Wild Card Video Poker Strategy
Learning to play wild card video poker games like Deuces Wild well requires a tremendous amount of practice with the right strategies.
Wild card games in video poker tend to have much more difficult and in-depth strategies than non-wild card games. The reason for this is that you have to learn a lot more potential situations. These situations are generally broken down based on how many wild cards you have in your hand.
In a game like Deuces Wild, the most popular and most basic of all wild card games, you can have zero, one, two, three or four wild cards. In a game like Joker Poker, however, there’s only one joker in the deck, so you have to learn all of the situations that either involve a joker or don’t.
In what follows, we’re going to break down the game of Deuces Wild while we show you how the most basic strategies work for this game. Most other wild card games play very similarly to this one, and it’s one of the two games that you should learn first when you decide to study video poker (with the other being Jacks or Better).
Three Parts to Deuces Wild Strategy
There are essentially three parts that you have to learn to play well in Deuces Wild, which basically extends to all other forms of wild card video poker (except Joker Poker, which only requires two single there’s only a single wild card). We’re going to group the parts of strategy as follows:
- Group 1: How to Play With Two, Three or Four Deuces
- Group 2: How to Play With One Deuce
- Group 3: How to Play With Zero Deuces
If you’re playing a different wild card game, you’ll always have the groups for zero or one wild card. For two or more wild cards (as high as five in a game like Deuces and Joker Wild), you’ll always group them together into a single part of the overall strategy.
Knocking Out the Group 1 Strategies
Playing with two or more deuces in Deuces Wild is really simple, and you can learn to play virtually perfectly inside of just a few minutes in these spots. If you have four deuces, then you just play four deuces since you’re going to get the same payout regardless. With three deuces, you will stand if you have a pat royal flush, and otherwise you will discard your two non-wild cards no matter what. So far, so good.
For two deuces, you’ll keep any pat hand that four of a kind or better, and you’ll keep four to a royal flush if you have it. The only other type of hand you’ll keep is four cards to a straight flush where the two non-wild cards are of adjacent ranks (like T922 or 7622). Otherwise, you just keep your two deuces and discard the other three cards.
This is the easiest group to learn, and it’s extremely straightforward. However, it’s also the part of the overall strategy that you’ll use the least often.
Group 2 Straight Flush Draws
Before we get into the group 2 strategy for hands where you have exactly one wild card, we need to define three different types of straight flush draws. We’re going to call these types major straight flush draws, minor straight flush draws and little straight flush draws.
A major straight flush draw meets the following requirements:
- It consists of four cards, one of which is a wild card (a deuce in Deuces Wild).
- All three of the non-wild cards are in consecutive order (eg: 9-8-7 or Q-J-T)
- All three of the non-wild cards are five or higher.
To make things simple, a minor straight flush draw is any four cards to a straight flush that includes one wild card and that is not a major straight flush draw. That leaves us with the little straight flush draw, which must meet these requirements:
- It consists of three cards, one of which is a wild card.
- Both of the non-wild cards are in consecutive order with no gap between them.
- Both of the non-wild cards are six or higher.
Learning this classification system for these three types of straight flush draws will make it a lot easier to understand what’s going on with the approach to video poker strategy that we’re going to suggest here for when you have a single wild card in your hand.
The Strategy for Group 2 Hands (A Single Wild Card)
When you have a single wild card in your hand, you have a lot of opportunities for complicated draws, as we’ve seen above with our straight flush classification system. However, it also makes it easier to make made hands as well.
The way this strategy works is that we’re going to give you a list of hands in order of importance. The highest ranking hand that you can make with your initial five cards is the one that you should make. First off, the three strongest types of hands you can make in Deuces Wild with a single wild card:
- Pat hands that are a full house or above.
- Four cards to a royal flush.
- A major straight flush draw.
This part of the group 2 strategy is pretty easy to remember, and it forms the basis for the next part:
- All other made hands (three of a kind, straights and flushes)
- A minor straight flush draw.
- Three cards to a royal flush.
- A little straight flush draw.
And if you can’t make any of these hands, then you’ll need to go ahead and discard all four of your non-wild cards. When you know how to classify the straight flush draws in the way that we have outlined, then it’s pretty easy to learn the strategy for hands where you have a single wild card. Without that classification, it’s a lot more difficult.
Good Hands in Group 3 Strategy for No Wild Cards in Your Hand
Once you get down to there being no wild cards in your hand in Deuces Wild, you have to deal with some major differences compared to games like Jacks or Better where there are no wild cards in the deck at all. One of the major differences is that you don’t get paid for any single pair hands, and you also don’t get paid for two pair. That’s not the case in all wild card games, however:
There are multiple versions of Joker Poker. In some, you need at least two pair to get a payout. In others, you need at least a pair of aces. In others still, players can get a payout with a pair of kings or better.
Along these lines, we’re going to be describing a game where you need at least three of a kind to win. A minor adjustment will account for games where you can get paid for two pair or single pair hands, and we’ll note where that adjustment should come into play.
With a similar convention as what we used above, here are the five best hands you can have, from best to worst:
- Any made hand, three of a kind or better.*
- Four cards to a straight flush or royal flush.
- A paying single pair or two pair.**
- Three to a royal flush.
- A non-paying pair.
* There’s one exception to this rule. If you have KQJT9 all of the same suit, it’s actually better to discard the 9 in this game and break up the straight flush. It’s unnerving to do, but it’s the right play mathematically.
** This is where you adjust for games that allow payouts for these hands. If you’re playing a game like Deuces Wild without these payouts, then ignore this entry.
The Worst Playable Hands in the Game
There are five other cases that you need to learn when playing in the group 3 strategy without any wild cards. They are in order here from strongest to weakest, sticking with the convention we’ve used so far:
- Four cards to a flush.
- An open-ended straight draw (with eight ways to win).
- Three cards to a straight flush, regardless of the gaps or value of the cards.
- Four cards to a gut-shot straight draw (with four ways to win).
- Two cards to a royal flush.
If you can’t make any of these hands or better, then you should just discard all five of your cards. Something that seasoned players will notice here is that we’re advocating never discarding four and keeping a high card. The reason for that is that high cards don’t mean anything in games where you can’t draw to a single pair. Having an ace in your hand is just as good as having a four in Deuces Wild if you’re fishing for a single pair.
Following the strategy for Deuces Wild that we have outlined here will give you very strong chances to come close to playing 100 percent perfectly. Adapting these strategies to other wild card games is not particularly difficult either. Because Deuces Wild is known for certain full-pay machines in land-based casinos that pay out up to 100.76 percent with perfect play, it’s a very worthwhile game to learn to play extremely well. You can get pretty good payout rates online also.