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How Much Do You Really Know About Video Poker?

By Henry Tamburin

See if you can make the grade with this pop quiz

The casinos can’t change the odds of getting a particular winning hand in video poker. However, they can change the payoff amount for winning hands, and this is what they do to create their edge over players.

When you were in high school and the teacher wanted to check how well you and your classmates were learning the subject matter, what did she do? She’d give you a “pop quiz.” Well, this month I decided to give you a pop quiz on video poker. Even if you consider yourself to be an experienced player, I bet you’re going to learn a few things here that you didn’t know about the game.

These are all True/False questions. Write down your answers and then check them against the list of correct answers that follows the quiz. Give yourself 5 points for each correct answer; a score of 60 or higher gets you an “A.”

Video Poker

Now let’s get started—are these statements True or False?

1. You should always play the maximum number of coins when you play video poker.
2. If your initial five-card hand has a four of diamonds and you discard it, it’s possible for you to get a four of diamonds on the draw.
3. Casinos can change the odds of winning, just like they do on the slot machines.
4. If you see 25 jacks-or-better machines in a casino, you can assume they all have the same payback.
5. It’s impossible to get over a 100 percent return when you play video poker.
6. Video poker payoff odds are “odds-for-1” rather than “odds-to-1.”

The following questions are specific to the popular game of jacks-or-better, where you get your money back for a pair of Js, Qs, Ks, Aces; you get a 2 for 1 payoff for two pair; and all four-of-a-kind hands pay the same amount (usually 25 for 1).

7. If you are dealt four to the royal in a jacks or better game, you have a 1 in 47 shot at hitting the royal flush.
8. You should never discard a winning hand.
9. The only non-paying hand that has more value than a high pair is a four-card royal flush.
10. You should always hold a low pair over a four-card flush or four-card straight.
11. You should never hold four-card inside straights.
12. Compared to other video poker games, jacks-or-better has a relatively low volatility.
13. A jacks-or-better game that pays 9 for 1 for a full house and 6 for 1 for a flush is one of the best games available.
14. For each unit that the payoff for the flush or full house is reduced, the expected return will decrease about 1.1 percent.


1. True. The reason is because the royal flush payout per coin played is much higher when you play max coins than it is if you play less-than-max coins. Your overall return if you played less than max coins in, say, a jacks-or-better game, would drop by about 1.3 percent. If you can’t afford to play max coins, then you should drop to a lower denomination machine.
2. False. A standard 52-card deck is used to play video poker, and every card must have an equal chance of being dealt. If you discarded a four of diamonds, you should never be dealt another four of a diamonds (because there is only one four of a diamonds in a deck of cards). You could draw another four, but it would be of a different suit.
3. False. The casinos can’t change the odds of getting a particular winning hand in video poker. However, they can change the payoff amount for winning hands, and this is what they do to create their edge over players.
4. False. You will often find different payout schedules for the same video poker game in a casino. That’s why it’s important that you scout the machines to check the payoff schedules before you play.
5. False. There are some video poker games that return over 100 percent for skillful play. Also, a player playing a game that returns slightly less than 100 percent can sometimes get an overall return that is over 100 percent—if they include the cash back and bounce back that the casinos give them for using their players card.
6. True. If, for example, you were to get two pair playing jacks-or-better, you would win 2 coins for every one coin wagered (the original one coin wagered is basically gone). In other words, you bet one coin and end up with two coins, and therefore the payoff odds are 2 for 1.(This is different than a 2 to 1 payoff—such as in roulette, where you could bet one coin on a column and if it hits, you win 2 coins and get to keep the original one coin that you wagered).
7. True. You were dealt five cards in the initial hand, leaving 47 undealt cards (52 less 5). Only one card in the remaining 47 undealt cards is the card that you need for a royal flush. Therefore, you have a 1 in 47 shot of getting the royal flush.
8. False. There are some hands where you should discard a winning hand. For example, if you hold a four-card straight or a four-card flush, and in the same hand you have a four-card royal flush, the play that has the higher expected value (EV) is to hold the four-card royal flush and draw one card (i.e., you should not hold the winning straight or flush in this case).
9. False. Besides the four-card royal flush, any four-card straight flush has a higher EV than a high pair and should be held over a high pair.
10. False. You hold a four-card flush over a low pair, but you hold the latter over a four-card straight (with one exception: you hold 10JQK over a low pair).
11. False. You would hold a four-card inside straight if it contains at least three high cards (assuming you had nothing better in your hand).
12. True. The volatility (or the swings in your bankroll) is relatively low for jacks-or-better, compared to other video poker games.
13. True. The EV for a 9/6 jacks-or-better game is 99.54 percent assuming you play every hand perfectly.
14. True. Therefore, the EV for an 8/5 jacks-or-better game would decrease by about 2.2 percent, making the return 97.3 percent.


Henry Tamburin is a blackjack and video poker expert. He hosts the website and is the editor of the Blackjack Insider newsletter (for a free three-month subscription, visit For a FREE copy of his Casino Gambling Catalog, which offers training products for video poker players, call toll-free 1-888-353-3234.

How Much Do You Really Know About Video Poker.

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