A straight is a hand with consecutive ranks, like 9? 7? 10? 8? 6?. Notice again that the cards don't have to appear in order. The order of face cards, from lowest to highest, is Jack, Queen, King, Ace, which we abbreviate J, Q, K, A. An ace can also count as 1, to complete a straight where the other cards are 2, 3, 4, and 5. But it can't count as both a low and a high card, e.g., Q K A 2 3.
Here's where our strategy list comes in. Notice that a low pair is #9, while four to an outside straight is #10. The low pair is higher on the list, so we hold the pair. In fact, you almost always hold pairs in Jacks or Better. We'll discuss exceptions below, but in general, always lunge for a pair, and then do a quick check to see if you have anything better, since you probably won't.
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.
Despite the importance of finding the best machines, most players don't. That's why casinos can offer both decent and lousy machines in the same casino and be confident that gamers will still play the lousy ones. They have to keep some good machines, otherwise they'd lose all the players who know what they're doing. But most of the machines will be bad, and most gamers will play them anyway. Heck, in Vegas even casinos and supermarkets have video poker, with absolutely terrible paytables, but people will still play them rather than going across the street to a casino where they can get seven times better odds. Go figure.
You will also learn the layout and importance of the pay table, as well as how to properly bet while playing video poker. You will learn and understand payback, return, house (and player) edge. You will learn about the implications of variance, sometimes called volatility. You will also learn what the term random really means when playing video poker.