Video poker is one of the few casino games where it is possible to beat the house edge. This page will introduce you to basic strategy for full-pay video poker variants (with and without wilds) via a series of hand charts, helping you get an edge over the casino with mathematically ‘perfect’ play. Credit to Michael Shackleford (AKA ‘The Wizard of Odds’) for these systems. If you need some help with the terminology, check out our poker glossary here.
One nice thing about video poker is you can know the return of the machine even before you start playing.  On a typical video poker game, the casino's average profit on each play is about 3%.  That's called the house edge.  The return is the part that's returned to the player.  So if the casino gets 3% of all money bet, the players get back 97% of all money bet.  The return on a video poker machine is determined by the paytable.  Just compare the paytable to the list at Wizard of Odds and you'll see that, for example, the Jacks or Better paytable above means that the return on that machine is 99.54%.  If the paytable showed only 8 coins for the full house and only 5 for the flush, it would be a 97.3% machine.
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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.
One advantage that video poker has over regular slot machines is that you can determine the return of the game by reading the pay table on the front of the machine. Most video poker games use the combinations of hands that can be made from a standard 52 card deck. I say most because there are some Joker Poker Games that use one or two Jokers added to the 52 card deck. One popular variation of the game is Deuces Wild which uses a 52 card deck but the deuces are wild cards. With a set number of combinations that can be made from the cards used in the game, the payout can be calculated by how much the machine pays for each winning combination.
The differences can be quite large. If one site has 9-6 Double Double Bonus Poker (98.98 percent return with expert play), another has 9-5 DDB (97.97 percent) and a third has 8-5 DDB (96.79 percent), think about what that means: In casino No. 1, the house expects to keep $1.02 per $100 in wagers, casino No. 2 expects to keep $2.03 and casino No. 3 expects to keep $3.21.
Video Poker play is relatively straight forward. The play of the game has similarities to other casino games, but it is definitely more complex than playing slot machines. To properly play a slot machine, you simply bet an appropriate amount to maximize your return from the game and either pull the handle or hit a spin button. There is nothing else to so. While it may be true that some slot machines have a button to immediately stop the spinning and go to the final result, pressing this button does not change the outcome; it only helps you lose your money a bit faster.
The play is simple:  You're dealt five cards.  You decide which ones to keep by tapping the pictures on the screen or pressing buttons on the console. Then you hit the DRAW button and you get replacement cards for the cards you didn't keep. You win if you wind up with a traditional poker hand like two pair, straight, flush, etc. (We'll explain these below for those new to poker.)  The amount you win per hand depends on the paytable of the machine you're playing.  Here's a sample paytable.
Bonus Poker Deluxe is another variation of Jacks or Better designed to add some excitement to your play with the possibility of getting higher paying four of a kind hands. Bonus Poker Deluxe is different than Bonus Poker because all four of a kind hands pay the same at a rate of 80 for one. This makes Bonus Poker Deluxe a relatively popular game. There are many more large pays because four of a kind hands show up roughly 100 times as often as a royal flush (once every 424 hands versus once every 42,000 hands). Because of this a Bonus Poker Deluxe player has multiple opportunities to score a $100 hit on a quarter game. This is a large enough win for many Bonus Poker Deluxe players to cash out and consider the session a win.
Video Poker is the only game in the casino that actually shows you the information you need to determine the house edge and develop the proper playing strategy to attain the highest return possible. Most video poker players are totally unaware of how to use the information available to their advantage. They will plop down on any close or convenient machine and play by hunches in the hope that they will get lucky. This guide is written to help players get the most out of their video poker playing efforts.

If you visit the Wizard of Odds site, you can find a free video poker game available in your browser window that includes auto-hold features and warnings when you’re about to make a mistake. This is a free Jacks or Better 9/6 game: http://wizardofodds.com/play/video-poker/. You can even update the pay tables for this game to something other than 9/6 Jacks or Better. For the price, this training program is hard to beat. The game also features a “more games” button which opens up a screen where you can choose from three dozen different games, including the following:
You learned in chapter 3.5 that progressive video poker has one (the royal flush) or more (other high paying hands such as a four of a kind) jackpots that increase as the game is played. You also learned that as the progressive jackpot increases, the strategy to play video poker changes so that more of the close decisions are decided in favor of saving for the higher paying and less frequent jackpot hand rather than some more frequent but lower paying hands.

Well, the charts on our site are on roughly accurate to within 0.1% of perfect play. So, if you find that game that returns 100.5%, you would be actually earning about 100.4% with our charts - not too bad. Not many charts get much closer than 0.1% because they would have to be extremely long and complicated to explain the subtle differences in rare hands.
Video poker caught on because it appeared to be easier and less intimidating to play than table games. Video poker games are like slot machines except the players have a say in the outcome. The rules for play were simple; place a bet, deal a hand, select the cards to hold, draw replacements, and see the results. These playing rules are much simpler than all of the myriad bets that are available while playing live casino craps for example. In live casino or online video poker play there is no such thing as a pass line or come bet, a don’t pass or don’t come bet, place bets, lay bets, field bets, “yo-eleven” bets, whirl bets, big red, hard way bets, hop bets and the list goes on.
Find the good games.  The VP games with the best paytables are findable, but they're rare.  Naturally the casinos prefer that you play the stingier machines.  In general, the Strip casinos have the worst machines, and everywhere else it's better -- off-strip, downtown, and locals casinos.  But while good machines are rare on the Strip, some do exist.  VPFree2 can help you find the good-paying machines.
Just as in the quick version, a few hands are never broken up. Obviously, if you're fortunate enough to be dealt a royal flush, you hold all five cards and wait for your payoff. (On payoffs this large, the machine will flash "Jackpot!" or "Winner!" In these cases the winnings will be paid by an attendant rather than by the machine. Do not put more coins in the machine or attempt to play another hand before you are paid for the royal flush.)
10. Low pair (two 10s or lower). Most new players keep a single jack or better rather than a low pair, and it's true that keeping that one high card will result in more frequent winning hands. But most of those will be 1-for-1 payoffs for a pair of jacks or better. Keeping the low pair will result in more two-pair, three-of-a-kind, full-house, even four-of-a-kind hands.
So far we have only learned about single play video poker games. You bet your credits, you push the deal button and one hand is dealt. You decide which cards of that hand you want to hold and press another button. New cards are dealt to replace the discards. You are now ready to play the next hand. These games are called single play games because you play one hand at a time.

Money insert/return slots: Cash-insert, voucher and club-card slots are positioned around the screen area of the machine. When you finish playing, the machine will return your balance in the form of a voucher. This slot is at the top left. Insert your player's club card in its slot before you start playing so you can earn reward points. Make sure that the card has been accepted.


So far we have looked at low variance and moderate variance video poker games. Low variance games have the advantage of a smaller bankroll size requirement and relatively simple video poker strategy. This comes at the cost of playing a somewhat boring game. Moderate variance video poker games are more exciting to play because they have more high paying winning hands. The excitement factor is offset, however, by higher bankroll requirements and somewhat more complex playing strategy.
Video Poker play is relatively straight forward. The play of the game has similarities to other casino games, but it is definitely more complex than playing slot machines. To properly play a slot machine, you simply bet an appropriate amount to maximize your return from the game and either pull the handle or hit a spin button. There is nothing else to so. While it may be true that some slot machines have a button to immediately stop the spinning and go to the final result, pressing this button does not change the outcome; it only helps you lose your money a bit faster.
These games can be enjoyed at land-based casinos on video poker machines that look a lot like slot machines. Online casinos also offer video poker as all the major software developers have their own variants players can enjoy online through their computers in the comfort of their own home. Most of the video poker versions adopt the 5-card poker game rules as players will get 5 cards and they will choose to discard cards and get replacement cards in order to form the final poker hand. The only difference is that there are no wagering rounds in between the dealt cards as players will only place a wager at the beginning.
But that is where the similarity with random slot machine play ends. The video poker player has total control over the initial five cards that have been dealt. It is his or her choice what to do with those five cards. The decisions about whether to keep all of them, discard all of them, or anything in between is totally theirs. It is actually totally yours. After all, you are the one reading and learning from this guide.

Since video poker is a game of strategy, it definitely pays to get some practice in before you start playing for real by trying free online video poker. This isn’t possible in a brick-and-mortar casino, but online casinos give you the chance to play for free for as long as you want. This lets learn how to play video poker without putting any of your money at risk.


As you have learned in the first chapter, one of the main reasons for the popularity of video poker is it usually has a considerably higher payback than slot machines. In fact some games return more than 100 percent for a skilled player. Regardless of which video poker game you play, achieving the long term return percentage is dependent on getting your fair share of royal flushes. By a royal flush I mean the royal flush that really counts – the natural royal flush that is formed without the aid of a wild card. These generally pay 4,000 credits for a five-credit bet or 800 for 1.
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