The Greatest Gambling Game Guide to Video Poker

Video Poker: How Does It Compare?

With the wide variety of options in a physical casino, how does video poker compare to slot machines and table games? To squeeze the most out of video poker, whether physical or online, players should do their research on playing strategies of the versions they want to try. There are many advantages of video poker compared to other games. These advantages include lower house edges, player-outcome affect capabilities, and the ability to play at your own pace.

Lower House Edges = More Player Winnings

Typical slot machines lining modern day casinos by the thousands have an average house edge between six percent and 20 percent. This means that for every $1,000 pushed through a slot machine, the house (casino) will retain between $60 and $200. Does this happen at a regular pace? Absolutely not. But over the long haul, as in across tens of thousands of dollars played on a single machine, house odds generally fall in the range mentioned.

Video poker is an entirely different animal. Video poker has a far lower house edge. In fact, it is sometimes possible to discover games types that return an average of over 100% of the money played over time. Most video poker machines, both in casinos and online, have a range for house edges of between 0.25% and five percent. What does this mean for your thousand dollars? Instead of losing an average of $60 and $200, you lose an average of $2.50 to $50. Strong difference there, and it leads to an extended amount of time for a bankroll of a similar dollar amount. This is one of the main reasons why video poker is the go-to game for advanced and knowledgeable casino players.

Gamblers Affect Their Own Outcomes

Video poker is one of the few slot-machine-style casino games where the player can have a say in what the winning or losing outcomes are. Once a player has made a bet and hit the button to deal, you are dealt a total of five cards. The next step for each of the cards is entirely up to the player. Players can save all cards, discard all cards, or pick and choose what they’d like to do with each card on an individual basis.

Many highly skilled blackjack players have video poker as a fallback. The two games have similar concepts when it comes to basic strategies and overall outcomes.

Players Can Go at Their Own Pace

In table games such as blackjack, the dealer dictates the pace of gameplay. The same is true of roulette, craps and most physical and live online casino table games. Video poker games, as well as all slot machines, do not have a dealer, so the pace is entirely up to the players.

How to Play Video Poker

Video poker is a straightforward concept. Gameplay is like other casino games, but is more complex than typical slot machines. To play a slot machine, you bet an appropriate amount in an attempt to maximize game returns, and then trigger an action by either pressing a button or pulling a handle. That’s the extent of it. Yes, some slot machines have a button to automatically stop spinning and revert to the final result, but this doesn’t change the outcome, it only speeds up the inevitable.

With video poker, however, decisions can be made that impact the final win or loss result. As a result of this, video poker players have to perform a few more steps than just a button press or lever pull.

Adding Credits to Your Video Poker Machine

Not long ago, the only way to add credit to a video poker machine in a physical casino was to insert the correct coin into the coin slot. If you were wanting to bet ten credits per hand played, you had to do just that, inserting ten coins into the coin slot for each hand. If you win some, those credits were added to your balance of the machine, and you could thankfully play them without inserting more coins. If you secure a solid win and want to cash out, you got many coins as your winnings.

These days have long passed, and while there still might be some of these style video poker games around for nostalgic purposes, most video poker machines today accept standard currency. Cashing out has improved, as has general gameplay and speed. Today’s video poker machines act like slot machines in that they spit out paper vouchers to be cashed at the cage or in ticket changing machines you will see scattered about the casinos. These vouchers can usually also be inserted into other video poker machines, much like standard currency.

Selecting a Game Type and Denomination

A standard video poker machine layout consists of a large screen to display deal hands, and a pay table. The machine identifies the game denomination, as well as the number of available credits on the machine. Additionally, it identifies the current game type selected. There may be areas to select for additional information about the game. If it’s a multigame video poker machine, you’ll see a place to select other game types.

Picking a denomination is one of the most important steps in the process, as it magnifies the winnings and losses. Many of the standard, modern video poker machines are multi-denomination. You can choose yours manually through the touch screens. Once selected, you can see the games available for that denomination. Choose your poison and you’ll be transported straight to your game of choice.

Starting Play

To begin, press the “Play Max Credits” or the “Bet One Credit” button multiple times. Unlike most slot machines, you want to bet max credits while playing video poker. On subsequent hands, you can press the “Deal/Draw” button rather than “Play Max Credits”, as this button re-bets your previous bet.

After placing your credit bet, your initial five-card hand is dealt and displayed onscreen. You now look at the hand to determine which cards to hold. Press the “Hold/Cancel” button underneath each card you are holding. You can also touch each card you want to hold. If you make an error in holding, hit the “Hold/Cancel” button again to cancel the hold. You can also touch the card again to cancel the hold. To play your selected cards, hit the “Deal/Draw” button. The cards you chose not to hold are replaced by new cards. If the resulting hand wins, the credits are added and the game continues.

Some games have an option to double. If this feature exists in your game, you can select whether to attempt to double your winnings. This feature is not common, and doing this is even less common.

At this point, the video poker machine is primed for your next bet. Repeat the process above, and continue to do so until you are ready to leave. Do you have credits on the machine? Wonderful. Don’t forget to hit “Cash Out”, or someone else will surely capitalize on the leftover credit. Your voucher will print, and you can go on your merry way.

Sets and Subsets of Video Poker: Jacks Or Better

Jacks or Better is aptly named for the lowest paying hand that results in a win: a pair of jacks or better. Each game has an identical pay table: royal flush, straight flush, four of a kind, full house, flush, straight, three of a kind, two pairs, and a high pair of jacks or better. Five cards are dealt, the player chooses which to discard, and they are replaced.

Advantages of standard Jacks or Better

  • High payback ratio at 99.54%. This means that for every $100 played, the player loses an average of $0.46.
  • Low variance at 19.5, with gentle bankroll swings and modest requirements.
  • A very simple playing strategy on a five-coin bet: Royal flush = 4000, straight flush = 250, four of a kind = 125, full house = 45, flush = 30, straight = 20, three of a kind = 15, two pair = 10, jacks or better = 5.

Disadvantage of standard Jacks or Better

  • Generally boring gameplay, as there is only one high-paying winning hand at the pay table. Bankroll changes are slight, and excitement is generally relegated to the appearance of a royal flush.

Jacks or Better Bonus Poker

To improve the excitement and appeal of the boring, standard Jacks or Better brand of video poker came Bonus Poker. Everything in regards to credit bonuses remained the same, apart from the four of a kind, which was split out into three versions: four aces, four twos to fours, and for fives to kings. Other than that, the pay table for hands remained royal flush, straight flush, four of a kind (three versions), full house, flush, straight, three of a kind, two pairs, and a high pair of jacks or better. Five cards are dealt, the player chooses which to discard, and they are replaced.

Advantages of Bonus Poker

  • Relatively high payback ratio at 99.1%. This means that for every $100 played, the player loses an average of $0.90.
  • Relatively low variance at 20.9, with gentle bankroll swings and modest requirements.
  • More winning hands with the following payouts on a five-coin bet: Royal flush = 4000, straight flush = 250, four aces = 400, four twos to fours = 200, four of any other kind = 125, full house = 40, flush = 25, straight = 20, three of a kind = 15, two pair = 10, jacks or better = 5.

Disadvantages of Bonus Poker

  • Slightly lower payback ratio than Jacks or better, as shown above, over time.
  • While there are higher paying hands, these changes don’t provide enough excitement still for most players.

Jacks or Better Bonus Poker Deluxe

To continue the growth of interest in video poker, game manufacturers tweaked their pay table again, creating Bonus Poker Deluxe for their Jacks or Better variant. This condensed four of a kind’s back into one cell of the pay table, jacked up the win value, and modified the two pair to compensate. The pay table for hands remained royal flush, straight flush, four of a kind (three versions), full house, flush, straight, three of a kind, two pairs, and a high pair of jacks or better. Five cards are dealt, the player chooses which to discard, and they are replaced.

Advantages of Bonus Poker Deluxe

  • Still a relatively high payback ratio at 98.49%. This means that for every $100 played, the player loses an average of $1.51.
  • Still a relatively low variance of 32, with slightly more volatile bankroll swings and somewhat modest requirements.
  • More winning hands with the following payouts on a five-coin bet: Royal flush = 4000, straight flush = 250, four of any kind = 400, full house = 40, flush = 30, straight = 20, three of a kind = 15, two pair = 5, jacks or better = 5.

Disadvantage of Bonus Poker Deluxe

  • Variance and payback ratio begin to skew towards unprofitability, with the payback ratio being significantly lower than its earlier alternatives.

Jacks or Better Double Bonus Poker

To continue the growth of interest in video poker, game manufacturers tweaked their pay table yet again, developing what they called Double Bonus Poker for their Jacks or Better variant. This expanded four of a kind’s back into three sectors of the pay table, jacked up the win value immensely, and modified the two pair again to compensate. The pay table for hands remained royal flush, straight flush, four of a kind (three versions), full house, flush, straight, three of a kind, two pairs, and a high pair of jacks or better. Five cards are dealt, the player chooses which to discard, and they are replaced.

Advantages of Double Bonus Poker

  • An incredibly high payback of 100.17%. This means that for every $100 played, players have an edge on the house of $0.17.
  • Still a relatively low variance of 28.3, with average volatility in bankroll swings and somewhat modest requirements.
  • More winning hands with the following payouts on a five-coin bet: Royal flush = 4000, straight flush = 250, four aces = 800, four twos to fours = 400, four of any other kind = 250, full house = 50, flush = 35, straight = 25, three of a kind = 15, two pair = 5, jacks or better = 5.

Disadvantages of Double Bonus Poker

  • Higher variance than Jacks or Better, Bonus Poker and Bonus Poker Deluxe means a larger bankroll is required.
  • The playing strategy to profit properly from Double Bonus Poker is highly difficult to memorize.

Jacks or Better Double Double Bonus Poker

To still continue the growth of interest in their video poker offerings, game manufacturers tweaked their pay table one final time, developing what they called Double Double Bonus Poker for their Jacks or Better variant. Their answer was to add two lines to the pay table that introduced the concept of a kicker. With a hand of four aces, the kicker is a 2, 3, or 4. With a hand of four 2’s, 3’s, or 4’s; the kicker is an ace or a 2, 3, or 4. The pay table for hands were royal flush, straight flush, four of a kind with 2, 3, 4, four aces, four 2, 3, 4’s with an ace, 2, 3, or 4, four twos through fours, four of any other kind, full house, flush, straight, three of a kind, two pairs, and a high pair of jacks or better. Five cards are dealt, the player chooses which to discard, and they are replaced.

Advantages of Double Bonus Poker

  • A high payback of 98.98%. This means that for every $100 played, players stand to lose $1.02 over time.
  • More winning hands with the following payouts on a five-coin bet: Royal flush = 4000, straight flush = 250, four aces with a two, three or four = 2000, four aces = 800, four twos to fours with an ace to four fifth card = 800, four twos to fours = 400, four of any other kind = 250, full house = 50, flush = 35, straight = 25, three of a kind = 15, two pair = 5, jacks or better = 5.

Disadvantages of Double Bonus Poker

  • Far higher variance than Jacks or Better, Bonus Poker, Bonus Poker Deluxe and Double Bonus Poker (42) means a larger bankroll is required.
  • The playing strategy to profit properly from Double Double Bonus Poker is highly difficult to memorize.

Sets and Subsets of Video Poker: Wild Card Video Poker

Every card in Jacks or Better variants have a single value (except the ace, which can be high or low if needed). Each game in the Wild Card category has one or more cards which can count as a card of any rank or suit: wild cards. Obviously, having these wild cards means there are more hands that pay out. This means that the pays for each winning hand is also lower than in Jacks or Better variants. In some variants of Wild Card video poker, smaller payout hands such as the high pair and two pair are eliminated from pay tables.

There is also a new hand type called the wild hand, any hand that contains a wild card. This brings up options such as the wild royal flush and the five of a kind. Not all hands that contain a wild card are called “wild” hands, however. Many times, the pay table does not differentiate between wild and non-wild hands. In those cases, the pay is the same if the hand contains a wild card. The introduction of this wild card changes the game dynamic dramatically.

Deuces Wild Video Poker

This is the most popular of the two common variants of Wild Card video poker. Like other variants and sets and subsets, five cards are dealt, the player chooses which to discard, and they are replaced. However, Deuces Wild has the following payouts on a five-coin bet:

  • Royal flush with no twos pays out the standard 4000.
  • Four twos will pay out 1000
  • A wild royal flush (royal flush containing a wild card) pays out 125
  • A five of a kind (four of a kind plus a wild card) pays out 75.
  • A straight flush pays out 45, four of a kind 25, and full house 15.
  • A flush pays out 10, straight 10, and three of a kind 5.
  • There is no payout for a two pair, and jacks or better disappears.

Advantages of Deuces Wild Video Poker

  • An incredibly high payback of 100.76%. This means that for every $100 played, players have an edge on the house of $0.24.
  • Still a relatively low variance of 23.8, with average volatility in bankroll swings and somewhat modest requirements.
  • There are two very high paying hands with this variant: the royal flush and the four twos.
  • The strategy has been simplified greatly, as it is organized by the number of twos (deuces) in the original hand.

Disadvantages of Deuces Wild Video Poker

  • With this high payback ratio, most variants of Deuces Wild have an altered pay table. This makes it difficult to properly identify a good version of Deuces Wild with the high payout ratio.
  • The strategy mentioned above is different than Jacks or Better.

Joker Poker Video Poker

Joker Poker is like Deuces Wild, except that the joker is the only wild card. Like other variants and sets and subsets, five cards are dealt, the player chooses which to discard, and they are replaced. However, Joker Poker has the following payouts on a five-coin bet:

  • Royal flush with no joker pays out 4700.
  • A five of a kind (four of a kind plus a joker) pays out 1000.
  • A wild royal flush (royal flush containing a joker) pays out 500.
  • A straight flush pays out 250, four of a kind 100, and full house 25.
  • A flush pays out 25, straight 15, and three of a kind 10.
  • Two pairs and kings or better pays out one-to-one, or wins back your five-coin bet.

Advantages of Joker Poker Video Poker

  • An incredibly high payback of 100.65%. This means that for every $100 played, players have an edge on the house of $0.35.
  • Still a relatively low variance of 33.1, with average volatility in bankroll swings and somewhat modest requirements.
  • Because there is a wild card, the additional hands of five of a kind and wild royal flush are a part of the pay table. But notice the lowest paying hand. It is a pair of kings or better

Disadvantage of Joker Poker Video Poker

  • With this high payback ratio, most variants of Joker Poker have an altered pay table. This makes it difficult to properly identify a good version of Joker Poker with the high payout ratio. More common variants pay 18 to one on four of a kind, dropping the payback ratio under 100%.

Sets and Subsets of Video Poker: Pick a Pair Video Poker

Pick a Pair video poker was introduced, and is a completely different animal. Originally referred to as “Pick ‘Em Poker”, Pick a Pair video poker ran successfully for many years and then faded into obscurity. It’s rare to find a Pick a Pair video poker machine these days. Some of the newer multi-game machines will include a variant of Pick A Pair.

This variant of video poker is played differently than others. Instead of dealing five cards and then holding and discarding, you get two cards face up and two piles of three cards, each with the top card on each pile face up. You pick one of the piles of three to complete the hand. This can be inconvenient at times, but the pay table is skewed such that it makes the inconvenience worthwhile. Here is the pay table, with payouts listed for one coin, two coin, three coin, four coin, and five coin bets:

  • Royal flush: 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000, and 6000.
  • Straight flush: 200, 400, 600, 800, and 1199.
  • Four of a kind: 100, 200, 300, 400, and 600.
  • Full house: 18, 36, 54, 72, and 90.
  • Flush: 15, 30, 45, 60, and 75.
  • Straight: 11, 22, 33, 44, and 55.
  • Three of a kind: 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25.
  • Two pair: 3, 6, 9, 12, and 15.
  • Nines or better: 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10.

Advantages of Pick a Pair Video Poker

  • An incredibly solid payback of 99.95%. This means that for every $100 played, players lose on average just a nickel.
  • In incredibly low variance range between 15 and 19.3, with very low volatility in bankroll swings and very modest bankroll entry requirements.
  • Royal flush with five coins bet pays out 50% more than any Jacks or Better video poker variant.
  • The strategy has been simplified greatly, as it is organized by the number of twos (deuces) in the original hand.

Disadvantages of Pick a Pair Video Poker

  • Good luck finding a game that has Pick a Pair as a game type option.
  • The frustration of having to throw away a card that would have completed a winning hand because you have to discard one of the two piles of three cards.
  • The extremely rare occurrence of the royal flush (once in every 351,817 hands) and straight flush (once in every 38,450 hands) makes this a pretty boring video poker game type to play.

Sets and Subsets of Video Poker: Multiple Play Video Poker

The above game sets and subsets of video poker have been single play versions of the game. Credits are bet, buttons are pressed, and one hand is dealt on-screen. Players decide which cards to hold and then new cards are dealt to replace discarded ones. One hand at a time = single play video poker.

Single play games aren’t the only kind of video poker games available. Scattered through casinos, both physical and online, are video poker games where you can play up to 100 hands simultaneously. These games are called multiple play or multi-play. When you play a multiple play game you bet enough credits for all the lines you wish to play at the same time. When you hit deal, the same hand is dealt to every line you have in play. That can be up to 100 repeats of the same hand. The cards you choose to hold are held in all the lines in play. When you hit draw, each line has the discards replaced by cards from a different deck without the originally-dealt five cards.

The determining factor for variance in single play games is the amount of payback tied up in high paying hands. In multiple play games, variance increases as number of plays increases. This isn’t because more money is concentrated in less high paying hands, but instead the strength per hand is determined by the initial five cards dealt. If those five cards make a strong and, each play will have a strong hand. However, if those five cards make a weak hand, each play will have a weak hand.

Advantages of Multiple Play Video Poker

  • The potential to hit large-payout winning hands is greater when betting multiple plays simultaneously.
  • Playing strategies mirror those of single play versions of the same game.

Disadvantage of Multiple Play Video Poker

  • Multiple plays mean a far higher variance, causing larger swings in bankrolls and requiring a larger total bankroll to play.

Sets and Subsets of Video Poker: Progressive Video Poker

In previously reviewed sets and subsets, each pay table line has a single value. Progressive video poker has a jackpot that starts at the non-progressive value, and increases with the volume of hands played. The most common progressive jackpot is the royal flush, but there are games that have progressive jackpots for hands such as the straight flush or four of a kind.

Progressive games tend to have lower payouts for some lower paying hands, such as flushes and the full house. As progressive jackpots climb, house edges decrease. If the jackpot amount gets high enough, the game matches payback of non-progressive video poker. It can even eventually pay back more than 100%, becoming favorable for the player compared to the house.

For example, here are various progressive jackpot amounts, returns, and variances:

  • With a 4000-credit progressive jackpot, the return is 97.30%, and the variance is 19.3.
  • With a 5000-credit progressive jackpot, the return is 97.81%, and the variance is 30.8.
  • With a 6000-credit progressive jackpot, the return is 98.38%, and the variance is 46.1.
  • With a 7000-credit progressive jackpot, the return is 98.98%, and the variance is 62.7.
  • With an 8000-credit progressive jackpot, the return is 99.59%, and the variance is 81.7.
  • At an 8670-credit progressive jackpot level, the return hits 100%, and the variance is 95.6.

Returns improve about a half percentage point for each thousand-credit push, until matching the house edge and becoming player-favorable. The more of the total return being concentrated in the royal flush, the higher the variance, and the higher bankroll necessary to profit and recoup initial investment.

Advantages of Progressive Video Poker

  • Players can win more credits than on standard video poker machines, due to the progressive jackpot rising with each play.
  • If the progressive jackpot rises high enough, players can play with an edge over the house.

Disadvantages of Progressive Video Poker

  • Players experience a lower payback until the progressive jackpot reaches a high enough level.
  • Progressive games with similar payback percentages as non-progressive games will have a far higher variance, and require a far higher bankroll.
  • As the progressive jackpot increases, playing strategies need to be revised to maximize results.

Common Terms for Video Poker

  • Action: the total amount of money wagered in a game of video poker.
  • Bankroll: total money that a player has available for gambling. This could be in chip form, or in currency form.
  • Cash Back: Currency-based bonuses awarded to players for gambling at a specific casino, both online and land-based.
  • Cycle: The average number of hands passing between high payout wins on any video poker machine, typically through the royal flush.
  • Drawing Hand: A video poker hand requiring one specific card to improve in its value.
  • Face Card: Any card with a face… jacks, queens, kings.
  • Full Pay: The best paying variant of a set or subset of video poker. Also, the variant of video poker that allows for the lowest house edge and strongest player edge.
  • House Edge: The statistical advantage that the house, or casino, has over the gamblers for a video poker game. This is displayed usually as a percentage value. Anything over 100%, and the odds are in the favor of the player. Anything under 100%, and the odds are in the favor of the house.
  • Inside Straight: A potential straight that requires you to draw one or more cards to fill a gap on the inside of the sequence. For example, a hand that contains 6, 7, 8, and 10 requires a nine, and only a nine, on the draw to become a straight.
  • Kicker: The kicker is a hand’s highest not paired card, utilized as a tie breaker in most games of poker where two players have identical-strength hands in play. Kickers serve a different purpose in video poker, and should not be held.
  • Outside Straight: A potential straight that requires you to draw one of two cards to finish the five-in-a-row sequence o f a straight. This is much easier to complete than an inside straight. For example, a hand that contains 9, 10, J, and Q, can be made into a straight by receiving either an 8 or a K on the draw.
  • Pay Table: The pay table is a table or diagram that informs video poker players how much betting each hand is worth, and what kind of winnings should be expected. These payouts are displayed relative to the size of the bets made.
  • Progressive Jackpot: Progressive jackpots in video poker, both online and land-based, are jackpots that grow larger as players fail to win. This is usually increased on a per-hand-played basis, and in land-based progressive jackpots can be linked to multiple machines at once to increase the jackpot further.
  • RNG: Short for random number generator, this is the digital mechanism that allows for random events to take place fairly. In the case of video poker, the random number generator produces a random 5-card hand from a deck that does not actually exist.
  • Short Pay: A short pay is the worst paying variant of a set or subset of video poker. Also, the variant of video poker that allows for the highest house edge and weakest player advantage.
  • Volatility: A measure of how much a player should expect a video poker machine to deviate from its expected return. This is the case for both online variants and land-based variants of video poker. Higher volatility results in larger swings in a player’s bankroll, both positive and negative. Although the concept of volatility is frequently debated amongst seasoned gamblers, many believe higher volatility leads to increased risk.
  • Wild Card: A wild card is any card in video poker, whether online or land-based, that can act as another card to create a far more valuable hand. This is advantageous for several reasons.

Video Poker: Can There Be a Strategy?

There are a ton of variations in video poker. The above options scratch the surface of some of the most popular. Attempting to devise a strategy that works across the board is an impossible task. There are variables in the wild cards, minimum payout hands, cards to hold, cards to drop, and more.

If we are wanting to try and dive into basics, we can give it a try with standard, vanilla Jacks or Better. In this video poker variant, players will automatically walk away with their bet back or more if their hand is a pair of jacks or stronger (hence the name). Recall that players also have the option to discard cards they don’t like. Knowing what to keep and what to drop is no simple task. To get an upper hand, keep the following in mind:

Always hold a royal flush, four of a kind, full house, straight flush, three of a kind, or two pair.

These hands are guaranteed to be winners, increasing your bankroll compared to the bet placed on the hand. Since the player is holding a stronger hand than a pair of jacks, their payout is greater than one-to-one. However, note that if the player keeps a three of a kind, it’s a good idea to discard the other two cards and re-draw, regardless of how decent they may appear. That three of a kind might turn into a full house or four of a kind.

This might seem like a basic concept, but there are instances where it is recommended to discard enough cards to break a flush or a straight. Say you have the nine, jack, queen, king and ace of spades. You’ve got a flush right there. But you’re only one card away from a royal flush. Drop that nine and request a new card. You will be losing your flush, but a ten of spades gets you that royal flush and the astronomical payout that goes along with it. Also, if you hit a face card or another ace, you’ll still have a jacks or higher pair, so it won’t be a total loss.

Concluding the Greatest Gambling Game Guide: Video Poker

Video poker is a stressful and high impact slot-type table hybrid monster of a game. There are pseudo-strategies used to attempt to gain an advantage over those not using them. However, in the end, the house is meant to always win. Regardless, workarounds exist to attempt to put the odds in the favor of the player.

In this guide, we have gone over many of the facts, figures, and concepts behind one of the most mysterious but high-dollar games at both land-based and online casinos. Video poker is a beast. However, we are confident that you now have a good amount of necessary information to get started in the world of video poker, whether real-world or simple online gameplay, and come out the other side swinging, and hopefully with a nice replenished bankroll to boot. Happy gambling!

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