What Strategy Should I Use When Vulturing Video Poker?

I put a fair number of posts up on vulturing video poker games.  Several of those posts are games that require full coin.  Every one of these machines has multiple games, for example:  Jacks or Better, Bonus Poker, Bonus Deluxe, Double Bonus, Double Double Bonus, Triple Double Bonus, Deuces Wild, Bonus Deuces, and even Joker Poker. ..  I’m sure I forgot something.

To make things more complex, each of the games has different pay tables.  For example, Double Double is available in 9-5, 8-5, 7-5, and 6-5. 

The icing on the cake is that optimal strategy changes (sometimes) if you are playing 5 coins or more than 5 coins.

Each one of these game / pay table combinations has a different strategy.  While the wizard of odds strategy maker can help you, I don’t know anyone who can memorize dozens of strategy combinations.

So what do we do?

We have options. 

-          We could make a small book of video poker strategies and just look up the right thing to hold.  This is a bad idea for two reasons.  1) How many people do you see walking around the casino with a notebook?  Don’t stand out.  2) Is it really worth an extra 1% to page though a book to figure out the correct hold?  Someone else is poking though machines burning off +EV while you are figuring out if you hold the made full house with 3 aces or not.

-          We could download a video poker app on our phone.  I have Perfect VP for Android.  I love this app and I might do a write up on it one day, but I rarely use it in the casino.   Why?  Even though it’s way less suspicious to take a break from gambling to “answer a text” on your phone than it is to carry around a notebook, it’s still slow.  Maybe more importantly, using an electronic device to help you gamble could be technically illegal.  (I’m not a lawyer).  With that said, I have never had anyone confront me for using a video poker app in a casino. 

-          We could come up with some strategies that you can memorize that are “close enough”

I like bullet 3. 

Again, the wizard has come to the rescue:  https://wizardofodds.com/games/video-poker/wrong-strategy/

Here is another good article on the topic:  http://www.casinocenter.com/going-down-the-wrong-road/

One important note, on the WOO page, he is looking at good pay tables.  You should assume you will never see pay tables this good on a variable state machine.

Starting with “nothing wild” games”

-           You’ll see that any of these strategies are relatively transferable from game to game if you exclude triple double.  If I get to choose from multiple strategies, I’m picking the easiest to memorize, which in my humble opinion is jacks or better.

-          Now, that’s not to say I won’t learn some exceptions to jacks or better strategy for a given game to try and bump up the return a little. 

Here are some examples on how I look at bumping up the return on some games.  I’ll use triple double as an example.  Here is the strategy chart for full pay triple double.  YIKES!

 Attack this problem by focusing in on what is different from the strategy you plan to use as your baseline, in my case 9/6 JoB.  When I think about it that way, here are some things that jump out:

-          Hold inside straights and 3 card flushes before throwing everything away.

-          Aces are powerful, notice you throw away two pair if one of the pairs are aces & you throw away full houses if you have 3 aces.

-          In some cases, you hold kickers.

You can tell how valuable these deviations from your base strategy are by looking at ER and % of ER columns.  For example holding some 3oaks over made full houses & flushes contributes over 8% to the total return of this game.  Holding a pair of aces over 2 pair is another 8% of the return. 

To test the total return of your strategy you develop, you need software.  I’m going to make a post about different software packages at some point, but it’s just too much to cover in detail in this post.   Video Poker for Winners has a free trial, but remember the D in CDC stands for Dancer, and CDC helps casinos.   I don’t care if you send them / him money, but just know where it is going before you write a check.  I’d consider giving Dan Paymar money as an alternative on the off chance you don’t care for CDC.  I’m personally using Jean Scott’s software, which sadly is no longer available, but it was FREE.  I’m a sucker for free things that add value!

I’ve rambled on for quite a while, but I do want to say something about wild games like deuces and jokers.

In deuces, my baseline strategy is for the NSUD pay table.  I picked that one because I almost never run across a full pay deuces machine.  

The most common deviation is based on the pay table for a full house.  If a full house pays 4 for 1, hold two pair.  If a full house pays 3 for 1, hold one pair…  It doesn’t matter which pair you hold assuming you are not playing bonus deuces.  If you are playing bonus deuces, hold the lowest pair (ace low).

Another high frequency hand in deuces games is a 4 card flush vs a pair.    If a flush pays 3 for 1, you want the 4 card flush.  If flushes pay 2 for 1, you want the pair.

Finally, Jokers…  Sigh…  I hate jokers with a passion.  It’s just because I never really learned how to play this game.  If anyone has a simple strategy for joker poker, I’m all ears.  There is no game I use my app for more than joker poker.  What makes joker poker worse is that the lowest paying hand changes.  Jokers is the only game I can think of that does this…  In deuces, a 3oak pays, in all non-wild games jacks pay…  In joker poker you might need kings, aces, or even two pair.