin

High pair (kings or aces) 1 coin

Because the joker complicates the playing strategy, it will be broken into two parts: hands dealt with a joker and hands dealt without.

 

Hands without the joker:

1. Always draw one card to a royal flush, even if it means breaking a pat high pair (kings or aces), straight or flush. But don’t break a pat straight flush for a one-card draw to a royal.

2. Draw two cards to a royal flush, unless you already hold a pat straight flush, straight, flush or three of a kind.

3. Draw one card to a straight flush even if you already hold a pat flush or straight.

4. Draw two cards to a straight flush unless you already hold a pat flush, straight, or three of a kind.

5. If you need one card for either a flush or a straight, draw for the flush.

6. If you need one card for either a flush or straight and already hold a high pair, keep the high pair.

7. If you need one card for a flush or two cards for a straight flush and already hold a low pair (queens or lower), break up the pair and draw. If you need one card for a straight and already hold a low pair, keep the low pair.

8. If you’re dealt two pair and one of them is a high pair, keep the high pair. If not, retain both.

9. Always draw to a low pair rather than holding a single high card.

10. Draw five cards when you don’t have a single high card that can be paired.

Hands with the joker:

1. Always draw one card to a royal flush, unless you already hold a pat straight flush or joker royal flush.

2. Draw two cards to a royal flush, unless you already hold a pat straight flush, straight, flush or three of a kind.

3. Draw one card to a straight flush even if you already hold a pat flush or straight.

4. Draw two cards to a straight flush unless you already hold a pat flush, straight or three of a kind.

5. If you need one card for either a flush or a straight, draw for the flush.

6. If you need one card for either a flush or straight and already hold a high pair, keep the high pair.

7. If you’re dealt anything less than a high pair, or you can’t draw to the hands listed above, hold the joker and draw four cards.

Deuces Wild Basic Strategy

Playing Deuces Wild can be a lot of fun because of the four wild cards circulating throughout the deck. When the deuces turn up, straight flushes, five of a kinds and even royal flushes become commonplace. But, because hands are easier to make, payoffs are substantially less, and the minimum hand for an even-money return is three of a kind.

But the game is popular because the wild cards ensure plenty of action, and the "mini-jackpot" paid on a hand of four deuces occurs quite frequently. Whether you’re going to play a full payout or progressive machine, try to find one with the following minimum payouts:

Royal flush (natural) 800 coins

Four deuces 200 coins

Royal flush (deuces) 25 coins

Five of a kind 15 coins

Straight flush 9 coins

Four of a kind 5 coins

Full house 3 coins

Flush 2 coins

Straight 2 coins

Three of a kind 1 coin

 

Because the deuces are so important, playing strategy is evaluated according to the number of deuces dealt and the possible hands they may create.

Hands without deuces:

1. Always draw one card to a royal flush, even if it requires breaking a pat straight flush.

2. Always draw two cards to a royal flush, unless you already hold a pat straight, flush or straight flush.

3. Draw one card to a straight flush unless you already hold a pat flush or straight.

4. Draw two cards to a straight flush unless you already hold a pat flush or straight.

5. If you need one card for either a flush or a straight, draw for the flush.

6. If you need one card for either a flush or straight and already hold any pair, keep the pair.

7. Always hold three of a kind. When dealt two pair, discard one of them and draw.

8. Draw five cards when you don’t have a pat hand and you don’t have a chance at the hands listed above.

Hands with Deuces:

1. When dealt four deuces, hold all five cards to minimize the chances of "losing" one in the draw.

2. When dealt three deuces, hold them and draw for the fourth unless you already have a pat royal flush or five of a kind.

3. When dealt two deuces, hold them alone and draw unless you already have a pat four of a kind or better. Also, if you need one card for a royal or straight flush, draw for the one card.

4. When dealt a single deuce, hold any pat hand except break a flush or straight if you have a one-card draw for a royal or straight flush.