Player playing video poker with strategy card

A Video Poker Tutorial: Part 1

We here at Intertops Casino believe that we should help you learn how to play all of our casino games.   First of all, as an online casino, we have all the space we need so we offer you free play with no limit.  Free play is a great way to get to know any casino game.  In addition to free play, we are inaugurating a series of tutorials, primarily on the games that require extra thought and decision-making.

Video Poker

Video poker is becoming possibly the most popular single game at Intertops Casino for three reasons.  First, it is poker, after all, and there are a lot of gamers who just like playing poker.    Second, it is one of the several types of poker that don’t involve bluffing.  There are many players who love poker but don’t like the bluffing side of the game.  Finally, video poker has the highest return to player rate of any casino game!

You can play video poker for a very long stretch and win a little or lose a little and you’ll have a great time doing so.  The key to great returns in video poker is to play with the best strategy.  That is the purpose of this tutorial.

Video Poker Basics

Video poker has many variations.  However, all of the variations derive from simple five card draw poker.  In the friendly draw poker game gamers play at home with friends, the most cards you can draw is usually four except you can draw five if you show an ace.

In video poker at Intertops Casino, you can always draw five cards.  Obviously, it is usually not good strategy to draw five cards.  So, best strategy in video poker is all about how many cards to draw and which cards to keep.

Strategy Card

There are two basic video poker strategy cards that you can print from several online sites: the basic strategy card and the advanced strategy card.  In this tutorial, we will use the advanced card developed by Michael Shackleford.  He has compiled a great list but his explanation of it is far too mathematical and scientific for the average gamer.  Ergo the tutorial.

Royal Flush Bonus

In video poker, there are five levels of bets and winning amounts.  You can start with the minimum bet and go up incrementally to the maximum bet.  The return for hitting a winning hand goes up in the same arithmetical sequence as your bet.  That means that if you bet one dollar you receive a given return and if you bet two dollars and hit the same hand, your return will be double.  Three dollars returns three times the minimum return and so on.

The great exception is that there is a huge bonus for hitting a Royal Flush.  Therefore, the first strategy step when you play video poker is to always bet the maximum.

Going for a Royal Flush

In a friendly poker game, you probably wouldn’t go for a Royal Flush since there wouldn’t be any extra bonus for getting one.  In video poker, the big bonus for a Royal Flush makes going for it the best strategy in some cases.

Keep Made Hands

There are times that you get lucky enough to have a winning hand on the deal.  You keep some of those winning hands.  Here is the list of made hands you keep:

  • Royal Flush
  • Straight flush
  • Four of a kind

At this point, the best strategy is to keep four cards to a Royal Flush even if you have a made flush or straight.  Statistically, you are better off breaking up the straight or the flush to go for the golden card that will give you the Royal Flush.  If, however, you haven’t bet the maximum, you keep the made straight or flush.

Let’s continue with the strategy list.  You keep:

  • A made full house
  • A made flush
  • A made straight

The next few hands are less obvious than you might think.  You keep:

  • Three of a kind
  • Four to a straight flush

If you have three of a kind, some players think it’s a good idea to keep one card and go for a full house.  The best strategy is to keep the three of a kind and try to get four of a kind.  Three of a kind does return less than a full house but statistically, in terms of overall money returning to you, going for four of a kind is better.

If you have a made flush, you keep it as we said above.  But if you have four to a straight flush you discard the fifth card even if it gives you a winning pair.  Once again, we rely on the statistical side of overall returns.  A straight flush is simply much better than a high pair so you go for the straight flush but not if you have a made flush.

Let’s continue the list.  You keep:

  • Two pair
  • High pair

Two pair is a winning hand even though the return is small.  If you have two pair, you might also have three to a flush which pays much more.  Statistically, you are much better off keeping two pair over three to a flush.  Sometimes two pair becomes a full house.

If you have a high pair, you might have four to a flush.  It is better to keep the high pair.  It might turn into a higher paying hand such as three of a kind, a full house or four of a kind.   Remember that if you have a high pair and also four to a straight flush, you break up the pair. 

Go for a Royal Flush

We will conclude part 1 of the video poker tutorial with an important discussion about the importance of going for a Royal Flush.  The list continues:

  • Keep three to a Royal Flush
  • Keep four to a flush

There are times that you have four to a flush and three of the cards are also the cards that create a Royal Flush.  In that case, you go for the Royal Flush.  The main reason is that you could get a pair and win the hand anyway and the big extra bonus for getting a Royal Flush is just too great to pass up.  Also keep in mind that if you have a high pair on the deal you keep it.

To Be Continued

We have covered only about one third of the advanced video poker strategy card so we’ll continue next week.