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A Survey of Video Poker Draws and Their Strength

By: Ryan Alders, Saturday March 14th 2015
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Video poker is largely based on two types of hands. If you have a hand that isn't just a bunch of uncoordinated cards, then you'll normally either have a draw of some sort of a pair-based hand. Pair-based hands are pretty straight-forward to play, so they aren't all that interesting for the most part. Draws, on the other hand, have a lot of moving parts, so their value can change quite a bit. We're going to show you some ideas on different kinds of draws and what you need to know about their relative strength to made hands and each other.

Unless you have a straight flush or better, four cards to a royal flush is the best way you can play your hand. Even if you have a made straight or a made flush, going with a four-card royal draw is a much better play. The reason why this is the case teaches us a lot about the value of draws. First, you get a ton of value from the one card in the deck that will give you the royal. Second, you have a lot of other cards that can give you straights and flushes that have a good value themselves.

What's often overlooked here is the fact that royal flush draws have at least three high cards. This means there are nine (sometimes 12) more cards in the deck that give a 1x payout. While this might not seem like much in the context of all of the big hands you can make with such a powerful draw, it's the key to why other draws are stronger than others. Let's look at a good example that most experienced players make a mistake with on a regular basis.

Suppose you have something like AcQcTc7c7d. The pair of sevens isn't as strong as the flush draw, and because that's well-known, it will lead most players to play the four-card flush draw. However, that's a mistake. Going with the AQT combination by itself is actually better, and the value of the high cards is a big reason why this is the case.

Another good example is the hand KQJTT with no flush draw. Most players know that small pairs are worse than open-ended straight draws, so they will go with TT here. However, the right play is using the KQJT draw instead because of the increased power from the high cards.

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