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Reason #2 why the Wizard likes Bovada: No-hassle practice games
Most online casinos spend more effort trying to separate you from your money than they do trying to give you a good experience. They have all kinds of popup windows, they usually make you download their software, and if they do offer play-in-browser games then you have to register an account before you can play. And if you register they start sending you emails trying to get you to deposit real money.
But Bovada is different. They have no popup windows at all, and their practice games play right in your browser, with no download, and no registration required. You don't even have to give up your email address. It couldn't be simpler: just one click and you're playing the game.
I wish all online casinos showed this much respect for their players. Other casinos practically ask for your first born child to play for free. Meanwhile Bovada is patient and does not twist anybody's arm to play for real money. You can play as long as you like for free with no obligation. The real-money games are available if that's your preference, but if not, you can play the free practice games for as long as you like without hassle.
Video poker made its entry to the casino in the seventies; and is today one of the most popular forms of gambling. For the player who likes a game of skill, a low house edge, the possibility of large wins, and the anonymity of playing alone there is nothing else that can compare to video poker. The rules of video poker are simple; you play 1 to 5 coins, the machine give you five cards, you choose which to hold and which to discard, the machine replaces your discards and pays you off according to the value of your hand.
You may have heard the adage that the "house always has the advantage." Video poker is an exception to that rule. If you look for the most liberal pay tables, and play them properly, you can have a thin advantage. Some pay tables, which are slightly in the machine's favor, can return over 100%, if you factor in incentives such as cash back, free play, mailers, and other comps.
Following are the rules for standard video poker:
- Most video poker games are played with a standard 52-card deck. Obviously, joker wild games will include one or more jokers in the deck.
- After making a wager and press the "deal" button the game will randomly give the player five cards from the deck.
- The player chooses which cards to throw away and which ones to keep.
- The game replaces the discarded cards with randomly chosen cards from the remaining deck.
- The player is paid according to the poker value of his hand and the posted pay table.
- Jacks or Better simple strategy (return of 99.46%)
- Jacks or Better intermediate strategy (return of 99.52%)
- Jacks or Better optimal strategy (return of 99.54%)
- "Not So Ugly Ducks" (Deuces Wild) intermediate strategy
- Full-Pay Deuces Wild simple strategy (return of 100.71%)
- Full-Pay Deuces Wild optimal strategy (return of 100.76%)
- 8/5 Bonus Poker basic strategy
- 10/7 Double Bonus basic strategy
- 10/6 Double Double Bonus basic strategy
- 8/5 Super Aces Bonus Poker optimal strategy (return of 99.94%)
- 9/6 Jacks or Better Quick Quads
- 8/5 Bonus Poker Quick Quads
- 9/7 Double Bonus Quick Quads
- 9/6 Double Double Bonus Quick Quads
- 8/5 Triple Bonus Quick Quads
Can't find the game or pay table you're looking for?
Video Poker Help Starts Here also carries lots of return tables.
For just the pay tables and returns of major games and pay tables see these documents:
- Video Poker Cheat Sheet — version 1. HTML. Does include Triple Bonus Poker Plus. Returns to two decimal points.
- Video Poker Cheat Sheet — version 1. Two PDF pages. Does not include Triple Bonus Poker Plus. Returns to one decimal point.
- Video Poker Cheat Sheet — version 2. Five PDF pages. Does include Triple Bonus Poker Plus. Returns to two decimal points.
Play for Fun
Practice over a dozen video poker games on my new and improved video poker game.
Five-Card Hand Calculator
My free video poker analyzer will calculate the best way to play any hand and any pay table for most video poker games.
Game Return Calculator
My video poker analyzer will calculate the return for just about any video poker game in seconds.
I'm very proud to offer the only free video poker strategy maker. Enter any common game and then the pay table and the calculator will produce a near-optimal strategy. Here is an example of the output for 9-6 Jacks or Better.
Miscellaneous Advice and Comments
- Always play the maximum coins. I have never seen a machine that didn't offer a bonus on the highest hand for five coins played. If you are uncomfortable playing five coins, then drop down to a lower coinage.
- The cards are chosen at random and the games are fair. There is no switch inside the machine that can make the machine loose or tight. Do not be fooled by Pull Tabs, which are not real video poker games.
- A royal flush can come along at any time with equal probability. A machine is never "overdue" in the sense that it becomes more likely to hit. Theories such as that a machine will get tight right before hitting a royal are simply not true.
- Always use a slot club card if there is one, and there usually is. This is free money for playing, and can often make the difference in having an edge or not.
- When you put your slot club card in make sure the game can read it. Every few minutes check to ensure the connection isn't lost.
- Do research on where the most generous machines are. The best source in my opinion is VP insider, a subscription based site costing $20 for the first three months, and $15 for each additional three months. The best free source in my opinion is VP Free.
- Some games offer a double-up feature. This, and the odds in craps, are the only bets you can make with no house edge. Whether you make the double-up bet should depend on your reason for playing. If you want low volatility, with long "time on device", you should decline it. If you are playing a 100%+ game, you should decline it. If you want high volatility, you should accept it. If you want to maximize return, including money bet on the double, then you should accept it. If you should take, up to what point, you may ask? That is something you can decide for yourself, according to how much you value risk vs. reward.
- Tipping in video poker, as well as any game, is a matter of much debate. I think a good rule of thumb is to tip 0.5% to 1.0% on any jackpot requiring a hand pay. The smaller the jackpot, the larger the percentage. An exception can be made for games in which you get hand pays frequently, like $5 10-play. In this case, tipping on just big wins, or at the end of the session is acceptable. If you lost badly, I wouldn't blame you if you didn't tip.
Video Poker in San Diego
In November 2008 I did a video poker survey of the 11 casinos in San Diego County.
Video Poker in Macau
For a detailed explanation of the video poker scene in Macau, please visit my companion site, Wizard of Macau.
Video Poker Wizard
Please support this site by purchasing my Video Poker Wizard. For a host of video poker games, you can practice your game, with or without advice, or analyze any hand or pay table. A great way to have fun and improve your game anywhere.
- Wizard of Vegas for a more simplified explanation of video poker.
- Video Poker Strategy Master by Tom Ski.
- Video Poker for Winners by Bob Dancer.
- A German translation of my strategies can be found at richtigspielen.com.
My Video Poker Offerings
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Full-Pay Jacks or Better:
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