How To Calculate Optimal Strategy For Video Poker

video-pokerVideo Poker is one of the most popular slot versions of playing poker. In video poker you are playing against the machine, not other players, like in traditional poker. Your goal in this game is to get the highest ranking five card hand possible.

How to play

First you place a bet and receive five cards. Then you decide which cards to hold and which to discard. You may draw up to five new cards to improve your hand. Finally you obtain replacement cards in exchange for the cards you have discarded. All cards are dealt randomly from one card deck.

Perfect Play

Video Poker is a game where skill is important. With enough practice, you can learn how to play video poker like a professional. Video Poker can be one of the few potentially profitable casino games. Some video poker games are positive expectation games. It means that if you play properly, some Video Poker machines actually offer over 100% payback for perfect play over the long run.

You have the best chance of winning (losing less money) at video poker over the long run if select the holding with the highest Expected Value. Expected Value (mathematical expectation) is the statistically projected average of all possible outcomes for a particular play or game. In other words, EV is the amount one would expect to win or lose if this decision were to be repeated millions of times.

There are 32 ways to hold cards for any dealt five-card hand. For each of these holdings you have to calculate the expected value (EV) of the result and draw to the combination which has the highest EV.

The math used to calculate the Expected Value is not very complicated at all. To compute the EV for the particular draw, you have to multiply the probability of each possible outcome by its value and sum up the results.

The following example explains the above definition.

The dealt hand is 8c 9d 4h 9s 8s in the Jacks or Better (8/5) video poker machine. In this simple example the holding with the highest EV is 89_98. There are 47 cards remaining in the deck. 4 cards would make Full House and 43 others would make Two Pairs. We have a payoff value of 8 for a full house and 2 for a Two Pairs.

EV= 4*8/47+43*2/47=2.51064

Calculating EV is straightforward. But it is a tedious task for a human. Luckily, there are several computer programs designed to evaluate the optimal strategy for each hand as it is encountered. They can catch your mistakes and warn you about them, showing you the difference in EV between your play and the best play. You can use your computer to master your video poker skills at no cost.

February 13, 2014: posted in Video Poker No Comments

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