Although there’s plenty of video poker variations available at online and land-based casinos there are some basic strategy concepts that apply to all of them. In fact, some of the strategies that follow apply to all casino games. No matter what game you play and where you play it the information that follows will make you a better player.

Shop Around To Find The Best Machines For Your Skill Set

There are two criteria for selecting a video poker machine—rule set and payout table. We’ll go into payout tables in detail elsewhere but these differ not only between different video poker variations (eg: Jacks Or Better vs. Deuces Wild) but also between different games with identical rules. In fact, you can find different pay tables for the same video poker variation inside the same casino! The pay tables give you all the information you need to determine your theoretical payback on a specific game. If you play a game with a suboptimal pay table you’re negatively impacting your long-term profit potential. This will make more sense when we discuss pay tables but for now, the important takeaway is the importance of locating the most generous pay table for your favorite video poker variation.

So which of the many video poker rule variations should you seek out? There are a few factors at play here but as a novice, at Video Poker you can build your skill set to facilitate the greatest degree of profitability. In theory, you should focus on the games where you have the strongest understanding of expert strategy. Some rule variations pay back more than others on a theoretical level but you’re better off playing a slightly less advantageous variation using perfect strategy than you are paying a game with a more generous paytable but making a lot of ‘rookie mistakes’. For example, a full pay Deuces Wild machine has a theoretical payback of 100.76% with perfect play. A full pay Jacks or Better machine has a theoretical payback of 99.54% with perfect play. But if you’re very strong at Jacks or Better strategy and just a beginner at Deuces Wild you’re much better off playing ‘your game‘ despite the slightly less generous theoretical payout.

If you’re just starting out it’s a good idea to become an expert at the most popular variations first—Jacks or Better, Deuces Wild, Jokers Wild, Double Bonus Poker, etc. One important reason is a very simple matter of practicality—you’ll have an easier time finding ‘your‘ game at a casino. Let’s say you’re an expert in the ‘Wheel Poker Deluxe’ variation. In the entire state of Nevada, you’ll find 71 Wheel Poker Deluxe machines at 33 casinos. If you’re an expert at ‘Deuces Wild’ or ‘Jokers Wild’ you’ll find machines everywhere throughout the state—casinos, bars, 7-11 stores. The same concept applies online. Another advantage to starting with the most popular and basic machines—it’s much easier to adapt your game to new variations than it is to try and extrapolate from an obscure, specialized machine.

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Sign Up For Slot Clubs

This applies primarily to land-based casinos though some online gambling sites offer ‘loyalty bonuses’. If you live in Las Vegas or visit often, slot clubs are a great perk for a game you’re playing anyway. Free meals, drinks, shows, hotels, cash back bonuses are just the beginning. You’ll also be sent ‘mailers‘ which offer even more rewards for gameplay. During my time living in Las Vegas I valued my Station Casinos Platinum Level Club Card (they call it the ‘Boarding Pass’) simply because it allowed me to skip the line for the breakfast buffet.

Some misguided bettors think that joining a casino’s slot club will result in ‘tighter‘ machines and few jackpots. This superstition has less validity than carrying a ‘lucky rabbit’s foot’. The machines pay and play the same with or without the club card. Without a club card you’re leaving comps—and in some cases cold, hard cash—on the table for no reason. Plus if you’re a serious bettor a club membership will track your play automatically which might come in handy at tax time.

Understand That The Cards Are Chosen At Random

If you play at a well regarded online casino or at a land-based casino in Nevada or other regulated jurisdiction the video poker games ARE fair. No legitimate casino would risk the storm of negative publicity to not run their operation on the level. Land-based casinos have a bigger risk—a multi-billion dollar publicly traded company isn’t going to risk losing their gaming license to squeeze a few extra dollars out of video poker players. We’ll go into greater detail about the role of the random number generator (RNG) in video poker but for now, just understand that every machine operates on the same principle of randomness. Machines don’t get ‘hot‘, ‘cold‘ machines aren’t ‘due‘, machines don’t get ‘tight’ before or after paying a jackpot. It’s all random. Having bad luck on one machine and want to switch to another? Go right ahead—but there’s no statistical basis for doing so.