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.
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.
Stick to the proper way of how to play video poker as well as video poker strategy and you won't necessarily be able to become a professional video poker player, but if you're looking for the one casino game besides traditional poker where you can get positive expected value, or at least a very low house advantage giving you hours of play for a very small investment, video poker may be your game.
The don'ts are mainly related to making sure you do not end up losing more than you can afford when playing. If you have lost your daily budget it is important to call it quits for the day. Chasing your losses is a bad idea as it can lead to even more losses. You should also avoid drinking too many alcoholic beverages as this can lead to making strategy mistakes and bad decisions.
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.
Video poker machines started to become commercially viable following the integration of a monitor that looks like a TV screen. This allowed players to enjoy a 100 percent computerized game. The first ever computerized video poker game was developed in the mid-1970s. It was very primitive compared to modern day video poker games but it was the first ever computerized video poker machine that paved the way for other video poker games. The popularity of these machines started to skyrocket when a company called SIRCOMA (Si Redd’s Coin Machines) introduced the video poker game, Draw Poker, in 1979. SIRCOMA is now one of the biggest gaming developers for land-based and online casinos, going by the name IGT (International Game Technology).
The best video poker machines, played skillfully, offer odds that rival any table game. The basic game, Jacks or Better, in its full-pay version returns 99.5 percent with optimal play over the long haul. Other machines, especially some versions of Deuces Wild, offer a positive expectation to the player -- that is, over the long haul, they'll return more than 100 percent with optimal play.
Often when you hold four cards and throw away one, the new card is the same value as the one you threw away. For example, let's say you have 9, 9, 2, 2, 5, you throw away the five, and then you get another five. This might seem to happen way more often than it should. But that's an illusion caused by the human tendency to look for patterns. A good example of how easily our perception can be fooled is to take the awareness test, where you watch a short video and count the number of passes the white team makes. Most people fail. I did.
Oh boy, we have two high cards! We'll hold both of them, because then we can make a pair by drawing either a Jack or a Queen. True, we're only gonna get three more cards for a potential match rather than four this way, but our odds are still better for making our pair. We might also get a full house if we're lucky. This was play #13 in our list above.
You can usually gamble your winnings when you hit a successful hand at video poker. If you do decide to gamble, you’ll be presented with a card, and you have to guess whether the next card drawn will be higher or lower. If you pick right, your prize is doubled. If you choose unwisely, then you lose everything. Depending on the game, you should be able to go ‘double or quits’ up to five times in succession.
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.
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.
Most of our pages above list just an expert-level strategy chart that will get you to within 0.1% of the maximum payout percentage for the respective game. Some of the pages also list a beginner-level strategy chart that isn't as accurate, but is easier to follow. If you want to play video poker on your PC check out our guide here. Alternatively, you can also have a look at this site's list of ipad video poker app for real money.
There are three viable ways to play this hand: keep the low pair, keep the three to the royal, or keep the four to the flush. Some beginners might also suggest keeping the low pair with the ace kicker. In real draw poker, you sometimes should keep a kicker, but NEVER in video poker. In this case, we can see the low pair is listed 9th, the three to the royal is listed 7th, and 4 to a flush comes in at 8th. The three to the royal is listed highest of the three, making it the best play.
The strategy when playing video poker online starts when you choose which of your initial cards you want to hold, and which you would like to discard. Once you’ve locked in your selections, the cards you’ve chosen to discard will be replaced with new cards from the deck. The resulting hand will be final, and if you’ve made a winning combination of cards, you will receive your payout before moving on to your next hand.
Winning a slot machine jackpot is based solely on luck. You put your money in the machine, hit the spin button and hope that Lady Luck will invite you to dance. There are no decisions to make that will change the outcome of the spin. On the other hand, many table games require skill and the decisions you make can determine whether you win or lose. Most table games when played properly have a lower house edge than the slot machines. Knowledgeable Blackjack players know that learning basic strategy will reduce the house edge to less than one percent.
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.
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.