How to Get Started Playing Video Poker

by Enrico
Updated Video Poker Guides, Tips, Strategy

Video Poker
Are you tired of spinning the traditional reels on a slot machine? We know we are. The outcome is utterly random and you can’t contribute as many strategies as you would like to the actual gameplay, more often than not, your gambling fate is in the lap of the gods. How about adding a bit of poker spirit into the mix? You can with video poker, the often overlooked and underrated game that’s a staple of casinos around the world.

Video poker really is a combination of poker and slots. Trust us, if you like to play both slots and poker, video poker is very easy and enjoyable to play, you will absolutely love it. Now, with that little introduction out of the way, it’s time to dive into to our beginner’s guide to video poker, so you can better understand the most understated casino game around.


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What exactly is video poker?

It is a rather simple game to grasp, as it’s basically a five-card draw poker game playing on a computer programmed machine like a slot. Instead of the traditional slots reel themes, they are replaced by 5 poker cards randomly. You can win the game with similar five-card draw rules. It is truly a great alternative when you get a bit bored of the usual (and arguably pretty tired) slot machines out there. Plus, if you love poker, this provides a pretty fast-paced version of the game that isn’t short on thrills.

How to play video poker?

The biggest difference between a usual slot game and video poker is skill, to win at video poker it requires more skill, poker skill to be precise. You can find it in almost every land-based casino or online. In general, it has the same game rules as five-card draw poker. Firstly, you have to place a bet of 1 or more credits, then you will be given 5 random cards, you can choose to discard any or all of the cards in exchange for new ones – unlike the table version. After the draw, the game will allocate the payout by hands, based on the winning combinations that you can find in the paytable.

As you can see, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to play and enjoy video poker, but a little bit of knowledge certainly goes a long way in this game.

How to win a video poker game?

If you have played table poker or five-card draw poker in the past, the rules are pretty much the same in video poker. The winning combinations include:

  • Royal Flush (a Ten, a Jack, a Queen, a King, and an Ace of the same suit)
  • Straight flush (5 consecutive cards of the same suit)
  • Four of a kind (four cards of the same value),
  • Full house (a pair and a three of a kind),
  • Straight (a sequence of 5 cards of consecutive value),
  • Three of a kind,
  • Flush (any 5 cards of the same suit)
  • Two pair

Phew, that was a mouthful, but at least you know what it takes to win a hand of video poker now.

Why is Video Poker so popular?

Let’s disclose the mystery of why video poker is so popular in casinos, despite the fact that the game is rarely mentioned in the same breath as poker, roulette, blackjack, and poker. The secret is the house edge of video poker is much lower compared to other casino games. This means that the payout ratio is normally pretty high, usually hovering around 100%. It is not hard to win a game or two in video poker at all, as the odds are (generally) in your favor.

What is the house edge?

As you have already learned, people love video poker because of the low house edge. The house edge for slot games usually around 6%, but video poker is much more favorable, thus the winning chance is much higher in general, not to mention if you are a poker connoisseur. Now, it must be said, the house edge does vary based upon the version of the game you play, but generally, it’s going to be a house edge that’s more favorable than in other casino games.

What about the game’s history?

The earliest models were developed in the 1970s, almost the same time period as the first personal computer came about. Yes, video poker is a lot older than most people think. It became more wide-spread when draw poker was introduced in the late 1970s. Since those days video poker started to become well-known by more and more players and appeared in every casino, as its popularity sky-rocketed.

The reason behind the increasing popularity was actually because people found out they have more privacy and more confidence and feel more relaxed when they play video poker over standard poker. Especially in Las Vegas, many of the strategic-minded players who are good at odds calculations won big, as the local casinos often offer better odds or lower value machines. Big wins will always lead to increased player demand, so over the decades, different game variations were created, along with new ways to play. There is plenty more to dissect about video poker’s history, but that’ll likely be another article for another day.

What are video poker paytables?

Paytables are something you must check before starting the game, as it holds the key to what you can win and how you can win it. For some of the video poker games out there, these paytables can present tough reading, as casinos never make it easy for a player to understand what’s happening. We would certainly recommend doing some research to find out which video poker game has the highest payout rate in advance. The better strategy you have, the higher the return will be, with this all coming down to finding the right game with the right paytable.

With the above in mind, if you really want to increase the winning chances more on video poker games, just like playing poker, you still need to have some basic knowledge and strategies to win. Don’t worry, we have you covered on that front.

Have you got any quick tips?

In the video poker world, there are two important terms that all players must remember, with there being “Full-Pay” and “Short-Pay” games. This is the most crucial knowledge you need to understand before picking a game, which essentially decides the money return rate of your wagers. Full-pay games are the games that the player has the highest payback rate to work with, short-pay games are those that offer a lower return to player rate.

Remember this, no matter what game you play at a casino, you need to have some kind of strategy, otherwise, the house is always the winner. Read more of our articles, so you can learn more strategies to increase the chance of winning. Don’t ever be fooled by a game’s RTP, it might look favorable, but the house isn’t going to stand back and let you win the cash. If you want a tip from us, it’s knowing your game before you start playing.

Another thing to remember is that video poker game machines tend to generate bigger payouts proportionally on certain hands based on a pay scale. When a player bets on the maximum credits, as they are configured in such a way beforehand, a bigger return is potentially up for grabs. Thus, playing with the maximum credits certainly gives you a much higher chance to win rather than playing more rounds but using smaller credits. Go big or go home when it comes to video poker and you might just go home a winner.

What about progressive jackpot games?

Just like slot machines, video poker games can have progressive jackpots too, and they work just the same way. When you see a big jackpot amount related to video poker advertised outside of a casino, you can easily guess that it’s a progressive video poker game, it also means that theoretically someone is close to taking home the big win.

In case you didn’t know, a progressive jackpot game takes a small portion of each player’s pay-in and adds that to an overall jackpot. The more players that play the biggest and faster the jackpot will grow. Once somebody claims the progressive jackpot, the amount will reset and the process starts all over again.

What variations are out there?

As video poker games have evolved over time, consequently, many of the variations have appeared, such as Jacks or Better, Joker Poker, Deuces Wild, Tens or Better, Bonus Poker, All American, Double Bonus Poker. Sounds complicated? Don’t worry, In the next part, we will explain to you each of them in the simplest way. To be honest, you won’t be short on entertainment when it comes to video poker.

Jacks or Better

As the most common variation of video poker, it is well-known as a form of “Draw Poker”. It is one of the first variations to ever reach the market, which can be played up to 100 hands, so it certainly ramps up the pace over traditional video poker.

The major payoffs are linked to a pair of jacks, so you need to have at minimum of 2 jacks to win; full pay Jacks or Better, when you have a full house, the payoff is 9 times the bet; when you have a flush, you can get 6 times the bet, therefore it is also called 9/6 Jacks or Better. There are other versions of Jack or Better like 9/6 and 10/6, which you can also find at casinos if you’re willing to hunt them out. The payback rate you can expect is usually about 99.46%, but you can also get up to 99.55%, again, that’s if you’re willing to look hard.

Nowadays, Jack or Better has lost a little bit of popularity, however, it is still commonly seen at most of the casinos around – online or offline. Also, don’t rule out a rush on Jacks or Better play, as while this game might be a little older it still has plenty to offer.

Deuces Wild

Deuces Wild is undoubtedly the most popular version of video poker these days. In this game, all twos are wild. In other words, when you are a pair of the same two cards, they will turn into wilds, which gives them the power to substitute any card in the deck, so you can form a better hand by creating a better winning combination. If you have four of a kind, which happens approximately every 15 hands, the payout of such has an almost 30% payback rate. You can also find Deuces Wild games that offer over 100% return upon strategic gameplay, and that’s something that no player can afford to miss.

Looking at how Deuces Wild can really power up your video poker play, here’s a quick example of how things can heat up. Say you have three 4s and a single 2, this will boost the power of your hand by changing it from three 4s to four 4s, which in itself becomes a big money-spinning Four of a Kind.

You might see Double Deuces, Loose Deuces, Triple Deuces, and Royal Deuces, these are the variations of the quad “deuces”. If you are lucky, you may get the highest return video poker – Full Pay Loose Deuces. If you are able to land Fully Pay Royal Deuces, well, you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.

Joker Poker

Not too much to write home about when it comes to Joker Poker, as it’s a very simple variation on original video poker. It is a variation that joker cards are added to a standard deck, in such a game, joker acts as a wild, so you can form a better combination of cards, thereupon the chance of winning big is much higher.

Tens or Better

Similar game strategy to 6/5 Jacks or Better, but instead of Jack pairs, you will win this type of game by holding a minimum of a pair of tens. However, you will be extremely lucky to get a full house or flush in this variation game, as the difficulty level is not always for the faint of heart.

Bonus Poker

Bonus Poker variation is based on Jacks or Better. However, it has a higher payout rate for four of a kind. It has a game return of 99.2% on the full-pay version. There are various other versions, based on the ranking of the four of a kind, it has different bonus payout.

Bally’s All American

Bally All American is a video poker variation that comes from – no guesses here – Bally Technologies. This version of video poker gives you increased payouts if you have a flush or straight just like Jacks or Better. Yet, the payouts are reduced for a full house or two pairs (8-8-8-3-1 versus 9-6-4-3-2). It has one of the highest payout rates of any video poker variant on the full-pay version and is considered perfect for experienced video poker players who want to push their luck.

Double Bonus Poker

Double Bonus Poker is a complex game that is similar to Jack or Better and gives you the chance of getting bigger payouts when you have four aces. If you have a perfect strategy, the theoretical return to player is up to 100.2%, although it’s only on a full house and a flush.

Double Double Bonus

The name doesn’t exactly leave players guessing to what this particular video poker variation is all about. Another game in the same vein as Jacks or Better, similar to double bonus poker, but the payout is upon a different four of a kind. In ideal gameplay conditions, it has a theoretical return of 100.1%.

Low-Pay Video Poker Games

The above variations are the “big name games” on the video poker scene, but that isn’t an exhausted list by any means. There are a lot of games out that that aren’t exactly flush with positive payouts and rightly be described as “low pay”

Casinos sometimes provide the low-pay video poker versions to reduce the payout percentage and increase the house edge. This usually happens when players have been besting the casino at video poker and the house wants to earn some cashback.

Here’s a quick example using 9/5 Jacks or Better, instead of the 6 times payout for flush, it has been cut to 5 times, so the maximum payout for players who bet 5 coins per hand to get Royal Flush bonus is lower too. 8/6 Jacks or Better provides another good example, the payout for a full house can be lowered to 8 times from 9. You’ll find all kinds of changes like this, as many casinos subtly switch games to low pay variations to catch out players, so be careful.

Looking at these examples, they both lowered the payout for some winning combinations, but all other payouts are exactly the same. Normally, for the low-pay video poker games, players don’t spend much time on them, so the casinos won’t make much revenue, therefore, they would use various and more aggressive promotions to attract the players into giving them a try.

What are you waiting for?

Video poker might have been labeled as old-hat by players that are fascinated by the all-action slots that most casinos promote today. Trust us though, the days of video poker aren’t over, it’s not even close to being over in fact. Video poker still has a huge amount to offer players, especially when it comes to pure payout power, as very few games have such favorable odds and RTPs.

The sheer amount of video poker variations should tell you that this game is continually evolving too, with it having plenty left in the tank when it comes to fun and choice. If you are ready to start your very own video poker success story, takes some notes from the above and hope that the cards fall in your favor – good luck out there!

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