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.
Despite massive strides in computer technology and in particular video graphics, contemporary video poker machines are little different from their primitive forebears. Video poker fans are keen that their game is kept as ‘traditional’ as possible, and video poker has not developed in the same way that online slots games have evolved to be feature-rich monsters.
10. Low pair (two 10s or lower). Most new players keep a single jack or better rather than a low pair, and it's true that keeping that one high card will result in more frequent winning hands. But most of those will be 1-for-1 payoffs for a pair of jacks or better. Keeping the low pair will result in more two-pair, three-of-a-kind, full-house, even four-of-a-kind hands.
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.
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.
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.

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.

10. Low pair (two 10s or lower). Most new players keep a single jack or better rather than a low pair, and it's true that keeping that one high card will result in more frequent winning hands. But most of those will be 1-for-1 payoffs for a pair of jacks or better. Keeping the low pair will result in more two-pair, three-of-a-kind, full-house, even four-of-a-kind hands. 

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.
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.
Find the good games.  The VP games with the best paytables are findable, but they're rare.  Naturally the casinos prefer that you play the stingier machines.  In general, the Strip casinos have the worst machines, and everywhere else it's better -- off-strip, downtown, and locals casinos.  But while good machines are rare on the Strip, some do exist.  VPFree2 can help you find the good-paying machines.
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.
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.

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.


As you have learned in the first chapter, one of the main reasons for the popularity of video poker is it usually has a considerably higher payback than slot machines. In fact some games return more than 100 percent for a skilled player. Regardless of which video poker game you play, achieving the long term return percentage is dependent on getting your fair share of royal flushes. By a royal flush I mean the royal flush that really counts – the natural royal flush that is formed without the aid of a wild card. These generally pay 4,000 credits for a five-credit bet or 800 for 1.
Video Poker is a game that requires skill and it bridges the gap between slot machines and table games for many players. In most casinos video poker machines, when played correctly, offer a lower house edge than the slot machines. Over the last few years, video poker has been gaining in popularity and the casinos are adding more machines to the gaming floor. When video poker machines first appeared on the casino floors in the late 1970’s the only game offered was Jacks or Better draw poker. Today there are over 100 variations of video poker.
The wild card is a feature that is offered at some, but not all, of the video poker variants. The wild card is always the Joker or the Deuce. This wild card can be substituted for any other card from the deck in order to help players achieve a winning poker hand. In Deuces Wild, for example, the wild card is the 2, which is where name of the game comes from. Another game is Joker Wild, where the Joker is the wild card. Some games might have more than one wild card, such as Joker and Deuces Wild. In this game, the 2 and the Joker are wild cards.

Video poker follows the same hand ranking rules as regular poker with Royal Flush being the highest hand. It is also important to note that in video poker, it is the hand that matters regardless of the value of the cards forming it. For example, a pair of Aces will pay the same as a pair of Jacks and a Straight from 9 to K will pay the same as a straight from 2 to 6. Here is the poker hand ranking in a descending order:


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.
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.
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