Royal Flushes and Video Poker
by John Grochowski
As VP players, we like to discuss Royal Flushes while
both online or off. It’s all about the ones we hit, the ones we didn’t
and the ones that are still to come. Let's explore at this lesson for
the Learn to Play Video Poker
Video Poker players are
philosophical about their Royals.
One asked me what the lack of
Royals did to the payback percentage, while the other wanted to know if
expert strategy gives you a better chance at Royals.
Mostly, Royal Flushes account for about 2 percent of your
long-term return. When you read that 9-6 Jacks or Better returns 99.5
percent with expert play, Royals account for about 2 percent of that.
Between Royals, you’re playing about a 97.5 percent game.
that 97.5 percent, of course, there’s room for a lot of volatility.
Sometimes you’re going to hit a cluster of four of a kinds, and win big
even without a Royal.
Sometimes you’ll struggle to find better than two pair, and
you’ll have a session that doesn’t begin to
approach 97 percent. It happens.
I remember volatility taking a
big swing in my favor.
I was playing 8-5 Jacks or Better video poker
--- the best the casino had to offer --- and hit a four of a kind, and
I, then, pushed the button to cash out. The tokens
started to pour into the tray … and then the hopper jammed. I waited,
and waited, and waited some more.
By the time an attendant came over
and cleared the jam, the hopper then stopped again. This time it needed
While waiting for the hopper fill, I started playing the
next machine. Within five hands, I had another four of a kind. A few
minutes later, quads again. Then again, and again. Within half an hour,
I had six sets of quads to go with the two four of a kinds on the other
machine. Volatility’s turn more than made up for my wait time.
big wins are possible without a Royal.
And, of course, large,
fast losses are part of the game, too. But overall, your payback
percentage is about 2 percent lower whenever your session doesn’t
include a Royal.
As to the second question. “I read about
expert strategy,” she started, “and I was wondering. Does expert
strategy help me hit more Royals? I practice video poker play on the
computer, and I try to play the right way, but it’s been about a year
and a half since I hit a Royal Flush.
happen, and they can get awfully lengthy
Given expert strategy, we’ll
hit a Royal Flush about once per 40,000 hands, a little more or less
often depending on the game and its strategy adaptations.
Video Poker players who play at a steady, but not speedy, 500 hands an
hour, that’ll give us a Royal about once per 80 hours of
we can’t count on that Royal Flush being there within 80 hours. With
such a rare event, sometimes we’ll go two or three times that long
without seeing a Royal Flush.
This player seems to be in one of those streaks now. Frustrating, but
for the question of whether expert strategy helps you hit more Royals,
the answer is “not necessarily”. Expert strategy for video poker is
designed to maximize the average return on each decision you face, and
sometimes that means we’ll pass up the chance at a Royal Flush.
9-6 Jacks or Better video poker and dealt Queens of clubs, diamonds and
spades, along with a King and a 10 of diamonds, do you hold the three
of a kind, or do you hold King-Queen-10 of diamonds?
hold the three Queens, you have no chance at a Royal flush Video Poker.
If you hold
the three diamonds, you’ll draw a Royal once per 1,081 hands. Still,
holding the three Queens is a much, much better play. You’re assured of
three of a kind, and have a chance at a full house or four of a kind.
Your average return is 21.5 coins per five wagered, compared with 6.7
coins if you hold the three diamonds.
You could hit more Royal
Flushes by using a “go for it” strategy in which
discard cards that get in the way of Royal possibilities.
You’d also lose a lot of money using it.
Royal Flushes is followed by Video Poker Hands
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