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Smarter Bet Guide to Slots and Video Poker
by Basil Nestor
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A pocket-sized book that provides a clear-cut explanation of payback comparisons, progressive jackpots and how to evaluate them, video poker strategy tables, and other mathematically derived techniques to lower the casino advantage.
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You Gotta Know When To Hold'Em

Get ready; I’m going to cross your eyes in the next paragraph. But don’t worry, this is only an example.
Did you know that a double-inside three-card straight flush has a different expectedBasil NestorBasil Nestor is the author of the new Playboy Complete Guide to Casino Gambling. This wonderful book teaches players how to avoid sucker bets and win more when playing gambling games.  He is also the author of The Smarter Bet Guide series for video poker, slots, craps, and many other books about gambling.  Basil's website is  value if it has no high cards vs. one high card? And did you know that those hands are different from a single-inside three-card straight flush with zero, one, or two high cards? They’re all worth less than a sequential three-card straight flush with one high card. And of course, that affects the draw strategy if a five-card combination includes one of the above and two high cards of another suit.
You probably didn’t know that, and I don’t blame you. Video poker purists revel in these subtle nuances that increase the return by fractions of a percent, but I’m guessing that you’d like the game to be a bit easier. So strictly speaking, the strategies in this chapter are less than optimal. They’re very close but intentionally not perfect because twenty lines are easier to memorize than thirty-six lines. A shorter strategy generally sacrifices a portion of a percent for the sake of convenience, but simply using the strategy (rather than guessing) will improve your overall game by five percent or more.
Jacks or Better
The following strategy works for “plain vanilla” (no bonus) jacks-or-better games with 9/6 and 8/5 pay tables. You can also use it on 7/5, 6/5, 10/6, 9/7, and most bonus contests that pay 1-2-3-4 or 1-1-3-5 at the bottom end of the table. Examples of these games can be found in the chart.
The way to use the strategy is to match your hand to the highest one in the list and then play as directed. So if your hand is 2d 7d 8d Jd Jh, you hold the two jacks instead of the four-card flush or three-card straight flush because a high pair is highest on the list.
Jacks or Better Strategy
Royal or straight flush
Four of a kind
Four-card royal
Full house, flush, or straight
Three of a kind
Four-card straight flush (open-ended or with a gap)
Two pairs
High pair (jacks or better)
Three-card royal
Four-card flush
Low pair (tens or lower)
Four-card straight (open-ended)
Two-card royal (two suited cards jacks or higher)
Three-card straight flush (open-ended or with gaps)
Ace, king, queen, and jack unsuited
King, queen, and jack unsuited
Two high cards (drop an ace if necessary)
Suited high card and ten
One high card
Toss everything
The above strategy works for “plain vanilla” no-bonus jacks-or-better games that pay 9/6, 8/5, 7/5, 6/5, 10/6, and 9/7. This strategy also can be used with most jacks-or-better bonus games that pay 1-2-3-4 or 1-1-3-5 at the bottom end of the table.
Here are some more examples:
10h 8d Js 10s 9s: This hand should be played as a low pair (hold the tens) rather than as a four-card straight or three-card straight flush.
Ad Ks Qd Jd 10d: Yes, you should bust a perfectly good straight for the chance of hitting a royal flush. Discard the king.
4s 4c Qs Ah 6h: Hold the low pair. Resist the temptation to also hold the queen or the ace. Keeping extra high cards (known as kickers) dramatically reduces the chance of improving to quads, trips, two pairs, and such.
7c 9c 10s Js Kc: Hold the two high cards. By the way, you should never draw to an inside straight (a straight requiring one rank) in jacks-or-better except A-K-Q-J. Outside straights can be made with two ranks, so an outside draw is twice as likely to succeed.
2c Qc Ah 8d Jd: Hold the queen and jack. Do not hold an unsuited ace with two other unsuited high cards. Of course, if the ace in this example were diamonds, you would keep the two-card royal and drop the unsuited queen.
Video poker optimal strategy does not change when multiple hands are played simultaneously. One hand should be played the same way as four, ten, or fifty hands. However, the overall volatility goes down with multiple hands because losers are combined with winners. That makes jackpots smaller (in relation to bet size), but it increases the possibility of a net win.
More optimal strategies for video poker including strategies for deuces wild and video poker progressive-jackpot games, volatility comparisons, and much more can be found in Basil Nestor’s Smarter Bet Guide to Slots and Video Poker.
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