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.

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.

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.
Video Poker belongs to the small number of casino games, where thousands of players manage not just to make a living playing it, but to end up in possession of tremendous amounts of money. At the same time, tens of thousands of players around the world are in possession of sufficient knowledge of the game, so that they are able to have an astonishing experience during casino vacations, while also being able to take advantage of other benefits – and all that at a much lesser price than retail.
Understand your average loss. As well as understanding possibilities in a game of poker, it's good to keep in mind what your average loss during a session of video poker will be, so you go in with realistic expectations. To determine your average loss multiply the house end(the return the casino makes) by the bet size by the number of rounds per hour.[6]
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.
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.
The strategy below is the Wizard's simplified strategy for Jacks or Better.  You give up just a tiny part of the return (99.46% instead of 99.54%) and in exchange you get a strategy that's much, much easier to learn and remember than the perfect strategy.  The 0.08% penalty costs you only $0.60 per hour of play on average, assuming a quarter machine played at 600 hands per hour.
As video poker is a relatively simple game to port to mobile platforms, it’s genuinely surprising that more software providers do not provide versions of video poker for mobile devices. The reason for this could be due to the ban on US-based players from the mobile casino arena, and that video poker is still seen as an activity suited to US casinos. 

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.

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.


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.
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.

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.

The strategy below is the Wizard's simplified strategy for Jacks or Better.  You give up just a tiny part of the return (99.46% instead of 99.54%) and in exchange you get a strategy that's much, much easier to learn and remember than the perfect strategy.  The 0.08% penalty costs you only $0.60 per hour of play on average, assuming a quarter machine played at 600 hands per hour.


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.

All possible resulting hands and pays for a hold of just the ace of hearts must be calculated. The same must then be done for a save of just the 3 of spades, the 4 of hearts, the 5 of clubs, and the king of diamonds. Then the same must be done for each possible hold of two cards. Then the same is done for holds of three cards. The same is done for holds of four cards. Finally the return for a hold of all five cards is calculated. The returns are then compared in order to select the best possible hold (in terms of money returned). The results for each of the over two and a half million possible hands are summarized in order to develop the strategy.
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.
This section examines the pay table. The video poker pay table contains the most important information available to the video poker player. It gives you everything you need in order to determine what type of game it is. From this information you can determine the return and volatility of that specific video poker game. The information from the pay table is the basis for determining the proper video poker strategy for that game. Understanding this information is the key to maximizing your video poker playing experience.

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.


For those who are willing to learn these games, it is well worth taking the time to understand video poker strategy. Many of these machines offer the best return to players (RTP) of virtually all of the casino games that are available online. In fact, when played in real world casinos, video poker games are the only ones where players who play perfect strategy can have a positive expectation. This does not include players who card count in blackjack.
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 strategy below is the Wizard's simplified strategy for Jacks or Better.  You give up just a tiny part of the return (99.46% instead of 99.54%) and in exchange you get a strategy that's much, much easier to learn and remember than the perfect strategy.  The 0.08% penalty costs you only $0.60 per hour of play on average, assuming a quarter machine played at 600 hands per hour.

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.
Typically, slow and steady is the name of the game in casinos. However, with video poker games, most experts recommend playing the maximum amount of coins for each spin. This increases the number of ways in which you can win each time. However, it’s important to note that bankroll management is also key. Don’t play five coins on a video poker machine which is out of your comfort zone. If necessary, move down to a cheaper slot.
One of the first things to remember is this: video poker is not simply a game of luck. There is a great deal of skill involved, too. If you fail to make the correct decisions on a consistent basis, you could be missing out on huge value. If you’re new to the game, there are plenty of free online video poker games where you can build up an understanding before playing for real money.
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.
Think about how normal video poker play goes. After depositing your initial amount, you start playing hand after hand. Most often you lose your bet. The next most frequent occurrence is to simply get your bet returned by hitting a high pair (or sometimes two pairs) that returns 1 for 1. You will also hit other higher paying but less frequent hands. In each case, however, unless you hit a royal flush or other very high paying hand such as four aces with a kicker, the amount you win is not enough to cash out and be considered a good win for the day. Instead, all of these lesser wins are really just extra money that allows you to play a few more hands in order to try to win the jackpot sized hand(s).
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.
All this changed in the early 1980s when SIRCOMA, the company that would eventually become International Game Technology, decided to concentrate on perfecting the video poker console. This turned out to be a Vegas-shattering success, as it gave poker players who felt intimidated while playing on casino tables the chance to play their favourite pastime against a faceless ‘opponent’.
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.
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.
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.
The strategy charts for all non-wild card games are organized the same way. The hand with the highest average return goes at the top of the strategy chart. For most video poker pay tables that hand is the royal flush. It is followed by lower paying hands and partial hands in order of decreasing return. Keep in mind that partial hands that are not winners themselves will at times be included above hands that are winners because they have an average return (for all possible outcomes) that is higher than a dealt winning hand. For example, in most games four cards of a royal flush is listed above a full house because of the possibility of that hand turning into a royal flush. However, that is not the only hand that can be made from a hand with four cards of a royal flush. There is also the possibility that the hand could become a straight flush, a flush, or a straight with the proper cards being drawn. See the examples below.
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.[1]
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.

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.
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