Joker's Wild is a version of video poker played by a single person against a machine that displays the player's cards on a screen. Unlike which is played against other players, Joker's Wild simply pits you against the cards. Five cards are dealt from a 53-card deck that includes one Joker. The player tries to make the best possible poker hand, and may draw once to try to improve their hand. The Joker is a “wild card” and may be used in place of any other single card to complete a player's hand. Winning hands are paid according to a fixed payoff table, and the game continues.
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|Natural Royal Flush:
10-J-Q-K-A - all of the same suit.
|Five of a Kind:
9-9-9-9-Joker – any 4 identical numbers plus the Joker
|Joker Royal Flush:
10-J-Q-K-Joker - all of the same suit, with any one card replaced by a Joker
6-7-8-9-10 - five cards in sequence, all of the same suit.
|Four of a Kind:
3-3-3-3-6 - four cards of the same number.
2-2-2-5-5 - three cards of one number and two cards of another number.
6-Q-5-10-J - five cards all of the same suit.
3-4-5-6-7 - five cards in sequence of any suit.
|Three of a Kind:
8-8-8-J-10 - three cards of the same number and two unmatched cards.
9-9-5-J-J – two cards of one number and two cards of another number.
Note that all hands shown above are just examples, and that a joker can show up anywhere in a straight, flush, three or four of a kind, or two pair. The only hand a joker can't play in is the Natural Royal Flush, the highest hand in Joker's Wild video poker.
Like other video poker games, Joker's Wild gives you an edge over the other slot machines because you can calculate your odds of success, and employ a degree of strategy in determining the outcome of each hand. This makes the game more interactive and entertaining than just pulling the handle or pushing a button to spin the wheels of a standard slot machine.
If you've every played any sort of video poker, you'll see some very common features on a Joker's Wild game. The screen will show 5 cards face down. There will be four “buttons” under the cards; one labeled Bet One , another labeled Bet Max , one marked Deal and a final button saying Cash Out .
Look for a machine that is multi-denominational; that is, you can select the value of the virtual “coins” that you play with. Most games offer 5¢, 25¢, $1, and $5 coins.
Like almost every casino game, Joker's Wild is a game of negative expectations. That means that over time, you will lose money to the casino.
Here's why. Let's consider the same hand we won early, 4-of-a-kind. The basic odds of getting dealt this hand in 7 cards is 0.21%, but the casino pays us at a only 20-to-1, which means over time, we're destined to lose. Let me show you what I mean.
Let's say that you have $472.00 and you're betting $1.00 per hand. This is enough to bet for 472 hands. We know the odds of you getting 3-of-a-kind are 0.21%, so out of those 472 hands you should get one 4-of-a-kind. Now, since the payoff is 20-to-1, that means you'll win $20.00 off just that one hand. But you will have spent a total of $472.00 to win $20.00… And that's how the casino can afford to give you all those flashing lights and free drinks.
Now, the casino probably won't really make a whole $452.00 off you, because out of those 472 hands, you're going to get some other good cards besides your 4-of-a-kind; some
3-of-a-kinds, matched pairs, maybe a straight or a flush . But regardless, the payoff will have been calculated to ensure that you lose money over time.
Just to illustrate my point, if video poker was going to allow you to win money consistently, the payoff on that 4-of-a-kind would have to be 475-to-1.
There is one chance at a better payoff in video poker, and it's the reason that we always want to “Bet Max” when placing our bet. This is the bonus payoff on the 5-coin Natural Royal Flush. Look at the following table, which is the payoff chart for the standard Joker's Wild game.
|1st Coin||2nd Coin||3rd Coin||4th Coin||5th Coin|
|Natural Royal Flush||500||1000||1500||2000||5000|
|5 of a Kind||100||200||300||400||500|
|Joker Royal Flush||50||100||150||200||250|
|4 of a Kind||20||40||60||80||100|
|3 of a Kind||2||4||6||8||10|
Notice that the payoff rates are the same across the board with one major exception; the 5-coin Natural Royal Flush. All the others pay off at 500-to-1, but the 5-coin pays off at 1000-1.
The odds of getting one of these are about 31000-to-1. But, if we do hit this big hand, we'd rather get the 5-coin payoff than any of the lesser ones.
Here's an example of how to bet this. Say I have put $25.00 in a multi-denominational machine. I want to place 100 bets with my money, so I have a choice; I can choose 5 cent bets and hit Bet Max each time (5 x 5 cents = 25 cents) or I can select the 25 cent bet and use the Bet One button.
Either way will pay me exactly the same if I win any other hand, but let's see the difference if I hit the Royal Flush. My one-coin, 25 cent bet (total bet = 25 cents) will pay me 500-to-1, so I'll get 500 quarters, or $125.00. Now, if I was betting a 5-coin, 5 cent bet (total bet = 25 cents) the machine will pay me 5000 nickels, or $250.00.
Now, the basic betting strategy is to look at the first draw, and hold or discard cards as necessary to get the best winning hand off the second draw. Remember, always hold your Joker!
Deal: Trash hand (no pairs, no matching suits, no partial straight)
Hold: Nothing. Deal 5 more cards.
Deal: Any pair of cards.
Hold: Both pair cards. Draw 3 more cards, looking for a 3-of-a-kind or another pair.
Deal: Two Pair – ALREADY A WINNER!
Hold: Both pairs cards. Draw 1 more card for the possible full house.
Deal: 3 or 4 to a straight. This would be 3-4-6-7-K, for instance.
Hold: Straight cards 3,4,6,7. Draw to try to get the 5 for the straight.
Deal: 3 or 4 to a flush. This would be 3 spades, 4 hearts, etc…
Hold: Flush cards (spades, hearts.) Draw to try to get the remaining suit cards for a flush.
Now that you can see the basic strategy, let's talk about maximizing our wins.
Suppose your first deal gives you 3-4-5-6 (hearts) 7 (spades) – This is already a winner for the straight, which pays 4-to-1. But we just need one card, the 7 of hearts for the straight flush, which pays 50-to-1. And we have two chances to get it, because either the 7 of hearts or the Joker will work for us. In this case, it's best to take the chance and discard the 7 of spades to try for the straight flush.
When you need two or more cards to make a good hand, it's a lot trickier. For any Royal Flush, it would still be worth sacrificing a small hand, but for a smaller payoff like a straight, you are probably best taking a lesser, guaranteed win and seeing what the next deal gives you.
Let's review. We know the basics of playing the Joker's Wild game, and are aware that is a game of negative expectation ; that is, if we play for long enough, the house will always win.
However, we've seen that by strategically picking which cards to hold and which to discard, and by making some occasional sacrifices of a guaranteed small hand for a chance at a big one, we can improve our odds of making money in the short run.
And that's the big key; we're going to try to make our money quickly in Joker's Wild ; once we've hit one big hand, or several mid-sized ones, we probably want to walk away from the machine with bulging pockets.
Otherwise, statistics tell us that we'll end up losing it all back and paying the casino for those “free” drinks.
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