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.
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:
Break up a flush or a straight only when you have four cards to a royal flush. That is, if you have ace-king-queen-jack-9, all of clubs, discard the 9 to take a chance at the big payoff for the 10 of clubs. That still leaves open the possibility of a flush with any other club, a straight with any other 10, and a pair of jacks or better with any ace, king, queen, or jack. 

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. 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 enjoy playing strategic games—whether that’s games like blackjack, poker or chess—then you’ll find that video poker games are right up your alley. Not only that, but most machines offer some of the best odds to players who are willing to learn the best video poker strategy on each machine. Even at online gaming sites, many games offer potential returns of well over 99%. This makes them some of the best games around for players who want to have an excellent chance of coming out on top against the casino.

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.
Once you’ve paid your credits, you will be dealt your initial cards. In almost all games, the machine is a simulation of five-card draw, meaning you’ll be given five cards from a standard 52-card deck. One or more jokers may sometimes be added as well. The object of poker video games is to make the best five-card hand possible. You’ll need a certain qualifying hand to win a prize; in the game Jacks or Better, for instance, you’ll need at least a pair of jacks to win something. The better the hand, the more you’ll win. 

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. 

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.


An inside straight is a would-be straight with a hole in the middle. 9? 2? 10? 8? 6? is an inside straight because only a 7 will turn it into a straight.  The distinction between outside straights and inside straights is important because in Jacks or Better we will never try to turn an inside straight into a straight.  It's too hard, since we have only one chance of completing the straight.


In the first nine chapters of this guide you have learned all of the background information necessary to become a skilled live casino or online video poker player. You are now ready for the “meat” of this guide. This chapter is the first of six chapters that are dedicated to giving you the specifics needed to play the actual live casino or online video poker games.
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.
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.

Strategy for the game of blackjack involves knowing when to take one of four possible actions based on the two cards you are dealt. The four actions are “stand” (play the two cards you are dealt as is), “hit” (take another card to try to better your two cards), “pair split” (if you have two cards of the same rank, make two separate hands out of them by adding another same size bet), or “double down” or simply “double” (add a bet equal to the original bet and take just one additional card). The only information you have to make this decision is your two cards and the card the dealer puts face up.
You can travel throughout the country. In fact you can travel throughout the world and chances are excellent you will find video poker games in any casino you decide to visit. Most video poker games look very similar, which makes sense since most video poker games play the same way. But do all video poker games work the same under their similar exteriors? Find out more in this section of the Ultimate Video Poker Guide. 

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.
If you’re a fan of playing casino games on mobile – and let’s face it, we all are – then you’ll be happy to hear that video poker lends itself perfectly to mobiles and tablets. This is partly due to the fact that the graphics look even better when crammed into a smaller screen. It’s also because providers understand how much players enjoy not just one or two, but a large variety of games. From video poker classics to variants referencing modern pop culture, there are tonnes of video poker games available at hundreds of casino.
Elsewhere on this site I show you how to figure your average loss for an hour of play.  In summary, you multiply the house edge by the bet size by the number of rounds per hour.  On a 9/6 quarter Jacks or Better machine with proper strategy, that would be 0.5% x $1.25 (remember we're playing 5 coins at a time) x 400 hands per hour = $2.50 per hour.  Not bad.  Except that the formula doesn't work for video poker in the short term.  That's because you'll hit the royal only once every 66 hours on average, and while you're waiting for the royal, the return on the game isn't ~99.5%, it's ~97.5%.  So you're more likely to lose 2.5% in the short term rather than 0.5%.  So we can expect our hourly loss to be closer to $6.25/hour than $1.25/hour while we're waiting for the royal.  Still, $6.25/hour is pretty cheap.  On a slot machine your loss would be closer to $40 an hour.  So you can see why I'm so eager to switch you from slots to VP.
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 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.
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]
In a 9/6 Jacks or Better game you would multiply .5% by $1.25 (this is a five coin, max bet game) by 400 (hands per hour). This would bring you to $2.50 an hour on a long term game. If you are playing a short term game, you are more likely to lose $6.50 an hour, because the house end for the casino will be higher (you'll have less chance of hitting the royal).

To get a better understanding of video poker, it is necessary to look back at its history. The first video poker games sprung up in the 1970s. These were physical machines, emerging during the same era as personal computers. The first such machines came from Fortune Bell Company. However, it wasn’t until 1979 that video poker machines began to breach the mainstream.

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.)


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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

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. 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.
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 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.

There are several different versions of video poker, all of which come with extremely favourable odds for the player (even positive expectation by some estimates). See which variants present the best edge with our overview of video poker variants (along with pay-tables). All pay-outs are calculated according to betting five credits and assume ‘optimal’ play.

Each card in the Jacks or Better category has a distinct value. A 3 can only count as a 3, a king can only count as a king, and so forth. The lone exception is the ace which can count as the lowest or highest card in a straight or straight flush. Each game in the Wild Card category has one or more cards which can count as a card of any rank or suit. They are called wild cards and hence the name of the category. In the game called Deuces Wild, each deuce (2) is wild. Each can be used as any other card in the deck when it is advantageous to do so. In a Joker Poker video poker game, the joker is the wild card.
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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