Pick Five Poker

Pick Five Poker is played with a standard 52-card deck, but it differs from normal video poker in the method by which cards are dealt. Most video poker games start by dealing five cards, after which the player may hold anywhere from zero to five of those cards and draw replacements (all at one time) for the cards not held.

In Pick Five Poker, the player is shown only two cards from which he must select only one. The other card is gone from the deck and will not show up again during the current hand. This process is repeated four more times until the player has accumulated a final five card hand and in the process has also discarded five cards.

Note that this is very similar to Bonus Poker, and although the payoffs for a full house and flush are each increased by one, the payoff for two pair is cut from 2-for-1 to a push. If it were a 5-card draw game, the maximum payback would be only 94.74%. With the one-card-at-time dealing method, however, a specialized strategy can yield a much higher payback, primarily because the player has always seen ten cards by the time the final decision is made.


It’s easy to see why it would take a super computer to determine the exact maximum payback, as there are nearly 70 trillion unique paths to a final hand, but serious video poker players proved to be up to the challenge of analyzing the game.

For your first card, select the first card in this list: A, J, Q, K, 10, 4, 3, 2, 9, 8, 5, 7, 6 If shown two cards of the same rank, it doesn’t matter which one you pick.

For the second through fourth cards, use the following hand rank tables. Each time you are presented with two cards, hold the card which, when combined with other cards already held, will yield the first combination in the respective group.

Even this highly simplified strategy is estimated to yield over 101% payback. The complete strategy on my cue card has been shown by simulation to yield at least 102.1% payback. Since the simulation did not consider earlier discards when choosing the second through fourth cards, an astute player should be able to achieve a bit more by not drawing to hands made impossible by those missing cards. It’s conceivable that even the developer’s suggested 103.1% might be achieved.

The frequency of a Royal Flush is about one per 25,000 hands. Compare this to one in 38,000 to 45,000 hands for most draw poker games. The variance, which is the dominant factor in your bankroll fluctuations, is, therefore, relatively moderate.

For professional players, the main drawback to this game is the increased time required to play each hand. The machines generally have a speed control like most Williams games, but even at the fastest speed it requires five decisions to be made individually for each hand. Testing it myself, the best rate of play I was able to achieve was about 400 hands per hour, or about half of my typical speed on most draw games.

This game can be somewhat frustrating at times, such as when forced to pick between two suited high cards (making it impossible to end up with a royal flush) or when shown two cards of the same rank (making it impossible to end up with four of a kind). It is a fun game to play, however, and it can be quite rewarding. Even if you get “only” a two percent edge, at 400 hands per hour that’s worth $10 per hour expected average win rate on a quarter machine (apparently the only denomination available), plus any comps and slot club rebates.