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Video Poker Pay Table Variations

Within every video poker game theme, there are pay table variations. Online or offline, the screen may say Jacks or Better, but does the full house pay 9-for-1 or 8-for-1; does the flush pay 6-for-1John GrochowskiJohn Grochowski is the author of six gaming books including the "Answer Book" series -- The Casino Answer Book, The Video Poker Answer Book, The Craps Answer Book and a revised edition of The Slot Machine Answer Book. His articles cover blackjack, slots and video poker strategy  as well as casino etiquette and getting the most bang for your buck in Vegas.  John's website is  or 5-for-1? Does your Double Bonus game pay 7-for-1 on flushes, 6-for-1 or (heaven forbid) 5-for-1?

Sometimes those pay table changes lead us to make strategy changes. A flush paying 7-for-1, for instance, is worth chasing more often than a flush paying 6-for-1 or 5-for-1.

There are a number of games that offer variations with flushes paying 7-for-1 or better --- Double Bonus Poker, for one, and Triple Bonus Poker for another. Once in a blue moon, you’ll see a Jacks or Better game with the rest of the pay table unchanged and flushes paying 7-for-1. Vegas World and later Stratosphere in Las Vegas were famous for carrying that variation.

Let’s use such a game, with a standard Jacks or Better pay table except for paying 7-for-1 on flushes, as an example of the adjustments you need to make when you encounter games with flush bonanzas. Try these sample hands:

1. Ace of spades, Ace of hearts, King of diamonds, Queen of diamonds, Jack of diamonds.

    A. Hold the pair of Aces.
    B. Hold King-Queen-Jack.

2. Ace of clubs, King of clubs, Jack of clubs, 7 of clubs, 3 of spades.

    A. Hold Ace-King-Jack-7.
    B. Hold Ace-King-Jack.

3. King of diamonds, Queen of diamonds, Jack of spades, 10 of diamonds, 4 of diamonds.

    A. Hold King-Queen-Jack-10.
    B. Hold King-Queen-10-4.
    C. Hold King-Queen-10.
    D. Hold King-Queen.

4. King of spades, Jack of spades, 10 of clubs, 9 of clubs, 6 of spades.

    A. Hold King-Jack.
    B. Hold King-Jack-10-9.
    C. Hold King-Jack-6.

5. 10 of clubs, 8 of clubs, 7 of diamonds, 6 of diamonds, 2 of clubs.

    A. Hold 10-8-7-6.
    B. Hold 10-8-2.
    C. Discard all five cards.

 1. B. Dealt Ace of spades, Ace of hearts, King of diamonds, Queen of diamonds, Jack of diamonds, hold King-Queen-Jack.

When the return on flushes rises to 7-for-1, we keep open more flush opportunities than we would with lower payoffs. In this example, we go so far as to break up a winning hand to keep a possible flush. Holding the pair of Aces gives us a certain return of five coins per five wagered, and an average return of 7.68 coins per time we make this play.

Holding King-Queen-Jack doesn't guarantee us any return at all, but the average return is 7.69 coins, ever so slightly higher than keeping the pair.

That difference is narrow enough that a short-bankrolled player might want to take the sure thing with the pair of Aces. Nevertheless, in the long run, holding King-Queen-Jack will bring a marginally higher return.

2. A. Dealt Ace of clubs, King of clubs, Jack of clubs, 7 of clubs, 3 of spades, hold Ace-King-Jack-7.

The extra payback on the flush makes all the difference. Ace-King-Jack-7, a one-card draw for a flush, gives us an expected average value EV of 7.66 that easily beats the 7.09 on Ace-King-Jack even though we throw away a chance at a royal.

In 9-6 Jacks or Better, with 6-for-1 payoffs on the flush we'd hold Ace-King-Jack, an EV of 6.93 that beats the 6.70 on the one-card flush draw.

3. B. Dealt King of diamonds, Queen of diamonds, Jack of spades, 10 of diamonds, 4 of diamonds, hold King-Queen-10-4.

The four diamonds give us an average return of 7.34 coins for five played, a little better than the 6.91 on King-Queen-10 and quite a lot better than the 4.36 on the four-card open-ended straight, King-Queen-Jack-10. Without the enhanced flush payback, we go for the three-card royal instead.

4. C. Dealt King of spades, Jack of spades, 10 of clubs, 9 of clubs, 6 of spades, hold King-Jack-6.

Even three-card flushes with no straight-flush possibilities are fair game when the flush payback rises to 7-for-1. Here the average return of 2.94 on King-Jack-6 suited squeezes past King-Jack, at 2.93.

In the 9-6 game, we'd just hold King-Jack, with an average return of 2.89 that beats the 2.73 for King-Jack-6. 

5. B. Dealt 10 of clubs, 8 of clubs, 7 of diamonds, 6 of diamonds, 2 of clubs, hold 10-8-2.

The other hands here are refinements; this one represents a whole new way of thinking for most video poker players. Usually, if we see a hand with no high cards, no pairs, no four-card flushes, no four-card straights, no straight flush possibilities, we dump the whole hand.

But when the flush payoff rises to 7-for-1, we're not so quick to hit the draw button. We hold three-card flushes, even with no high cards and no straight-flush possibilities. We also hold three-card flushes in 10-7 or 9-7 Double Bonus Poker -- that 7-for-1 payoff on flushes is the key.

This hand is not a big winner, but it's better than chucking it all and starting over. The average return of 1.94 is better than the 1.81 for discarding all five cards and the 1.70 for the inside straight.

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