Expected Return and Value

While not many players truly understand the meaning of expected value, those who are experts in video poker are familiar with this term and know how to estimate it. The expected value can be defined as the average return one can anticipate receiving when holding a certain hand. Once you become interested in playing video poker successfully, you will also come across the term expected return.

If you really want to enjoy a fruitful gambling experience, you cannot simply rely on luck but rather you have to make decisions which will change the outcome of the game. Since it is not always easy to decide which cards to hold and which ones to discard, you must be aware of the expected value and expected return for each winning hand . This will help you decide what type of action is best to be made before the second draw in video poker.

Back in the days, mathematicians who were interested in gambling did spend a lot of time calculating the different probabilities that apply to all winning hands in video poker. While it was tough enough making calculations with 52 regular cards, introducing jokers and turning the deuces into wilds made everything even more complicated. What made the process even more difficult were the different payouts that were introduced in order to give casinos a bigger advantage.

Nowadays, although calculating the expected return and expected value does involve some math, it is definitely a great advantage to know how to make these estimations as they will help you not only to understand what profit to expect but will also allow you to compare different strategies and the value they will bring.

Understanding the Expected Value and How to Calculate It

Expected ValueWe can define the expected value as a combination of the value you will get from the results (wins or losses) and the odds of how often will a certain outcome happen. You will notice that the payout for the various hands in video poker depends on how difficult the forming of every hand is.

Whenever you are holding a certain hand of five cards, there are a few things to consider when evaluating which winning combination is worth pursuing. The first thing is to pay attention to the exact video poker variation you are playing. For instance, you might be playing a 9/6 Jacks or Better which is the most popular video poker variation among casino fans. It offers a payout of 9 to 1 for a Full House and 6 to 1 for a Flush.

In order to determine the value of a certain hand, we simply multiply the frequency of winning times the payout for the certain hand. If you happen to draw a certain hand on the initial deal, the possibility to win is definite and is expressed as 100% or 1.0 which can be used for estimating the value of a hand. Let us say that the value of an already made Flush is 1.0 and you multiply it times 6 and you will get the expected value of $6.

Having an already made hand, however, is pretty difficult to be achieved. This being said, you can use the same formula to calculate the value of a hand that is not formed on the first draw. All you need is to multiply the probability to win with the hand you are holding, times the payout for the specific hand.

The aforementioned evaluations are what is known as calculating the expected value (EV) of the specific hand. Thanks to this process, players have the chance to compare the value of one poker hand with the value of another.

What is Expected Return in Video Poker and How to Calculate It

RTP ExplainedA way to describe the expected return is as the average profit you should anticipate receiving over a long time, provided you have made a certain decision. The same also applies for video poker when you expect a certain payout whenever you hold or discard certain cards. You may be confused about what is the difference between expected return and expected value. Simply said, you will need to know the expected value in order to be able to calculate the expected return.

As we had already discussed several times, using the proper strategy is very important when playing video poker. If you want to know which strategy is the ultimate one, we can simply say it is the one that will offer the best payout for the long run, i.e. it has the best expected return. This being said, you should not be fooled that you will win every single hand if you use the perfect video poker strategy. However, provided you know what you are doing, you can expect a very fruitful game in the long run.

If you are holding a hand of four cards of the same suit and the fifth one being of a different one on Jacks or Better, there are a few possibilities for the outcome. In the standard 52-card deck, there are 13 cards of each suit and since you have already drawn 4 of the same suit, this will leave 9 cards in the deck which can help the player to form a Flush. If you subtract the five cards of your hand in the 52 cards of the deck and you will get 47. This will mean that your odds of forming a Flush on the second draw of the game are 9/47. If you have come across a full-pay version of Jacks or Better, the payout for a Flush will be 6 credits for a single stake. If you want to calculate the expected return, you should multiply 9/47 by 6 which will equal 114.8% or approximately 115%.

Type of Game Expected Return
All American 35/8 99.37%
Jacks or Better 9/6 99.54%
Full Pay Deuces Wild 100.76%
Aces and Eights 99.78%
Aces and Faces 99.26%
Loose Deuces 101.6%
Joker Poker 100.64%
9/6 Bonus Poker Deluxe 99.64%
Tens or Better 99.02%
Deuces and Joker Wild 99.07%
2 Ways Royal 99.80%
Double Joker Poker 99.97%

Video Poker Calculators

Video Poker CalculatorsWhen you play video poker, on the first deal every possible combination of five cards that you are dealt initially, provides an ultimate payout you can receive. And while back in the days it was rather complicated to calculate all the possibilities, nowadays there are different calculators and software that can help players estimate the expected return.

If you are determined to become an expert on video poker and always be aware of the expected return for every possible move, you can use various online calculators. All that you need to know when using it is the payouts that the game is offering and the calculator will show you the expected return of the exact game.

Such calculators can be very useful when players are comparing different video poker games and are trying to find the one that offers the best payouts. Thanks to such online calculators, you can also find in no time the full-pay variation of a certain video poker game.

In addition to the video poker calculators, there is also software known as trainers. They allow you to recreate any variation of the casino game and see the possibilities for every type of hand. Usually, such trainers are set by default on 9/6 Jacks or Better which is also the full-pay option of the game. However, one can easily choose another video poker variation as well as set a different payout for certain hands. This will allow players to see the data that corresponds exactly to the game they are playing. The video poker trainer also allows you to choose between Random Mode and Hard Mode. Since video poker players are not all the same and they might be seeking a different type of experience, the trainer is suitable for various video poker fans.


Video PokerUnderstanding the expected value and expected return is very important if you are interested in video poker strategies and want to learn the optimal move for each hand. These terms will allow you to compare various options and make the most profitable decision. You should not be fooled that the highest return will always guarantee you a win. However, in the long run, you can actually enjoy the expected return that a certain game provides.

And since it is difficult to memorize or even calculate the expected return for each hand, on every video poker variation, there are online calculators and trainers which can make everything easier for you. Thanks to such software, you can quickly compare games with different payouts as well as learn the most profitable move in every hand.

If you have ever wondered what differentiates the rookie video poker player from an expert, it is the knowledge of expected value and expected return. Players who are well aware of these terms and know how to utilize them in their gameplay, have an easy time learning the perfect strategy and enjoy exciting and rewarding gameplay.

Ask a Question. Get an Answer.

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Find the answers of questions people asked so far:

Dan Katrina

How does the EV affect the strategy that I should use when playing a video poker game?

Asked by: Katrina | Asked on: 2023-08-17
Answered by: Dan | Answered on: 2023-08-18

As explained above, EV in video poker expresses the average return you might enjoy when you are holding a specific combination of cards in your hand. The way video poker strategies are composed is by considering which hand can bring you the highest EV, based on the cards that you are holding. It is always advised to play video poker by choosing to hold the hand that will have the highest EV as this will minimize your losses and can help you win more.

When you are searching for the best video poker strategy chart to follow when playing a certain video poker variant, you may find that certain hands are advised to be held although your initial reaction may be to hold cards to a different hand. However, good strategies take into consideration EV and advise the player to always play for a hand that can bring the highest EV.

Dan Kyle

Is there a way to change the EV in video poker and how can it be done?

Asked by: Kyle | Asked on: 2023-10-09
Answered by: Dan | Answered on: 2023-10-10

Yes, there is a way to improve the EV while playing video poker online. As you can find numerous video poker variations on the web, you can also enjoy the additional perk of registering with a virtual casino to bet real money on this type of game. As interactive casinos tend to offer different promotions, some casino incentives can actually affect the EV of a video poker game positively. Calculating the EV of a bonus can be done by subtracting the game’s RTP from the bonus money and multiplying the result by the amount of your wager.

Depending on the bonus size, wagering requirements, and video poker bonus wagering contribution percentage, you may see that redeeming certain casino bonuses can turn out to be very successful for video poker players. For instance, if the player is using their bonus on 9/6 Jack or Better and they need to wager their bonus funds 100 times, if the player starts with a bankroll of 20 units, the probability of meeting the wagering requirements is 9.80%, which is not a bad percentage. Even if the player busts while trying to meet the wagering requirements of the bonus, the expected win can be achieved after 17.76 bets.