Pick a game. There are dozens of different video-poker games in casinos. Different games will have different rate of returns, meaning some games, if you win, will give you a higher percentage of your money back and others will give you a lower percentage. A "9/6 Jacks or Better" paytable is the best because the rate of return is 99.54%, meaning the casino only keeps .46% of your money.
The game that you should learn first is Jacks or Better. Most of the other games are variations of this one. Although space does not allow me to give you the complete strategy in this article, you can find free strategy charts at The Wizard of Odds for Jacks or Better, Deuces Wild, Double Bonus Poker, and more. Sites like Video Poker Trainer allow you to practice playing online and will correct you when you deviate from the optimal strategy.
The minimum hand you need to win is a pair of Jacks. So in this hand we'll hold the Jack, hoping that we'll draw another Jack. We hold the Jack by tapping the picture of the Jack on the screen, or pressing the button for it on the console. Then we'll tap the DRAW button to get four new cards, hoping that one of them is a Jack to match the Jack we held.
Obviously, the more you bet, the more you will win for any given hand. With one exception, the win for any given hand and bet is proportional to the amount bet. However, notice that for a royal flush the win is 1000 for a bet of four coins and 4000 for a bet of 5 coins. The disproportionately high payoff of 800 per coin bet for a royal flush, with a five coins bet, is what economists would call an economy of scale. You will see this in almost every video poker game. If you don't bet the maximum number of coins, the cost of being short-changed on a royal amounts to about 2% of money bet, which is a lot. The wise video poker player will always bet max coins per hand.
The minimum paying hand is the poker hand that players will have to achieve to be eligible to claim a payout. It differs from one game to another depending on the rules of the game as well as the other features. For example, if a game has a wild card or cards, it will have a higher minimum paying hand, which could be as high as 3 of a kind. This means that if players do not get a three of a kind, they will not qualify for a win. For a Jacks or Better, the minimum hand is a pair of Jacks. For Tens or Better, it is a pair of Jacks, but most games that do not have extra features, the minimum hand is a pair of Jacks.
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It is not enough to just know the payback of a video poker machine. In order to achieve the maximum return, you must play the game using a set mathematical strategy. It is very important that you learn the strategy for each game and play them correctly. Making a few mistakes in strategy when playing can increase the house edge against you. Each video poker game has its own strategy. For example, you can not use the strategy for Jacks or Better when playing Deuces Wild.
Use a strategy list. A strategy list is like a cheat sheet, that has all of the different ways you can win in a poker game in a list ranked from best hands to worse hands. Using a cheat sheet will help you determine which cards to keep and which cards to exchange for new cards. For example, if you have the opportunity to go for a straight with an outside straight, or you have the opportunity to go for three to four of a kind with a pair, a low pair is ranked higher on the list so that is what you should choose.
The fourth part, finding a liberal pay table, requires some combination of online research and good old walking. A great site for identifying the loose video poker at every casino in Las Vegas, and most of the country, is vpfree2.com. However, any video poker player worth his weight in quarters can identify a loose pay table on sight. Let's take Jacks or Better, for example. All the pays except the flush and full house are usually the same. In any video poker game, it is usually the middle hands that vary. The following table shows what the expected return of the game is for common Jacks or Better pay tables, assuming optimal player strategy.
Use a player card, and know the benefits of doing so. Casinos reward points for every penny bet in any machine, and those points can be redeemed for free play or comps. Free play rebates usually run from 0.1% to 0.33%. There are lots of other benefits for using a player card, like discretionary comps, free play mailers, drawings, and tournaments. If you don't use a card, there will be no evidence trail that you played, so you'll never get any of the freebies. This advice goes for any form of gambling. Finally, contrary to popular myth, the machines don't pay worse if you put in a card. The odds are the same whether you use a player card or not.