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.

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.


I am spending time on this topic for a very good reason. Open straights and straight flushes are always listed higher in a strategy chart because they can be filled in more ways than an inside straight / straight flush. Therefore it is important that you know the difference when you play so you do not inadvertently consider an inside straight / straight flush as though it was open.
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.
As you learned in chapter one, this game and others that followed were developed to satisfy the gambling public’s quest for larger jackpots. Jacks or Better has only the royal flush as a true jackpot. In that game any four of a kind pays enough for you to play 25 additional hands so they are not really jackpots, although it really helps out. Bonus Poker on the other hand pays 80 for one for four aces. On a quarter machine this amounts to $100 with five credits played. While this is not a huge jackpot, it is enough to make you feel like you have won something substantial and you may even decide to stop playing at that point with what you consider a nice win for the session. Also, where the royal flush happens only once every 40,000 hands or so, four aces will occur roughly once every 5,100 hands, which is eight times as often. Playing at a rate of 500 hands per hour, the Bonus Poker player will get four aces once every 10 hours of play, on average.

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.
Video poker started to appear in 1989 when the Card Bell was developed. This game was a poker machine that paid players instantly by using combinations such as a straight, a flush and so on. In the improved design of the machine, the Skill Draw, a major feature was added — the Hold. The Hold feature has become an integral part of the video poker game of today.
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.
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.
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. 

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.
Practicing video poker strategy by using a computer program or smartphone / tablet app is far more effective than practicing manually as described in section 7.2. The only real problems that might get in the way of you doing so are that you need a computer or smartphone / tablet and you need the program or application. As mentioned previously, there are several good video poker programs and applications available. They are also quite reasonably priced. If you do not have a video poker application, I strongly suggest you purchase one as soon as you can. You can practice manually for a while until you receive it, so you will not be just sitting around and doing nothing while you wait.

But video poker adds something slot machines don't have -- an element of skill. Players have decisions to make that affect the outcome. And because cards are required to be dealt from a randomly shuffled 52-card deck -- or 53 cards, in the case of Joker's Wild machines -- the possible combinations are known, the frequency of the combinations can be calculated, and an optimal playing strategy can be devised. In fact, when Missouri riverboats opened under a law that forbade games of chance, casinos were allowed to offer video poker, as a game of skill, even though slots, as games of chance, had to wait until voters changed the law.

Caribbean Stud poker is also a 5-card poker game but players must beat a dealer. In this game, players will also place an Ante bet before they are dealt the cards. They will then get 5 cards facing up, while the dealer will get 4 cards facing down and 1 card facing up. Players will then decide if they want to fold or if they wish to call. If they call, they will place another bet that is equal to twice the original bet. If they call, the dealer’s final poker card will be revealed and the showdown will take place. In order for the dealer’s hand to qualify, it has to at least have an Ace and a King. If the hand does not qualify, the player will win regardless of his hand. Some games might also offer a progressive jackpot that is triggered when players achieve a royal flush.


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.
Right after learning the proper strategy, the most important thing about playing video poker is to choose a machine with a good paytable!  Here are some pictures I just took in the same casino, same style game, same denomination.  The only thing that's different is the paytables.  The first one pays 9 & 6 for the full house and flush respectively, and the second one pays only 8 & 5 for those hands.
6. Pair of jacks or better. Discard the remaining three cards. Sometimes players who are used to playing table poker want to keep a high-card "kicker" to the pair -- for example, holding an ace along with two queens. Don't hold a kicker in video poker; give yourself the maximum chance to draw a third high card, or even a full house or four of a kind.
Online gambling is largely unregulated in the U.S.  That means the casinos serving U.S. players generally don't answer to anyone.  If you have a problem with a casino (like they won't pay you), then you're usually out of luck.  I can't count how many players have written to ask me for help because they didn't get paid by some other casino.  (Not that I helped them—if a dodgy casino won't pay you then you're on your own.)

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.
Those machines are hard to find.  Casinos don't like to put games on the floor that potentially lose money.  Your best bet for finding these games is in downtown Vegas (not on the Strip) and at locals casinos, which have to be more competitive than Strip casinos in order to lure customers there away from the Strip.  Here again, VPFree2 can help you find good-paying machines.

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 made its entry to the casino in the seventies; and is today one of the most popular forms of gambling. For the player who likes a game of skill, a low house edge, the possibility of large wins, and the anonymity of playing alone there is nothing else that can compare to video poker. The rules of video poker are simple; you play 1 to 5 coins, the machine give you five cards, you choose which to hold and which to discard, the machine replaces your discards and pays you off according to the value of your hand.
Less interesting and less impressive was the page about “Video Poker’s Greatest Hits”. (http://www.videopoker.com/greatest_hits/) One of the aspects I found disappointing about this sales page was the lack of a price listing. There’s a button for a free trial, and another “buy now” button, but I don’t think I should have to click “buy now” to get a price. I did click through, and the price is only $19.95, but the software is limited to 8 video poker games.

Less interesting and less impressive was the page about “Video Poker’s Greatest Hits”. (http://www.videopoker.com/greatest_hits/) One of the aspects I found disappointing about this sales page was the lack of a price listing. There’s a button for a free trial, and another “buy now” button, but I don’t think I should have to click “buy now” to get a price. I did click through, and the price is only $19.95, but the software is limited to 8 video poker games.
Although you will not be able to make the calculations in your head, there are software programs, strategy cards, books, and websites where you can obtain the information you need to determine the payouts for each paytable. By knowing how to read a pay table, you can make sure you are playing the machine with the best return. Some casinos will put two identical machines that have different pay tables next to each other. You want to make sure you are choosing the one with the highest return.
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.
Multi-hand video poker games have become popular at online casinos in recent years. This allows you to play up to 100 hands at one from the draw. If, for example, you hold two aces before the draw and play 100 hands, you can play all 100 hands with two aces and three newly drawn cards. This is very beneficial if you are dealt a winning hand before the draw.
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.
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.

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.
Once I hit two 4 of a Kinds back to back.  The probability of hitting it once is 0.24%.  The chances of hitting it back to back are 0.24%2 = 0.0006%, or 1 in 179,000.  That's four times less likely than hitting a royal flush.  And I would have preferred the royal!  (By the way, purists will note that after you've hit a 4 of a Kind, the chances of hitting another four of a kind is just 0.24%, not 0.0006%, but I'm considering the probability of getting two back-to-back before I get the first one.)
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.
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.

In video poker, just like regular poker, you will be given five cards. With those five cards you'll want to achieve a winning poker hand (royal flush, straight, full house, flush, four of a kind, three of a kind, two pair, jacks or better). To do this, you'll have the opportunity to keep certain cards in your hand and exchange others to gain new cards that may help you gain a winning poker hand.


So it really pays to hunt out the good machines!  But it's actually pretty easy, because the readers of a website called VPFree2 scout out the best machines and post their locations on the site.  Using that site you can see that you can there are 9/6 Jacks or Better machines on the Strip at Cosmopolitan, New York New York, Riviera, Treasure Island, and others.  And in downtown and off-strip casinos, the good games are more common, and available at lower denominations.

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.
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.
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