Strategic Principles and Adjustments for Tens or Better Video Poker

April 17, 2015


While Jacks or Better is definitely the most popular form of video poker among Australian players, Tens or Better is also played quite a bit. This game centers around the same sort of payout table as 6/5 Jacks or Better with the exception that you can get paid a 1x payout for a pair of tens. This increases the number of high cards in the game, and it also decreases the value of a lot of draws. Along these lines, there are some interesting strategic implications for this title in particular.

The main mistake players are going to make in this game, in terms of mental mistakes and not actual playing technique, is accidentally thinking of a ten as a low card. Along these lines, the easiest way to train yourself to prevent this mental mistake is to make a very special point to yourself every single time you see a ten in the game. This is an important adjustment that might seem silly until you get actual experience and kick yourself time after time for accidentally ignoring that a ten is a high card. Avoiding this is as easy as making a purposeful mental note like the one mentioned here.

In terms of strategy, the standard comparisons between pairs and draws hold up for the most part. High pairs are still better than three cards to a royal, three to a royal is still better than a flush draw, a flush draw is still better than a low pair, and a low pair is still better than an open-ended straight draw. With all of that having been said, there are some changes in strategy, and we're going to look at one hand in particular that's a bit different than Jacks or Better because it's a well-known exception to the standard rules.

In Jacks or Better, KQJTT without a flush draw is important because it's the only situation where you would prefer an open-ended straight draw over a pair of tens. In Tens or Better, the equivalent scenario is QJT99 because you have to choose between an open-ended straight draw with three high cards or a low pair. The draw holds out over the low pair in this situation by a comparison of an average 0.87x payout for the draw to a payout of 0.79x on average for the pair, so it's easy to see that this exception holds up.