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.
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.
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]
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. 

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.

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. 


You may have heard the adage that the "house always has the advantage." Video poker is an exception to that rule. If you look for the most liberal pay tables, and play them properly, you can have a thin advantage. Some pay tables, which are slightly in the machine's favor, can return over 100%, if you factor in incentives such as cash back, free play, mailers, and other comps.
A royal flush is a straight flush composed of the highest cards, such as 10? J? Q? K? A?.  But of course they don't all have to be in order. Q? 10? A? J? K? is still a royal flush.  The Royal Flush is the jackpot in video poker, and comes around about once out of every 40,000 or so hands -- or a week and a half of full-time play.  Hey, it could be worse:  The jackpot on a typical slot machine only hits about one out of every 262,144 spins.
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.
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.
Had purchased "The Ultimate Video Poker Experience" as gift for my husband and it was very disappointing for him - you can read my review of it here on Amazon. This one, however, he is thrilled with. He goes to Vegas quite often (I don't go) and loves the video poker slots so wanted some coaching on making the correct choices when playing. We thought the other game included a tutorial but it didn't - that was just one thing. This one lets you play, but if you make a "move" that is not wise, it will stop you and help you choose the right move. Then, if you have done so, it will let you continue on. This is just what he wanted and he is very pleased with it. Good variety of games to choose from. Fast shipping too; we got it in no time.
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.
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.
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.
So far you have learned from this chapter the personalities of low variance, moderate variance and high variance video poker games. From this information you should have been able to narrow down the type of video poker game you want to play. You then learned about the importance of the denomination of the game you intend to play. With that information firmly in place, let us now take a look at how multiple play games work and some of the pluses and minuses of playing this type of video poker game. In chapter 3.4 you were presented an overview of how multiple play video poker games work. In chapter 4.4 you learned about bankroll requirements for playing multiple play video poker. Now you can supplement that information with what you will learn in this section. By combining everything, you should have a pretty good idea if you would like playing multiple play video poker or if you would rather stick to a single play game.
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.
Slot machines are extremely popular. One of the reasons for their popularity is that they are easy to play. The only skill that is necessary is to be able to insert money into the game and press a button or pull a lever to start play. That is it. From that point on, everything that happens depends on luck. The results of slot machine spins are based totally on randomness. The instant the slot player presses the spin button the result of that spin is locked in. Whether it is (most likely) a loser, a small winner, a moderate winner, or a jackpot winner has already been decided. Slot players can do nothing to change the odds either for or against them.
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.
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.
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.
This guide is written for someone who has never played video poker, for those who have played but were basically clueless as to what they were doing as well as experienced players who want to elevate their level of proficiency. After reading this guide, you will have all the information necessary to be confident in your play, knowing you will take the casino for all that is possible.
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.

As you learned in section 6.2, the arrangement of a video poker strategy chart is different. The list contains the card(s) to hold in the first five card hand that you are dealt. The top line contains the cards to hold that give the highest average return. Each line below that has the cards to hold that will produce the next highest average return. This continues until the player is better off discarding the entire first hand rather than holding anything at all.
So far you have learned from this chapter the personalities of low variance, moderate variance and high variance video poker games. From this information you should have been able to narrow down the type of video poker game you want to play. You then learned about the importance of the denomination of the game you intend to play. With that information firmly in place, let us now take a look at how multiple play games work and some of the pluses and minuses of playing this type of video poker game. In chapter 3.4 you were presented an overview of how multiple play video poker games work. In chapter 4.4 you learned about bankroll requirements for playing multiple play video poker. Now you can supplement that information with what you will learn in this section. By combining everything, you should have a pretty good idea if you would like playing multiple play video poker or if you would rather stick to a single play game.
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.
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.
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.
Why do casinos offer games that can be beaten? Because only a very small percentage of players know the basics of proper play. Enough mistakes are made that the casinos actually pay out 2 to 4 percent less than the expectation for skilled players. In competitive markets, casinos walk a tightrope between two choices -- offering a pay table so good that the best players can expect to make a profit in the long term, or offering lower pay tables and risk driving away the weaker players who are the casino's bread-and-butter customers. In less-competitive markets, where the demand for space to play is great, casinos will offer lower-paying machines because they will be played despite the low payoffs.
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.
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.
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.
Paytable: This is the table on the poker screen that shows you how much each hand in a poker game is worth. As previously stated, you'll want to choose a table that has the best paytable, meaning the highest payout for a win. Each paytable will show you how many coins you'll get in return for winning a hand from one coin played to up to five coins played.
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.

A royal flush is a straight flush composed of the highest cards, such as 10? J? Q? K? A?.  But of course they don't all have to be in order. Q? 10? A? J? K? is still a royal flush.  The Royal Flush is the jackpot in video poker, and comes around about once out of every 40,000 or so hands -- or a week and a half of full-time play.  Hey, it could be worse:  The jackpot on a typical slot machine only hits about one out of every 262,144 spins.

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.
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).
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.
The Jacks or Better category is named for the lowest paying winning hand – a pair of jacks or better. Each game in the Jacks or Better category has a pay table with all the same winning hands as the original Si Redd produced game. They are the royal flush, straight flush, four of a kind, full house, flush, straight, three of a kind, two pairs, and a high pair of jacks or better. The games also all play similar to the table game of draw poker, that is, five cards are dealt, the player can discard any or all of them and the discards are replaced with new cards. 

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. 

Si Redd’s Coin Machines, also known as SIRCOMA, released its version of Draw Poker in 1979. The significance of that statement may be increased with the news that SIRCOMA eventually went on to become International Game Technology (IGT). It was a huge hit. One of the reasons credited to the popularity of video poker and slots was how easy it was to learn how to play them. This was long before the huge presence of online video poker and other casino games we have today. Many customers were intimidated by brick-and-mortar casinos. These machines offered a new way to play, without any pressure.
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).
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.
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.

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.
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.
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.
Video poker is a very volatile game, about four times as much as blackjack. In any form of gambling, short-term results mostly depend on normal mathematical randomness (what some might call luck). However, in the long run, results mostly depend on skill. If you play a game with a return of 100.76% perfectly, that does not mean that you will have a 0.76% profit every time you play. The 100.76% is an EXPECTED return. Much in the same way, if you flip a coin ten million times, the expected number of tails will be five million, but it is unlikely you will hit five million on the nose. Actual results will vary significantly from expectations, but the more you play, the closer your actual return percentage will get to the expected return.
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.
In the right circumstances, however, the player sometimes will break up a flush, a straight, or a pair of jacks or better. If you do not have one of the "always keep" hands, use the following list. Possible predraw hands are listed in order. Find the highest listing that fits your predraw hand, and discard any cards that do not fit the hand. For example, if your hand includes jack of spades, jack of diamonds, 10 of diamonds, 9 of diamonds, and 8 of diamonds, you have four cards to an open straight flush in diamonds, and you also have a pair of jacks or better. The four-card open straight flush is higher on the list than the pair of jacks or better, so you would discard the jack of spades and draw to the four-card straight flush. You are giving up the certain 1-for-1 payoff for a pair of jacks, but you have a chance at a straight flush with either a queen or 7 of diamonds, could draw a flush with any other diamond, or still could finish with a pair of jacks by drawing the jack of either clubs or hearts.
In the right circumstances, however, the player sometimes will break up a flush, a straight, or a pair of jacks or better. If you do not have one of the "always keep" hands, use the following list. Possible predraw hands are listed in order. Find the highest listing that fits your predraw hand, and discard any cards that do not fit the hand. For example, if your hand includes jack of spades, jack of diamonds, 10 of diamonds, 9 of diamonds, and 8 of diamonds, you have four cards to an open straight flush in diamonds, and you also have a pair of jacks or better. The four-card open straight flush is higher on the list than the pair of jacks or better, so you would discard the jack of spades and draw to the four-card straight flush. You are giving up the certain 1-for-1 payoff for a pair of jacks, but you have a chance at a straight flush with either a queen or 7 of diamonds, could draw a flush with any other diamond, or still could finish with a pair of jacks by drawing the jack of either clubs or hearts.
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.
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.
In the early 1980s, Si Redd and his new International Gaming Technology entered into a licensing agreement with Bally's Manufacturing that gave IGT exclusive rights to manufacture video poker machines. Few people recognized the potential at the time, but that gave IGT the boost it needed to become Bally's main competitor in producing electronic gaming devices. Today IGT and Bally's both produce video poker machines, and their machines take up most of the floor space devoted to electronic gaming devices across the country.
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.
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