How to Play Video Poker

Video Poker Strategy Guide

It may not involve betting or raising, daring bluffs or brave hero-calls, but video poker is a fun, fast single-player casino game where poker knowledge can be a real asset.

Video Poker can seem complicated with payout tables, poker hands and coin value to keep track of. But is it really so daunting, or is the game easier than we think?

It turns out there are tips and charts to help you win more often. And where there are ways to get an edge at the poker table or casino, we'll do everything we can to help our readers!

So read on to learn how you can win more by understanding odds charts, calculating house edge and more.

#1 - How To Play

There are lots of different kinds of video poker but they all work roughly the same way. You’ll find video poker in real life casinos, often among the slot machines and on the counter at casino bars, as well as at all the best online casinos. Getting started playing video poker is really simple. Just follow these easy steps:

  1. Choose your coin value and how many coins to bet.

  2. Press Deal to receive five cards.

  3. Select which cards you want to hold in order to make the best possible poker hand.

  4. Press Draw and your un-held cards will be exchanged for new ones.

  5. Make a qualifying poker hand.

  6. Get paid according to the game’s paytable.

Your Game Screen

Regardless of which video poker game you choose to play, the game screen will look a lot like this. See the key below to learn about all the different elements of the most popular video poker games.

video poker game screen

1

Payout Table

Find out how much each poker hand pays out depending on how many coins you bet.

2

Your Cards

This is your poker hand. Select which cards you want to hold and exchange the others during the draw.

3

Coin Value

Set the amount each coin or credit is worth.

4

Action Buttons

Choose how many coins to bet and hit Deal. Select the cards you want to hold and then hit Draw.

5

More Info

Check out your balance, how many coins you’re betting and how much you’ve won.

Different games, sites, and machines may have slightly different layouts and buttons but they’re really similar. You won’t have any problems picking up a new game quickly.

No matter where you go, you’ll always find the same handful of really popular video poker games. This includes Jacks or Better, Bonus Poker, Double Bonus, Double Jackpot Poker and Deuces Wild, to name just a few.

The Winning Hands

Video poker uses traditional poker hands to determine how much you win. Most of us are familiar with the hands but it’s worth spending a minute going through the chart below to make sure you’ve got it all straight.

You may have noticed that there's no 'one pair' listed in the table above, and that's because not all video poker games will pay out for a pair - and those that do will often require that pair to consist of jacks or better (hence the name of the popular video poker variant). Note that Wild Card games will also pay out for 5 Of a Kind.

All video poker games use the same poker hands but the payouts can be different depending on which game you’re playing. This is a key concept in video poker so read on to learn more.


#2 - Video Poker Pay Tables

A pay table tells you the payouts for all the winning poker hands for that game. All the winning hands are listed in the left column. As you move to the right in the table it tells you the payouts depending on how many credits you bet.

video poker paytable

All the numbers refer to the number of coins you will win for each winning hand. Notice that the odds get better as you bet more credits per hand. The best odds are always reserved for when you bet the maximum number of credits.

Types Of Pay Tables

The most important differences between video poker games are the levels of risk and reward. Looking at the game’s pay table is the easiest way to figure out how risky a game is. Some games have really big payouts but you have to hit huge hands to get them. Others have smaller payouts but you only have to hit smaller hands to win.

Wild Card Games

The biggest difference you’ll see in pay tables is in games that use wild cards. Since it’s so much easier to make big hands when you have wild cards, the minimum winning hand is always much stronger and the corresponding payouts are smaller compared to non-wild card games.

Progressive Jackpot Games

Similar to slots, some video poker games have a progressive jackpot that keeps growing until someone wins it. A little bit out of each bet goes to the jackpot, which means the payouts are usually a bit worse compared to non-jackpot games.

We always advise checking the pay table before you start playing, as it will greatly impact how much you can win.


#3 - Video Poker Betting

When you start a new game of video poker, the first thing to do is to select how much you want to bet. If you’ve never played before it can be a bit confusing but don’t worry, it’s really simple. Just follow these steps to make sure you’re on the right track.

  1. Choose which game you want to play, e.g. Jacks or Better or Deuces Wild.

  2. Choose the denomination of coin, sometimes called credit, you want to bet. These are the units you will bet and also the units you will be paid in if you win - pay tables generally display payouts in coins.

  3. Choose how many coins you want to bet on each hand.

  4. Press the 'Deal' button to start your first hand.

  5. Select the cards you wish to hold then hit 'Draw' to discard the others and hopefully make a winning hand. Any winnings will be added to your credits.


#4 - House Edge and Payouts

The house edge refers to the statistical advantage that casinos build into their games in order to turn a profit. The good news when it comes to video poker is that if you use proper strategy, the house edge can be less than one per cent.

How to calculate house edge

  • First calculate the odds of making each winning poker hand.
  • Next figure out how much each winning hand pays out.
  • Compare the video poker odds and payouts to see how much, on average, you will win for every $100 you bet.
  • The difference between how much you bet and how much you win, expressed as a percentage, is the house edge.

Video poker is similar to blackjack in that the house edge changes dramatically based on how smart a strategy you’re playing. Making lots of mistakes in video poker will send the house edge through the roof while making all the right moves will send the casino’s edge plummeting to almost nothing.

Video Poker Payouts

One thing that’s really important to understand is that different kinds of video poker have different payouts. When you’re playing Deuces Wild, for example, the payout for a full house is tiny. The same hand in Jacks or Better, however, pays out three times as much.

So how do you use what you’ve learned about video poker payouts to pick the game that’s right for you?

Risk/Reward Ratio

  • Games like Jacks or Better have bigger payouts for smaller, more common hands and smaller payouts for big hands.
  • Games like Double Bonus Poker are weighted more towards bigger payouts for big hands with smaller payouts for small hands.
  • Games like Deuces Wild are the most heavily weighted towards big hands with a much higher minimum qualifying hand.

Choosing the right game comes down to identifying how much risk you’re willing to take on in exchange for the chance to win bigger prizes. Jacks or Better has low risk and low reward so you can make a smaller bankroll last longer. Games like Double Bonus Poker, on the other hand, are more volatile but give you the chance to win a bigger prize.


#5 - Types Of Video Poker Games

There are tons of different games that all fall within the video poker category. That means there’s always something new to test your luck and strategy. Each game has its own special twist and rewards a different kind of strategy. Check out the most popular video poker variations below to see which appeal to you.

Jacks Or Better

This is the lowest variance video poker game. The minimum winning hand is a pair of jacks or better which pays out 1 to 1. The payouts are weighted more heavily towards smaller hands, which means less risk and less reward. The highest hand is a Royal Flush which pays out 4,000 coins when you bet max credits.

Look for machines that pay out nine credits for a full house and six credits for a flush: these are known as 9/6 Jacks or Better or “full-pay”.

Main Points

  • Low risk, relatively low reward
  • Royal flush still offers big prize
  • Roughly 0.5% house edge with basic strategy

Popular Games

  • 9/6 Jacks or Better
  • 9/5 Jacks or Better (Flush pays 5 credits)
  • 8/6 Jacks or Better (Full house pays 8 credits)

Wild Card

Wild card video poker games have more risk and more reward compared to Jacks or Better. The minimum winning hand is usually three of a kind which pays out 1 to 1.

You’ll notice the payouts are a lot lower than other games but because there are wild cards it’s easier to make big hands.

Main Points

  • Higher risk/reward ratio
  • Lots of action
  • Higher minimum winning hand

Popular Games

  • Deuces Wild
  • Joker Poker
  • Double Joker Poker

Pick’em/Pick a Pair

This style of game plays a lot differently compared to the ones we’ve covered so far and it’s a lot of fun. Instead of being dealt five cards, you receive two pairs of cards. One appears on the left and one on the right of your screen. You must choose one of the cards on the right. This card is added to the two cards on the left and then two more cards are automatically dealt to make your five-card hand.

Main Points

  • Extremely low house edge
  • Fewer complicated strategy decisions
  • Lower minimum winning hand (e.g. a pair of nines)

Popular Games

  • Pick'em Poker
  • Pick'em Poker Deuces Wild
  • Pick'em Poker Double Double Bonus

Multi-Play (Multi-Hand)

Multi-hand or multi-play video poker is an exciting twist that’s available in many popular games like Jacks or Better and Deuces Wild. In this version the gameplay is the same, except when you hit the Draw button. Instead of just dealing your draw once, the machine will automatically deal three, five, 50, or even 100 hands, depending on the machine. A fresh deck is used for each hand and you get paid out on winning hands just like in the single-play version.

Main Points

  • Tons of action and winning hands
  • The more hands you play at once, generally the worse the payouts become
  • Use caution because you must bet on each hand and it adds up fast

Popular Games

  • Jacks or Better Multi-Hand
  • Deuces Wild Multi-Hand
  • Double Bonus Multi-Hand

Progressive Jackpots

Progressive jackpot video poker is a special add-on that’s available in many of the most popular video poker games. In these games a small part of each bet goes towards a huge jackpot that keeps growing until someone wins it. The upside is that if you get lucky you can win a seriously big prize. The downside is that the jackpot comes at the expense of worse payouts for some of the smaller hands.

Main Points

  • Chance of winning massive prizes
  • Payouts for smaller hands are worse
  • Available in most popular video poker games

Popular Games

  • Jackpot Deuces
  • Poker Ride
  • Jacks or Better Jackpot

Nowadays there are tons of different video poker games and variations. That means there really is something for everyone. If you love poker or slot machines, it’s worth giving video poker a try. It’s also worth noting that software developers are constantly innovating new games and gimmicks so keep an eye on our comprehensive casino reviews for the latest releases.


#6 – Video Poker Strategy

Depending on the casino games you play, you might not be familiar with how to learn and use a proven strategy. Roulette and baccarat, for example, don’t really have complicated strategies that require a thoughtful or analytical approach.

Video poker is much more similar to blackjack where a solid strategy makes a massive difference to how much you win or lose.

When it comes to video poker, learning the basics will make a big difference. And you can do it quickly and easily right now! Here are some top tips to get your video poker game up to speed.

Video Poker Strategy Charts

Optimal video poker strategy is all about memorizing the correct decisions for every different kind of hand you might be dealt. For example, do you hold three to a royal flush or a big pair?

Strategy charts are tables that show you what to do with every kind of hand you can be dealt. They’re easy to use and they contain everything you need to know to play perfect video poker strategy.

Image for - Jacks Or Better Strategy Chart

Jacks Or Better Strategy Chart

Since there are so many different kinds of video poker, it’s really important to learn the strategy that’s designed specifically for the game you’re playing. Jacks or Better is one of the most popular games and so provides a great place to start: check our free video poker strategy charts to learn the right decision for every situation you might encounter.

Start by memorizing the most common and important situations, as these will make the biggest difference to your game in the short term. After you know the basics, continue to the more complicated situations to take your strategy to the next level.

A Note On Strategy Cards

The closer you can play to perfect strategy, the lower the house edge will be and the better your chances of winning become.

After you’ve developed your strategy, the next challenge is to always stick to it, no matter what.

Video Poker Tips

A well-rounded video poker strategy is crucial to winning but there are a few individual tips that can make a huge difference if you don’t know them. Below are the three most important pieces of video poker advice from our gambling experts.

Always Bet Max Credits

The payouts are almost always better for the player when you bet max credits. If you can’t afford to bet max credits, look for a game with a lower coin denomination that will allow you to bet five coins per hand without busting your bankroll.

Look For 9/6 Jacks Or Better

Different casinos offer different pay tables for video poker. If you’re playing Jacks or Better, make sure to choose machines that pay 9 to 1 on a full house and 6 to 1 on a flush. These are known as “full-pay” games.

Free Drinks In Las Vegas

One of the most fun ways to play video poker is for free drinks at casino bars in Las Vegas. Depending on the casino, you can pop a few bucks in the machine, play a few hands and drink for free.

In addition to these tips, make sure to download and study the more advanced strategy chart above. It’ll make a big difference in your chances of winning.


#7 - Offline Video Poker

Even before the internet existed people were playing video poker in casinos all over the world. The child of traditional slot machines and poker games, offline video poker continues to offer players an awesome way to test their skill and luck.

The Main Differences Between Online/Offline Video Poker

Internet Casinos

Online video poker can be played at all the best casinos on the internet. Check our reviews to see who has the biggest and best selection of games.

Big Bonuses

One big perk of playing video poker online is the huge bonus you can get for signing up and depositing. Welcome bonuses can kick start your bankroll so it’s a great reason to try out new sites.

More Privacy

If you like to be in your own world and get some much-needed privacy when you’re playing video poker, playing online might be for you.

Live Casinos

In real brick and mortar casinos you can find video poker machines mixed in amongst the slot machines and located on the counters at most casino bars.

Loyalty Programs

Real life casinos don’t offer bonuses like online but they do have VIP programs you can sign up for. Make sure to sign up and use your member card every time you play video poker to earn valuable points and rewards.

More Social

Playing video poker in a casino is fun for groups of friends or meeting new people, so if you’re a social butterfly playing in a live casino is a great choice.

Whether you’re playing online or offline, the rules and strategies for all the different video poker games are exactly the same. Brushing up on the basics and then working on more advanced strategies is a great approach to playing on the internet and at brick and mortar casinos.

Video Poker Tournaments

Just like slot machines, video poker is also offered in a tournament format and it’s an awesome way to compete against other people while playing the game you love. Tournaments are usually limited to a certain number of hands or period of time and whoever finishes with the biggest profit wins.

Tournaments At A Glance

  • Everyone starts with the same bankroll and the same game.
  • The goal is to make the biggest profit in a certain time or number of hands.
  • Prizes go to the top finishers with the winner getting the biggest prize.

Video poker tournaments are often set up as a promotion by a casino to reward its most loyal players. In order to qualify you must be signed up for the rewards program so it’s another great reason to always use your rewards card when you play at an offline casino.

How To Play Video Poker At A Casino

Since you’re playing one-on-one with your own machine, there are fewer etiquette rules to worry about compared to a game where you’re interacting with other players and a dealer.

That said, there are a few key rules to be aware of to make your experience as smooth as possible. It’s also important to remember that these rules only apply to offline video poker in real-life casinos.

Free Drinks

If you’re playing to get free drinks, always tip the bartender at least $1 for every drink. Most casinos will also ask you to play continuously and sometimes they’ll even make you bet max credits if you’re drinking for free.

Button-Slapping

The single biggest pet peeve of video poker players is when someone beside them is loudly smacking the buttons every time they make a play. Don’t do it. In fact, don’t make any overly loud noises that may annoy other players.

Personal Space

If there’s a long row of free machines, consider leaving a buffer of a machine or two between you and strangers who are also playing. It’s definitely possible to be social and make conversation while also respecting people’s personal space.

#8 - History Of Video Poker

It wasn’t until the 1970s that the first real video poker machine was invented but its ancestors can be traced all the way back to the end of the 1800s. Since then, video poker’s come a long way. More games, better graphics and of course bigger prizes have all contributed to video poker’s popularity in gambling establishments all over the world and the internet.

  1. 1891

    The Sittman and Pitt Company in New York release the world’s first poker machine. It had five wheels which each had ten playing cards printed on them. The machine’s wheels would spin and come to rest to make a five-card poker hand. Ten years later they introduced a draw version that allowed players to choose which cards to hold and re-spin to replace the others. Gambling was illegal at the time so winning hands were paid in cigarettes and liquor.

  2. 1970s

    A man named Si Redd who worked for Bally’s Gaming presented an idea for a new game called video poker. Bally’s rejected the idea and Redd took the patent to Fortune Coin Company in Reno, Nevada. By the beginning of the 1980s Redd was mass-producing video poker machines and putting them in casinos all over the United States. Redd went on to create the company International Gaming Technology (IGT) which became a serious force in the casino industry.

  3. 1994

    When the first online casino was created in 1994 it wasn’t long before video poker was available on people’s home computers all over the world. Nowadays software developers have created even better versions of video poker with flashy graphics and exciting innovations. People love online video poker for the same reasons they love it offline: low house edge and the chance to use strategy to improve your odds of winning.

Video poker continues to be a massively popular game both online and in brick and mortar casinos all over the world. One of the biggest reasons is that it appeals to a lot of different people. Slots players appreciate the one-on-one aspect and exciting graphics while poker players love the chance to actually use some strategy to try to beat the casino. And if you’re a beginner, video poker is an easy and fun first step into the world of online gambling. Click now to start playing real money video poker.


#9 - Video Poker Terms & Meanings

Just like all gambling games, video poker has its own set of special words and slang. If you want to fit in next time you’re at the casino, brush up on the preferred nomenclature with our handy video poker glossary below, or ask for advice in our friendly forums.

Terms

Meaning

Action

Playing a game of Video Poker.

Bet Max

Betting the highest number of coins you possibly can. usually five per hand.

Cash Out

Taking your money out of an online casino account.

Coins

The denomination of bets in a game. Generally, players can bet 1 to 5 coins.

Deal

Player is given five cards at the start of a hand.

Deuces Wild Poker

All the 2s (or deuces) are wild.

Discard Cards

The cards you choose not to hold after the deal.

Double Down Poker

Another name for Deuces Wild.

Double Up

A gambling option in many games which gives you the chance to double your winnings. Players can also choose to gamble half their win.

Draw

To discard certain cards and receive replacements, in the hopes of improving your hand.

Edge

Also known as the House Edge. The mathematical advantage the casino has on the games. For example on a full pay Jacks or Better machine the edge should be around 0.46% when playing perfect strategy.

Flush

A five card hand that contains five cards of the same suit.

Four Of A Kind

A hand containing four cards of the same rank plus a kicker, eg. K-K-K-K-2.

Full House

A hand containing a pair and a three-of-a-kind, eg. J-J-J-6-6.

Hand

The cards dealt to the player.

Hold

Choosing to keep any of the five cards you are dealt.

Inside Straight

A hand completed by hitting a middle card, for example, being dealt a 6 in order to complete a hand of 4-5-7-8.

Jackpot

A large, often cumulative, cash prize paid out when hitting the best possible hand.

Joker

A feature in some Video Poker games. The Joker card acts as a Wild Card.

Maximum Coins

The top bet on a Video Poker hand.

Multi-Hand

A variant of online Video Poker that allows you to play more than one hand at a time.

Odds

The mathematical probability of a specific event, such as hitting a certain hand or card.

Pat Hand

Making a winning hand that can`t be improved by a draw.

Paytable

A list of the payouts for each winning hand combination.

Progressive Jackpot

A Video Poker game with a jackpot that increases by money paid into the same game across dozens of other online casinos. In general, Progressive Jackpots can be triggered only by betting the max. coin amount.

Random Number Generator

A complex software program that oversees the shuffling and dealing of the cards.

RNG

See Random Number Generator.

Royal Flush

The best possible hand in Video Poker. A Royal Flush is T-J-Q-K-A of the same suit, in any order,

Sequential Royal Flush

A Royal Flush running in order from left to right. Some games pay out on Reverse Sequential Royal Flushes.

Straight

A winning hand containing five cards in consecutive order, e.g. 6-7-8-9-T, but of different suits.

Straight Flush

A winning hand containing five cards in consecutive order of the same suit, e.g. 5-6-7-8-9 of clubs.

Three Of A Kind

A winning hand containing three cards of the same value, e.g. J-J-J-4-5.

Two Pair

A winning hand containing two pairs of cards and a kicker, e.g. J-J-K-K-3.

Wild Card

A feature of some games, a wild card substitutes for any other card needed.

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