Oopssss

No results

Video Poker Winning Strategy: Top Tips on How to Play

Jamie Wall
Written by Jamie Wall

Elevate your video poker skills in 2024 with our expert guide. Learn to steer through game varieties like Deuces Wild and Jacks or Better, optimising your play for maximum wins. Essential strategies and expert tips await to boost your gameplay.

A study by a US market research company Fact.MR states that in 2023 the global video poker market stood at a huge $21.61 billion. Forecasted to increase to $177 billion in the next 10 years, it’s safe to say that video poker is an incredibly popular game despite sometimes being overlooked in favour of classic table games and dynamic video slots.

From Deuces Wild to Jacks or Better, there is a range of online video poker variations to choose from. For this reason, it’s important to understand the nuance between them, as each has its own payout percentages and ranking systems. The last thing you want is to chase a hand that won’t end up paying out anything substantial.

If you’re looking to learn how to play video poker, both on physical machines and online, this page is for you. We’ll discuss the intricacies that underpin the game, as well as key strategies to help you achieve winning results.

Before we get started, here are some common terms you should be aware of:

  • 9/6, 8/5, 10/7: In video poker, these terms refer to the machine’s payout structure for a Full House and a Flush, respectively. The first number indicates coins paid for a Full House, and the second for a Flush, based on a one-coin bet. The higher these numbers, the better the expected return to the player. For instance, a 9/6 machine pays 9 coins for a Full House and 6 for a Flush. The formula to consider the overall payout percentage involves comparing these payout structures with the machine’s complete pay table and assessing the impact on the game’s RTP.
  • Action: Refers to the total monetary value that a player wagers throughout their entire game, no matter the outcome. However, ‘Action’ can also be used as a basic term when simply playing a video poker machine, i.e. putting a machine into action.
  • Bank: A collection of video poker machines in a physical casino.
  • Cycle: This is the statistical average amount of times a specific hand type will be dealt. To demonstrate, a royal flush hand is likely to be dealt once for every 40,000 hands played.
  • Double Bonus video poker machine: A variation of video poker offering increased payouts for four-of-a-kind hands, particularly for four aces. The game provides a higher risk–reward ratio, encouraging players to adjust their strategy to capitalise on the bonus payouts for specific hand combinations.
  • Drawing Hand: A particular hand you may expect to be on a draw. For reference, a draw refers to the act of receiving more cards to achieve a better hand.
  • Full Pay: A term used to describe a video poker machine that utilises the best possible return for the game. This is often presented in the form of pay tables.
  • Non-progressive (regular) video poker machine: Offers fixed payouts for winning hands. Unlike progressive machines, the jackpot does not increase with more play. Ideal for those seeking consistent payout structures without the fluctuations associated with progressive jackpots.
  • Progressive video poker machine: Features a jackpot that increases with each bet across a network of linked machines. The jackpot grows until a player hits a specific winning hand, often a Royal Flush. This type of machine offers potentially massive payouts, changing the strategic approach due to the variable jackpot size.
  • Wild Card: A specific card that can be substituted in place of another card. For example, Deuces Wild allows players to use a ‘two’ for any card they choose.

Basic Rules of Video Poker

Video poker can be traced back to the 1970s when the first machines were implemented in physical casinos. Almost every game in this category operates on the same fundamentals as five-card draw poker. In it, you get a hand of five cards. At that point, you may decide to either retain some of them or dump them all. For every card that you discard, you get a substitute. Victory may be achieved by either saving the winning cards earlier dealt to you or by refining your “hand” (the final group of cards you opt to keep) and transforming it into the most advantageous and likely winning hand during the “draw” phase.

first video poker gambling machines

Joe Fox, Video Poker gaming gambling machines, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

As for online video poker, it combines traditional poker principles with technology akin to playing video poker machines.

The major distinction between video poker and live poker is that the classic latter game will rigorously feature a live dealer and other players around the table. This is common in physical casinos, with many establishments having dedicated poker rooms. Video poker machines, on the other hand, are a great alternative for players who prefer to game without the added pressure of an in-person live environment.

You’ll find the outline of the game basics here, along with how it differs from the traditional version. Top video poker tips will also help you improve your skills.

How to Play Video Poker

Regardless of which version you’re playing, Deuces Wild, Double Bonus, or Jacks or Better video poker, all types function similarly.

  1. Choose how much to bet: Video poker requires players to use ‘credits’, sometimes referred to as coins. It’s up to you how much each credit or coin is worth during the game. The range of coins that the machines take is from 1 to 5.
  2. Victor H. Royer, a poker and all-round casino game expert, urges all players to follow the most important, in his mind, video poker strategy:

    To be a winner, remember these three points:

    • You can only win the jackpot, the top prize, by playing the “maximum coins” allowed on the machine you are playing.
    • You cannot win that top award otherwise, and therefore if you ever plan to play this game for less than maximum coins you are already a loser.
    • Never, ever, play any video poker machine without playing maximum coins. Ever! Period!”

    (Royer 31)

  3. First hand is drawn: Once your bet size is locked in, press the ‘Deal’ button on the machine/online game. This will trigger your first five cards to be dealt, giving you your first official hand.
  4. Hold or exchange: Analyse your hand and pick the specific cards you want to hold onto. That is, they will be held back instead of being exchanged for new cards during the next draw. You may choose to hold 1, 2, or all of your cards.
  5. Seconds cards are drawn: Lock in the cards you want to hold, and press the ‘Draw’ button on your machine/online game. This will instigate new cards to replace the cards you’re not holding. The five cards you end up with are your final video poker hand.
  6. Payout: If you’re a beginner, it may take some time to get familiar with interpreting your hand. But, the machine will automatically analyse it for you, recommending the best possible hand you can create. Any subsequent winnings will be given, and the game starts again.

How Video Poker Differs from Traditional Poker

The clearest difference between a video poker game and a physical game is the fact you’re playing against a computer algorithm, rather than in the presence of other players or a physical dealer.

This can be very appealing, as your cards are the only ones included. You won’t have to worry about anyone else swooping in and beating your hand. There’s also no requirement to read another player’s ‘poker face’, which can give players an element of relief.

Due to the lack of other players or a live dealer, some British players don’t rate a video poker game highly in land-based casinos in the United Kingdom. They assume it requires less skill than a traditional game, but this is certainly not the case.

As a video poker legend, Bob Dancer, once said:

Video poker is not a game of luck; it’s a game of skill.

Having won more than $1 million in just six months, Bob Dancer is renowned as the best-known teacher of video poker. Analysing which cards to hold, and knowing how to interpret a hand, thus, is crucial, with video poker strategy still being hugely relevant during a machine game.

While all variations feature the same foundational gameplay, there are notable differences between them that are important to note along with varying pay tables that can inform your strategy. Variants include:

Jacks or Better

Jacks or Better video poker game interface by NetEnt

Jacks or Better video poker game interface by NetEnt

Hailed as one of the best options for beginners, players can expect a payout if their hand has a pair of Jacks — or higher (‘better’) before returning their winnings. Jacks or Better is considered to be the oldest version of video poker.

For your convenience, our team composed a maximum bet pay table for the traditional non-progressive Full-Pay 9/6 version:

Payout Percentage = 99.54%, Variance = 19.5
Hand Payout
Royal Flush 800
Straight Flush 50
Four-of-a-Kind 25
Full House 9
Flush 6
Straight 4
Three-of-a-Kind 3
Two Pair 2
Pair (Jacks or Better) 1

Bonus Poker

Bonus Poker video poker game interface by RedDrake gaming

Bonus Poker video poker game interface by RedDrake gaming

It is very similar to Jacks or Better but delivers a higher payout percentage for a Four-of-a-kind hand. This game features relatively low volatility and, whilst popular amongst amateur players, Bonus Poker isn’t as commonly seen amongst professionals as Jacks or Better.

A maximum bet pay table for the traditional non-progressive Full-Pay 8/5 version:

Payout Percentage = 99.17%, Variance = 20.9
Hand Payout
Royal Flush 800
Straight Flush 50
Four-of-a-Kind Aces 35
Four Twos through Fours 35
Four Fives through Kings 35
Full House 8
Flush 5
Straight 4
Three-of-a-Kind 3
Two Pair 2
Pair (Jacks or Better) 1

Double Bonus

Double Bonus video poker game interface by RedDrake gaming

Double Bonus video poker game interface by RedDrake gaming

A variation of Bonus Poker, except this game generates a bonus payout for a hand with four aces. Similar to the original Bonus Poker, Double Bonus isn’t as commonly seen amongst professional video poker players.

A maximum bet pay table for the traditional non-progressive Full-Pay 10/7 version:

Payout Percentage = 100.17%, Variance = 28.3
Hand Payout
Royal Flush 800
Straight Flush 160
Four-of-a-Kind Aces 80
Four Twos through Fours 50
Four Fives through Kings 50
Full House 10
Flush 7
Straight 5
Three-of-a-Kind 3
Two Pair 1
Pair (Jacks or Better) 1

Victor H. Royer, however, cautions:

On most of these “bonus” 10/7, 9/6, and 10/6 machines, the payoff for two pair is typically only even money—same as the payoff for “Jacks or better.” That’s the catch, and it translates not only into two-pair hands for fewer coins won as a result, but also in fewer Full House hands. This is because the smart player will always draw to the highest possible payoff, and with these Double Bonus and Double Double Bonus poker machines it is highly inadvisable to hold two pairs to draw to a possible Full House, or hold a pat Full House in the event that the trips are a draw to the “much higher paying four of a kind, such as the bonus Aces.

(Royer 41-42)

Deuces Wild

Deuces Wild video poker game interface by Nintendo

Deuces Wild video poker game interface by Nintendo

Along with Jacks or Better, Deuces Wild is viewed as one of the most popular versions of video poker. It’s a variation in which all ‘twos’ are Wild Cards. This means that the lowest possible hand for a payout will be three of a kind.

A maximum bet pay table for the traditional non-progressive Full-Pay version:

Payout Percentage = 99.73%, Variance = 25.8
Hand Payout
Natural Royal Flush 800
Four Deuces 200
Wild Royal Flush 25
Five of a Kind 15
Straight Flush 9
Four-of-a-Kind 5
Full House 3
Flush 2
Straight 2
Three-of-a-Kind 1

Joker Poker

Joker Poker video poker game interface by Playtech

Joker Poker video poker game interface by Playtech

Also referred to as “Joker’s Wild”, Joker Poker incorporates a fully wild Jack that can be substituted to make better hands. This ‘Wild Joker’ is an additional card to the classic five, which is where Joker Poker significantly differs from popular variations like Jacks or Better and Deuces Wild.

A maximum bet pay table for the non-progressive Full-Pay version:

Payout Percentage = 100.64%, Variance = 26.2
Hand Payout
Natural Royal Flush 800
Five of a Kind 200
Wild Royal Flush 100
Straight Flush 50
Four-of-a-Kind 20
Full House 7
Flush 5
Straight 3
Three-of-a-Kind 2
Two Pair 1
Pair (Kings or Better) 1

Apart from pay tables, to truly hone in on key strategies, it’s crucial to know how different types of poker hands rank.

Hand Ranks and Video Poker Tips

Listed from strongest to weakest, common hands include:

Royal Flush

Perhaps the most well-known of all poker hand types, a royal flush is the best hand of all. It consists of five cards in consecutive order, starting at 10 and progressing up to ace. All cards must be of the same suit.

A♠️ K♠️ Q♠️ J♠️10♠️

The chances of your first video poker draw generating a royal flush are incredibly slim. It’s good to remember that betting the maximum coin value does not increase the likelihood of drawing a royal flush but does ensure that if you hit a royal flush, you will receive the maximum possible payout. When it comes to this hand, taking this risk is the only way to achieve maximum reward.

Straight Flush

As the next best thing to a royal flush, a straight flush involves any five cards of successive value. They must be of the same suit. The only hands that can beat a straight flush are a royal flush or another straight flush with a higher-ranking sequence.

9♦️ 8♦️ 7♦️ 6♦️5♦️

This hand can be beaten, meaning there are specific video poker strategy tips to be aware of when compared to a royal flush. Many players ponder over anything when dealt a low pair, wondering if they should just try their luck and opt for five new cards in the hope of getting a high straight flush.

Strategists recommend always keeping the pair, despite their low value. Drawing to the flush is more likely to result in a straight, rather than going for five new cards and losing your original pair. Far better to end up with a low straight flush, than no flush at all.

As legendary poker player Stu Ungar once said:

Fold and live to fold again

Thus, even if the draw doesn’t go your way, there is pride in knowing when the right time is to fold.

Four-of-a-Kind

This hand requires four cards of the same rank across all four suits. The five-card hand is finished with the fifth, and highest, card in your hand of any suite, known as the ‘kicker’.

6♣️ 6♠️ 6♥️ 6♦️J♣️

As a four-of-a-kind isn’t as high ranking as a straight or royal flush, some beginner players may not prioritise aiming for this hand — even if their cards are in favour.

Still, focusing on securing the four-of-a-kind, which is a very strong hand, is usually the best course of action. If it is looking highly possible with the next draw, it’s important to hold all relevant cards and not opt for exchanging too many through chasing a flush.

To Sum Up

The convenience and non-intimidating nature of video poker make it hugely popular among global players, with many casinos in Great Britain now offering multiple banks of machines.

From reading this page, you’ll now have a better understanding of key video poker terms, basic gameplay rules, and pay tables for the most popular variations. You’re armed with valuable tips from Victor H. Royer, a poker master with decades-long experience in the casino game industry.

So long as you familiarise yourself with the basic rules, and the different machine actions during gameplay, you’ll be well on your way to mastering the foundational elements of the game. Knowing when to hold is a skill that develops with time and practice, and video poker is a great place to hone in on these traits with no poker faces to identify around the table.

References

  1. Fox, Joe. Video Poker gaming gambling machines Las Vegas Nevada USA, Photograph. Fine Art America, January 11th, 2013, https://fineartamerica.com/featured/video-poker-gaming-gambling-machines-las-vegas-nevada-usa-joe-fox.html. Accessed March 19, 2024.
  2. Kimburg, Daniel Y. Dan’s Poker Dictionary, Seriouspoker.com,
  3. https://www.seriouspoker.com/dictionary.html#acetofive, Accessed 13 March, 2024.
  4. Royer, Victor H. Powerful Profits From Video Poker: The Basics. Citadel Press, 2014.
  5. Video Poker Machines Market, Fact.MR, https://www.factmr.com/report/video-poker-machines-market. Accessed 12 March, 2024.
  6. Video Poker Machine Terms, VideoPokerInfo.com, https://www.videopokerinfo.com/terminology.htm. Accessed 12 March, 2024.
  7. Video Poker Pay Tables, VideoPoker.com, https://www.videopoker.com/learn/pay_tables/. Accessed 12 March, 2024.
Author
Jamie Wall
Jamie Wall Casino Analyst

Former NetEnt developer with MSc in Casino Game Development from the London School of Economics and an article featured in The Times of Malta. Jamie dissects each game & casino, so you can read reviews that blend passion and insight. You’ll never meet a person who knows more about game mechanics than him.