Not all video poker games are created equal, and it pays to do a little looking around. If you have several online casinos where you like to play, take the time to check pay tables before you start wagering. Those who play in brick-and-mortar casinos should do the same – I’ve often found higher and lower pay tables on the same game in different areas of one casino.
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.
In the early 1970s, when video poker was introduced and was still struggling for acceptance, the machines were usually referred to as "poker slots." And video poker has a lot in common with slot machines. They are easy to use, requiring no interaction with a dealer or with other players. Card combinations, like slot reels, are governed by a random-number generator.
So far in this guide you have learned how video poker started and grew. You have learned the basics of video poker play including return, house edge, and variance. You have learned about how randomness actually works while playing at the casino. You now know how to determine your bankroll size. You may even know what specific video poker game (or games) you want to play. If you do not, you have some idea how different video poker games behave and their major characteristics.
If you choose the machine on the right, you'll lose your money six times faster!  And your chances of winning will be far less.  If the reason isn't obvious then consider this:  If the player is getting back 99.54% and 97.29%, that means the casino is keeping 0.46% and 2.71%.  The casino profit on the second machine is 2.71 ÷ 0.46 = 5.9 times higher.
Actually, this is somewhat of a trick question. If you are talking about a relatively short amount of play, the answer is yes they can do better than players using a proper strategy. As with all things based on randomness, it is possible that someone who plays hunches or bases their hold decisions on the flow of the game can do better than a player how strictly follows the proper strategy in the short term. In the long run, however, the player who uses the strategy will always come out ahead.
A kicker is simply a card from a certain set of cards. For Double Double Bonus, four aces pays 160 for 1. However, four aces with a kicker of a 2, 3 or 4 pays a whopping 400 for 1. This is two and one half times what is paid for four aces without a kicker. Getting four aces with a kicker pays half as much as a royal and it occurs two and a half times as often. Four 2’s, 3’s, or 4’s pay 80 for 1. Four 2’s, 3’s, or 4’s with a kicker of an ace, 2, 3, or 4 pays double that or 160 for 1.
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.

A kicker is simply a card from a certain set of cards. For Double Double Bonus, four aces pays 160 for 1. However, four aces with a kicker of a 2, 3 or 4 pays a whopping 400 for 1. This is two and one half times what is paid for four aces without a kicker. Getting four aces with a kicker pays half as much as a royal and it occurs two and a half times as often. Four 2’s, 3’s, or 4’s pay 80 for 1. Four 2’s, 3’s, or 4’s with a kicker of an ace, 2, 3, or 4 pays double that or 160 for 1.
Play with five coins. Each video poker machine gives you the option to insert five coins, and to best optimize your chances of winning more, you should play five coins, or max bet. On each play table you should see a chart that shows how many coins you will receive when winning a certain hand of poker. If you play five coins on a Jacks or Better table you can get 45 coins for a full house instead of nine coins. You also will receive a bonus for Royal Flush with a max bet.[3]
Progressive games are different than any other type of game presented in this chapter of the guide. Any of the other games presented can be played at any time. The bankroll requirements will be the same. The variance will be the same. The strategy will be the same. They will all be the same regardless of when you start playing the game. They will be the same regardless of how long you play the game. Bankroll size, variance, and strategy will never change for the duration of your play because nothing about the game changes. Each winning hand pays the same for each hand on which it occurs.
You learned in chapter 3.4 that the variance of a multiple play game increases as the number of lines played increases. The variance of a single play game is lower than the variance of a three play game. The variance of a five play game is higher than the variance of a three play game, and so on. In this section you will find out specific bankroll sizes for a couple of games at a different number plays for each game.
This is well worth the price. It helped me to improve my game within the first day of playing (One example: did you know that if you are dealt 2 pairs in Deuces Wild, you should keep only 1 of the pairs and draw 3 cards? You are better off to go for 3-of-a-kind or even 4-of-a-kind than trying for the Full House). It can let you know when you make a mistake, and analyze your play for each game with percentage of correct plays, how much you would have won/lost if you had made all correct plays, and other information.
Tap any cards that you want to keep. You will see some indication that the card you have selected has been held. When you’re satisfied with your selection, hit the ‘draw’ button to receive your final poker hand. If you’ve managed to land a poker hand with at a least the value of a pair of jacks, then you will be paid according to the pay table as presented with the game.
The way video poker strategies are usually expressed is a list of hands you might get on the deal, in order from best to worst. For any given hand, look up all viable ways to play it on the list and go with the one that is listed first. If you don't see a play listed, like suited 10/A, then never play it. Here is such a strategy for Jacks or Better.

Two important points to remember: Don't overbet your bankroll, and if a machine is available at which you feel comfortable playing the maximum number of coins, do so. If you are sitting down to play with $20, you don't belong at a $1 machine that will take up to $5 at a time. It is better to play five quarters at a time than one dollar at a time. Though video poker machines pay back a high percentage of the money put into them, the payouts are volatile. It is not unusual to go five or ten or more consecutive hands with no payout. Don't play at a level at which you do not have the funds to ride out a streak.

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.
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.
You should always place the maximum bet because it makes you eligible to win the grand jackpot prize of 4,000 if you get a royal flush. If you bet with 1 or 2 coins and get a royal flush, the payout will not be proportionally equal. If betting 5 coins is too expensive for your gambling budget, you can find a lot of .25 machines as online casinos usually offer their bets in denominations that include different sizes such as .25, 0.50, 1, 2, 5 and even 10 and 20.
Prior to this chapter you have learned everything you need to know about video poker in order to begin live casino play. You now know how the various dierent video poker games work. You learned about bankroll sizes. You learned about strategy charts; how they are developed and how they are used for live casino play. You now have all the tools you need to become a successful player of live casino video poker – or even online video poker for that matter.
Since the explosion of video poker popularity in the late 1970s and again when it went online in the 1990s, the casino industry has developed fairly rapidly. Primarily, the progression of casino games that can be played remotely has revolutionised the way we interact with casino games. This is just as true for video poker games as it is for any other casino favourite. From playing free online video poker to learn the ropes, to playing on your mobile in just a few taps, the changes in recent years have had a huge impact on the game.
Do not draw to a four-card inside straight -- one in which the missing card is in the middle rather than on either end -- unless it includes at least three high cards. A four-card open straight is one that has space open at either end to complete the hand; for example, a hand of 4-5-6-7 can use either a 3 at one end or an 8 at the other to complete the straight. An inside straight has space in the middle that must be filled to complete the hand; 4-6-7-8 needs a 5 to become a straight. Open straights give the player a better chance, with twice as many cards available to fill the straight.
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.

Video Poker is based on the game of draw poker and has virtually the same rules except that you are not playing against any other players. The machine deals five cards on the screen. The player then has the option of drawing up to five new cards. (In some instances you may not want to draw any new cards) You keep the cards you want to keep by pushing the “hold” button that corresponds to the card on the screen. When you have made your choice you hit the “deal” button and the cards you discarded will be replaced by new cards. Your win or loss is determined by the outcome after of your final hand after you hit the draw button. How much you win is based on the pay table that is posted on the front of the machine.
Unlike slot machines, video poker games allow players to have a say in the game they chose to play. Like slot machines, randomness is also involved. The instant the “Bet Max Credits” or the “Deal / Draw” button is pressed the five cards to be dealt are determined based on a random process. After the cards to be held are selected by the video poker player, the cards that replace those not held are also determined by a random process at the instant the “Deal/Draw” button is pressed.
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.
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.
Part of your research should include learning the payout tables, but there’s also another table that should prove pivotal to your success in playing the game. There are a number of charts available which show you clearly when you should drop cards and when you should keep them. For instance, when you have a Royal Flush you should naturally keep all of your cards, whichever type of video poker game you’re playing. For 3-if-a-kind you should keep three and drop two, and if you’re two cards from a Royal Flush you should keep two and drop three.

Each VP variety and paytable has its own strategy.  The strategy for Jacks or Better is different from that for Deuces Wild, and within each style of machine, each paytable can have its own strategy.  Learning all those strategies is tedious, so I recommend you figure out which video poker game you like best, and then learn the strategy for it.  If you get bored with that game then you can learn another strategy at that time.  For now, let's start out with an lesson on Full-Pay Jacks or Better. I chose this game because:
In order to get the most out of your video poker playing experience, it is important to understand exactly how a video poker machine operates. Don’t get me wrong, you can still be a skilled video poker player without knowing how things work inside the game. Just like you do not need to know how electricity works to turn on a light switch or plug in an appliance, it helps to make sense out of things should something out of the ordinary happen.

Winning hands can often be gambled via a ‘higher or lower’ game. UK players will be familiar with this concept as it was used in the popular 70s/80s quiz show ‘Play Your Cards Right’. A single card is dealt and the player must guess if the next card in sequence will be higher or lower. If they choose correctly, their prize is doubled. Choose incorrectly, and all winnings for that hand are lost. Players can usually gamble in this way up to five times in succession.


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.
Unlike slot machines, video poker games allow players to have a say in the game they chose to play. Like slot machines, randomness is also involved. The instant the “Bet Max Credits” or the “Deal / Draw” button is pressed the five cards to be dealt are determined based on a random process. After the cards to be held are selected by the video poker player, the cards that replace those not held are also determined by a random process at the instant the “Deal/Draw” button is pressed.
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.
To be clear, Bovada's not perfect.  Once they got duped by a vendor (Betsoft) who provided progressive slots whose jackpots weren't winnable.  When I discovered this I alerted Bovada, and they pulled all the Betsoft games from the site, but I thought they were slow to do so and didn't offer proper restitution to affected players.  Still, even with this incident, their overall history is better than most; as just one example, there are many other casinos still offering Betsoft's questionable games.
Of course, you don’t actually have to memorize the strategies in order to play video poker reasonably well. Even if you want to play optimally, you can use visual aids whilst playing online. This is much simpler than trying to play from memory. However, as you play a particular machine more and more, you’ll find yourself relying on these ‘cheat sheets’ less and less. Instead, you’ll begin to notice that you have a better handle on the strategies needed to win on each different type of different video poker game.

Each VP variety and paytable has its own strategy.  The strategy for Jacks or Better is different from that for Deuces Wild, and within each style of machine, each paytable can have its own strategy.  Learning all those strategies is tedious, so I recommend you figure out which video poker game you like best, and then learn the strategy for it.  If you get bored with that game then you can learn another strategy at that time.  For now, let's start out with an lesson on Full-Pay Jacks or Better. I chose this game because:


Holding cards based on what you feel is correct or holding based on the flow of the cards are both technically strategies. But the video poker game manufacturers set up pay tables based on the math of the game so the casinos will be sure to make a profit from them. Therefore in order for you to make the most of your video poker playing experience, you need to use a strategy that is based on the same math.
You should always place the maximum bet because it makes you eligible to win the grand jackpot prize of 4,000 if you get a royal flush. If you bet with 1 or 2 coins and get a royal flush, the payout will not be proportionally equal. If betting 5 coins is too expensive for your gambling budget, you can find a lot of .25 machines as online casinos usually offer their bets in denominations that include different sizes such as .25, 0.50, 1, 2, 5 and even 10 and 20.
Once I put $100 into a $0.25 machine and played it for a while.  I played it down to zero credits, and then I hit Four of a Kind, which saved me.  I played that down to zero again, and then I hit Four of a Kind again.  I played it down to zero credits a third time, and then hit Four of a Kind a third time!  But that was the end of my luck.  I didn't get it a fourth time, I just went bust.  Still, that was pretty unusual.
There are five columns in the paytable because your winnings depend on whether you played 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 coins.  Note that there's a bonus for the Royal Flush.  Instead of winning 1250 coins (5 coins x 250), you win 4000 coins.  So you should always play five coins ("Max Bet") when playing video poker.  If you can't afford to play five coins at a time, switch to a lower-denomination machine.  (Yes, this is opposite of our advice about slots, and that's because the penalty for not playing max coins in video poker is greater.) 

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.
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. 
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