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Best of Elliot Frome

Gaming Guru

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Wild about Jokers

7 September 2004

I have to be honest, I've never really enjoyed playing Joker Wild version of Video Poker. As a player, I can simply choose to 'ignore' it. While few, if any, Video Poker players set out to lose, the reality is that MOST players play to have FUN first. If they win, that's great! Most are willing to accept a reasonable loss in exchange for the entertainment value. If you sit for a couple of hours and don't have fun playing, something is missing!

As a Video Poker analyst, I can't ignore Joker Wild Video Poker. Beside needing to know which paytables to play and what strategy to use, knowing what to expect becomes all the more important for these types of games. Wild Card games tend to be much more volatile than the standard jacks or better version.

There are basically two variations of Joker Wild that can be found in most locales. The first pays on Ace and King Pairs and is generally designated as (A-K). The second pays on Two Pairs as the lowest paying hand and is designated as (2-Pair). The paytables for the Full-Pay Versions of each game is listed below. With these paytables, the game can generate paybacks of 100.4% and 99.3%, respectively.

Full-Pay Schedules for Joker Wild
(A-K)
(2-Pair)
Pair (K's - A's)
1
N/A
Two Pair
1
1
Three of a Kind
2
2
Straight
3
5
Flush
5
7
Full House
7
8
Four of a Kind
20
20
Straight Flush
50
50
Royal Flush (Joker)
100
50
Five of a Kind
200
100
Royal Flush (Natural)
800
1000
* max. 5-coin bet required for bonus payout

As you can see, Joker Wild Video Poker can be a very competitive version of the game when you can find these paytables.

The key to achieving these paybacks, beside playing the proper strategy, is to get your fair share of hands WITH the Joker. Of the 2,869,685 possible initial draws, 270,725 will contain the Joker. This translates to about 9.5% of all hands, or just a little less than 1 in 10 hands.

Initial hands without the Joker have a payback of about 80-81%. Basically, this means that 90% of the time, you're getting beaten pretty badly. The good news is that the payback of those remaining hands WITH the Joker is a whopping 286+%. Once you get dealt a Joker, every playable hand has an expected value (EV) greater than 1.

In both versions, more than 10% of all hands will be a Razgu, leaving the Player to draw 5 new cards. This compares to 4% for Jacks or Better (JOB). The expected value for these hands is a paltry 0.33 in A-K and a miniscule 0.25 in 2-Pair, which is considerably less than a Razgu in JOB. More than 10% of hands WITH a Joker will require that the player keep ONLY the Joker and draw 4 new cards.

The most common hands in the A-K version are the Low Pair and the 1 High Card, accounting for more than 50% of the non-Joker hands. There are some unique points to realize with regard to these hands in order to maximize our payback. Low Pairs are broken apart in favor of 3-Card Straight Flushes. While the EV's are close (0.74 vs. 0.73), the 3-Card Straight Flush wins out. More important is that while most 2-Card Royals beat holding a single High Card (remember that for this version, a single High Card is an A or K), that 2-Card Royals lacking a King or Ace rate below the single High Card. So, if you have JD QD KC, you throw the J-Q and hold the single King. The single High Card has an EV of 0.45 while the 2-Card Royal (J-Q) has an EV of only 0.34.

The 2-Pair version of Joker Wild Video Poker brings some new twists. The most common hands are Pairs (40% of Non-Joker hands), 3-Card Flushes (12.5% of Non-Joker hands) and Razgus(12% of Non-Joker hands). All of these hands have EV's well below 1.0. The 3-Card Flush is not even playable in most versions of Video Poker, but here it becomes one of the most common hands. We also find ourselves playing 3-Card Straights and even 2-card Straight Flushes rather than throwing all 5-cards.

Another key point for the 2-Pair version is that we NEVER keep JUST a Joker. If a Joker hand lacks a 4-Card Flush, 3-Card Straight Flush or 3 or 4-Card Straight, we still hold the Joker and 1 mid-sized card. The EV of this hand is 1.26, whereas holding just the Joker rates an EV of only 1.16.

Joker Wild Video Poker has one of the longest strategy tables of any Video Poker game. Each of the variations has a strategy table of nearly 50 rankings, as compared to 30+ for Jacks or Better. Not only does the order of the rankings change significantly from Jacks or Better, but hands that are quickly dismissed in other versions of the game now become quite playable. Both versions can be rewarding versions of the game, but you need to go in knowing the proper playing strategy and knowing what to expect.

Elliot Frome

Elliot Frome is a 2nd generation gaming author and analyst. His father, Lenny Frome was considered one of the premier authors of Video Poker books. Titles include, Expert Video Poker for Las Vegas and Winning Strategies for Video Poker, which includes the strategy tables for 61 of the country’s most popular versions of Video Poker. Check out Compu-Flyers website at www.vpheaven.com, or drop Elliot an e-mail at compuflyers@prodigy.net.

Elliot Frome Websites:

www.vpheaven.com

Books by Elliot Frome:

> More Books By Elliot Frome

Elliot Frome
Elliot Frome is a 2nd generation gaming author and analyst. His father, Lenny Frome was considered one of the premier authors of Video Poker books. Titles include, Expert Video Poker for Las Vegas and Winning Strategies for Video Poker, which includes the strategy tables for 61 of the country’s most popular versions of Video Poker. Check out Compu-Flyers website at www.vpheaven.com, or drop Elliot an e-mail at compuflyers@prodigy.net.

Elliot Frome Websites:

www.vpheaven.com

Books by Elliot Frome:

> More Books By Elliot Frome