Pick’em Video Poker

Video Poker Machine PhotoMost video poker variations normally follow the same rules because the majority of them are based either on Jacks or Better or on Deuces Wild. As time passes, many video poker fans reach a stage where standard variants of the game simply will not do. Many players feel like they need a new challenge, something out of the ordinary that offers a good deal of excitement and comes with an interesting twist. The game of Pick’em video poker perfectly fits this description and poses as a great alternative for those looking to spice up their gaming experience.

The game is also known as Pick a Pair and utilises a bit different rules than those of traditional video poker variants. However, Pick’em video poker is not that difficult to master and the optimal playing strategy is easy to learn even if you are clueless and have never played before. What further adds to the excitement is the fact the game is available for multi-hand play in many established online casinos. In addition, Pick’em offers a satisfactory return percentage which renders it a suitable option for players on a limited budget looking to play for prolonged periods of time.

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The Basics of Pick’em Video Poker

This video poker variation is played with a standard full deck which does not contain any wild cards or jokers. Before players get started, they need to adjust the size of their wagers by selecting how many credits to bet per hand and of what denomination. The rule of thumb which states one should always stake the maximum number of credits applies to Pick’em video poker as well since max bets secure extra payouts on strong hands such as the Royal Flush, Straight Flush, and Four of a Kind. The number of credits allowed per hand ranges between one and five. In the majority of online variants of Pick’em, the available coin denominations fluctuate between 0.05 and 5.00 but it all depends on the software developer providing the game.

Once the bet is made, players are dealt two exposed cards on the left side of the base-game screen. These two exposed cards cannot be discarded so the player has no other option but to keep them. Two stacks of three cards each are randomly dealt on the right side of the screen so that only the cards on top are visible.

Players are then prompted to pick one of the two stacks on the right, hence the name “Pick’em” poker. Then, the hidden cards from the stack are revealed and the objective is to form a five-card hand that qualifies for a payout. In other words, the final hand contains the initial two face-up cards, the face-up card from the stack you have decided to keep, and the two cards that are under it.

If the player has managed to complete a winning hand, they are paid on the basis of its ranking in the paytable and the number of credits they have initially staked. Similarly to traditional video poker variants, players are allowed an attempt at doubling their winnings of hands that qualify for a payout thanks to the so-called Gamble or Double Up feature. Players will then exit the main game screen and will be dealt five random cards but only the first one will be exposed. This is the virtual dealer’s card.

The objective is to pick one of the four face-down cards and if it is of a higher face value than that of the dealer, players collect double the amount they have won on the last hand. If their card is of a lower rank, however, the winnings will be forfeited in favour of the house.

As you can see, Pick’em is a rather simplified game as there is only one decision to make, namely which of the two stacks of cards to select. Another thing worth mentioning is that cards are reshuffled after each round which is to ensure fairness and randomness of the results.

Pick'em Video Poker Screenshot

Paytable and Hand Rankings in Pick’em Video Poker

Pick’em video poker incorporates the standard ranking of poker hands but the payouts are vastly different than those in the traditional variations of the game. The first thing you will notice when you look at the paytable is that there are no even-money prizes here.

As usual, the highest ranking hand is no other than the Royal Flush but here it offers more substantial payouts. Players who bet a single coin per hand will be awarded 1,200 credits for a Royal Flush but generally, it is best to bet the maximum of five coins because in such cases, the Royal will earn you the impressive payout of 6,000 credits.

The second best hand is the Straight Flush which rewards you with 1,199 coins if you bet the maximum of five credits. The third hand in rank is the Four of a Kind which also provides an extra payout of 600 credits for maximum bets. The ranking of the remaining qualifying hands in descending order is as follows – Full House (pays 18 to 1), Flush (pays 15 to 1), Straight (with a payout of 11 to 1), Three of a Kind (5 to 1) and Two Pair (3 to 1). The weakest hand that can potentially secure a payout of 2 to 1 is the Pair but not just any pair – only those that consist of nines or better qualify.

Pick’em video poker variations that offer full pay have higher payouts for the three highest ranking hands. On such games, completing a Royal Flush earns players 1,200 to 1 while Straight Flushes and Four of a Kind will net you payouts of 239.8 to 1 and 120 to 1, respectively. The Straight, on the other hand, pays 11 to 1 in full-pay variants. Players who opt for such variations will benefit from an almost non-existent house edge of 0.05% and a long-term theoretical return that reaches 99.95% if they play the game in accordance with the optimal strategy.

However, such full-pay variants are few and far between – not many online casinos offer them. It is likely to come across Pick’em games where a Royal Flush pays at a rate of 2,000 to 1. At first glance, such games seem appealing but if you inspect the paytable more closely, you will surely notice there is a reduction in the payout for one of the more frequently occurring hands, the Straight, which pays 10 to 1 instead of the usual 11 to 1. This gives the house edge a boost to 0.31% while the average long-term return with perfect playing strategy drops to 99.69%. In other instances, the payouts for the Full House are reduced from 18 to 1 to 15 to 1.

Always make sure you check the payouts for these key hands – the Royal Flush, the Straight Flush, Four of a Kind, and the Straight. With some variations of the game, the reductions in the payouts are so substantial that the house is given an advantage of 4.00% over players, which is a massive edge for a video poker game. Needless to say, players should stay away from such versions of Pick’em.

Pick’em Video Poker Paytable
Coins 1 2 3 4 5
Royal Flush 1000 2000 3000 4000 6000
Straight Flush 200 400 600 800 1000
Four of a Kind 100 200 300 400 600
Full House 18 36 54 72 90
Flush 15 30 45 60 75
Straight 11 22 33 44 55
Three of a Kind 5 10 15 20 25
Two Pair 3 6 9 12 15
Nines or Better 2 4 6 8 10

Beginner Strategy for Pick’em Video Poker

As was stated above, the full-pay variation of Pick’em offers an exceptionally high theoretical return of 99.95% but there are two conditions to meet. To begin with, players should most definitely bet the maximum number of five credits on every hand. Then again, they should not veer off from the optimal strategy while playing the game.

Because in its very nature Pick’em differs significantly from other video poker variations, the basic strategy for the game is rather dissimilar to the strategies used for traditional games like Jacks or Better or Deuces Wild. Furthermore, the strategy for Pick’em appears to be more complicated but in reality, it is not that complex to master.

Once you get the hang of it, you will realise Pick’em is one of the easiest video poker variations you can possibly play because there are only two options to pick from on every hand you play. What further impacts strategy is the fact the player’s decisions are based on opening hands that are made up of three cards only. In contrast, traditional video poker variations enable players to gain more information prior to making a decision because their starting hand consists of five cards.

The biggest difference strategy-wise results from the fact the most important hand in Pick’em is actually the Three of a Kind – even though it offers a payout of 25 credits for maximum bets, this is the optimal hand players can secure with the limited information that is available to them. Additionally, players have around 3.9% chance of improving their Three of a Kind to a Four of a Kind.

For starters, players are advised to always hold their three-card Straight Flush draws over the other Flush draws. Another important thing to remember is that Straight Flushes, in general, should be favoured over low pairs (with 2s through 8s), because the latter do not qualify for a payout at all. There is only one exception to this rule when an inside Straight Flush draw contains no high cards whatsoever and has two gaps (you need two cards to complete the hand).

It is preferable to hold low pairs over regular Flush draws except for the cases when the Flush draw contains a minimum of two high cards. Another strategy rule states that pairs of high cards are to be favoured over all possible Straight Flush draws.

Finally, the Royal Flush draw offers players a higher value when compared to high pairs. The only occasion when this rule does not apply is when the Royal Flush draw you are holding contains an Ace, which is to be explained with the limited number of Straight possibilities this Ace gives you.