Basics of Pick'Em Poker

July 26, 2014

By Henry Tamburin

If you've never heard of this casino game don't fret because I suppose most casino players haven't either. Pick'em Poker is a video poker game that you'll find in some Bally Game Maker machines. These are multi-game and usually multi-denominational machines which means you have to touch the "games" menu on the screen to see a listing of all the games offered.

What is so special about Pick'Em? It is one of the easiest video poker games to learn and to play nearly perfectly. And the playing rules are easy to learn. The game starts with the computer dealing you two exposed cards on the left side of the screen plus two stacks of three cards on the right side of the screen with the top card of each stack exposed. You must keep the two exposed cards on the left and you have a choice of which of the two stacks you want to keep that are on the right side. After you make your decision, you push one button corresponding to the stack you want to keep. The computer will then expose the two cards in the stack you kept giving you a five card poker hand (the initial two exposed cards on the left plus the exposed top card in the stack you kept plus the two cards "under" the stack). So, in a nutshell, your only option in Pick'em is to choose stack A or stack B. Is this not simple?

You 5-card poker hand wins if is contains at least a pair of 9's or higher. The highest paying paytable for Pick'em, which yields the 99.95% long-term payback, is as follows (five coin play):

There are lower paying paytables around that only yield a 96% return so check the paytables before you play.

When you play Pick'em, you are always comparing one set of three cards to another in order to decide which stack to keep. Let's try an example so you see how easy this is.

EXPOSED CARDS
TWO STACKS 5s 9h
9d 3c

Your two exposed cards, which you must keep, are the 5 of spades and 9 of hearts. You have a choice of selecting either the stack of three cards containing the exposed 9 of diamonds (ie., keeping the 5s-9h-9d) or the other stack containing the exposed 3 of clubs (ie keeping the 5s-9h-3c). The choice is a no-brainer. You would select the stack with the exposed 9 which gives you, at the minimum, a winning pair of 9's (depending upon what the other two cards are under the 9, you could also wind up with four 9's, three 9's, a full house, or two pair).

Most of the choices that you will face in Pick'em are intuitively obvious like the above example. But there are some tricky hands especially when you dealt three card straight flushes with or without gaps and high cards so you should take along a strategy chart that contains the ranking of all possible three-card hands (that way you'll always be making the right play). You'll find published strategy charts for Pick'em in the July 1999 and Sept. 2001 issues of Strictly Slots (B. Dancer), the April 2001 issue of Atlantic City Insider (VP Warrior), and on Skip Hughes web site www.vphomepage.com. There is a discussion and examples of Pick'em Poker playing strategy on www.gamemasteronline.com and you can practice the playing strategy using the popular WinPoker software program.

Here's a summary of what makes Pick'Em Poker a great game.

  1. It's easy to learn and play. There are no penalty cards.
  2. You can achieve a long-term return of 99.95% if you play correctly.
  3. By using your slot card when you play, you can easily get overall returns that exceed 100% (includes the cash back and comps).
  4. Pick'em Poker is often the highest paying poker machine in some casinos.
  5. The game has a low variability, which means you'll experience lower bankroll swings than most other video poker games.
  6. The game is available in some, but not all, gaming markets.