Video poker is a card game played on machines, land-based or online, and the machine deals card randomly while the player can affect the game to a great extent by choosing which cards to keep and which to discard before the second deal happens. Video poker is a very popular game as it has very low house edge and correct playing strategy can even let the player have advantage over the house.

We could say that video poker was the only way to play poker if not having any friends available for a game until Texas hold’em online poker made a breakthrough. Video poker was the predecessor to the online poker boom, and remains a popular game today, usually played on machines in casinos and pubs, and many players play the game online.

Video Poker Game rules

Video poker is, in essence, Draw poker where you get dealt five cards and then choose how many, if any, you wish to hold. After that the discarded cards will be replaced by new ones, and then wins are awarded according to the paytable. Video poker can be played very fast, 20 hands per minute or more than 100 hands per hour, and many players will go for video poker games which don’t have unnecessary delays as a player has to play hundreds if not thousands of games to get the biggest wins.

There are many variations of the game, and Jacks or better is the most popular. It has a theoretical payout of 99.54% and lowest variance of all variations, so it’s the best game to play for a newcomer to the game. The lowest possible hand that pays is a pair of Jacks. Tens of Better version actually doesn’t pay that well despite paying already for a pair of 10s. Another popular version is Deuces Wild poker, which makes all 2s wild so they can substitute for any other card. This allows five of a kind wins, and this is a game in which the player actually has the edge as the payout is 100.76%, but the paytable can vary so it’s important to choose the game with full pays.

Aces and Eights poker features additional pays for four of a kind of Aces, 8s or 7s. It is almost a fair game as the payout is 99.78%, and variance is similar to Jacks or better. Double Bonus and Double Double Bonus pay more for certain four of a kind wins. Jokers Wild is a game with one joker, for a 53-card deck, and there are three versions – Kings or Better, Aces or Better or Two Pairs or Better.

Other than five of a kind win, which is only possible with Jokers or Wilds, the best paying hand is the royal flush, which is five cards in the same suit from 10 to Ace. Straight flush is the same, except that it pays for any five cards of same suit in consecutive order. The next best hand is four of a kind or a poker, and it’s followed by full house, which is three of a kind plus a pair. Flush are five cards of the same suit, and straight are five consecutive cards. Three of a kind, two pairs and a pair are the most common hands.

How to play Video Poker

First of all, a player must choose the version of video poker he wishes to play, and then check the paytable to see if it matches the expectations or is the paytable reduced, in which case the game is no longer that good and an alternative version should be sought. The paytable of a video poker game is what makes or breaks it, as a good paytable can give a good player the advantage he needs. In video poker the player’s decisions matter a lot, and while the game is easy to learn and difficult to master, it’s a skill game and a good player can win money on video poker.

All successful strategies revolve around provoking the luck to get the best possible hands, as opposed to settling for a pair, two pairs or three of a kind that will issue wins often but the wins aren’t big. In particular, the player should always seize the opportunity to try and get a royal flush, as this is what pays disproportionately better than any other hand, especially with a max bet, and the player can profit in the long run by chasing royal flush hands.

Whenever it’s not possible to land a royal flush, and there’s no win in the starting hand, there are certain strategies that are good practice. It is better to hold a low pair than it is to hold a high card, and in case of a really poor hand it is usually the best choice to discard the entire hand. When there’s a chance of a straight or a flush, players will usually go for it when they only need one more card to complete a straight or a flush, though depending on the hand it may be possible to gamble on it even if you have only three good cards.

With some experience the correct decisions become second nature, and it’s important to remember that a better strategy for video poker is to go for better hands even if they’re more rare, as opposed to settling for small wins, as it’s the best hands that give the player the edge over the house. The best hands may be elusive for a very long time, for example it may be a year before a regular player lands a royal flush, so it’s important to stay patient, follow the strategy that was decided on in the beginning, and to not let bad runs change your approach to the game and the strategy. Video poker must be played aggressively at all times, whenever the cards allow it.

Chance of landing a royal flush is really low, it can be expected to land once in every 40,000 hands, yet every opportunity to land one (getting at least three cards that count towards a royal flush) must be seized. It is crucial to check how much does the game pay for a royal flush, and it should be 4000 coins while many machines pay less and should therefore be avoided. Also, most machines pay disproportionately more for a royal flush when a max bet is placed, unlike other bets, so it makes sense to always go with a max bet. Reading the paytable is the most important skill a video poker player can have. Sometimes a paytable that looks better isn’t really better, so players often use calculators to decide which game actually has a lower house edge.

These are the base values for every hand. Straight flush should pay 50:1, four of a kind 25:1, full house 9:1, flush 6:1, straight 4:1, three of a kind 3:1, two pair 2:1 and Jacks or better 1:1. This applies to Jacks or Better video poker, and paytables for other versions of video poker can differ but shouldn’t be too far from these values. A Jacks or Better video poker game that pays 9:1 for full house and 6:1 for flush is called 9/6, and there are also 8/5 and even 7/5 versions, which should, of course, be avoided.

The paytable in Deuces Wild poker is significantly changed because wins are more common, so straight flush will only pay 10:1 instead of 50:1, four of a kind will pay 4:1 instead of 25:1, and so on. There is a distinction between a natural royal flush, which still pays the same, and a wild royal flush, which pays only 25:1. Also, the minimum payable win is three of a kind.

Here is a list of other versions of video poker: Ace Invaders, Aces & Faces, Aces Bonus, Anything’s Wild, Barnyard, Big Times Draw, Black Jack Bonus, Build a Wheel, Chase the Royal, Crazy Times Pay, Deal Draw, Double Down Stud, Dream Card, Extra Action, Extra Draw Frenzy, Five Aces, Good Times Pay, Hot Roll, Hyper Bonus, Peek and Play, Pick a Pair, Powerhouse, Quick Quads, Rack’em Up, Random Rewards, Royal Aces, Royal Hunt, Spin Fever, Split Card, Trade Up, Triple Play with Match Card, Triple Wheel, Ultimate Aces, Ultimate X, White Hot Aces. Since there are so many versions to choose from, the players are spoiled for choice but are advised to meticulously check the paytable of each game.

Online video poker for real money

There is virtually no difference in playing video poker in land-based establishments and playing online. Since it’s a solitary game in which a player sits in front of the screen and makes his decisions on which cards to keep, the social aspect is absent in both cases. In fact, many players prefer playing video poker online as the choice of different versions is much bigger, and it’s easy to switch between different versions or choose the rare one that you really like.

Almost all online casinos offer video poker games, and many versions of them, so it’s easy to find the best version of the game with the best paytable. While most online casinos offer welcome bonuses, they usually can’t be played through in any way by playing video poker since the game has a low or even non-existent house edge. Video poker is not a game casinos really love since the player can actually win, so the game is offered only because it’s so popular, but there are no perks that come with it.

Therefore, the key to playing video poker online is not to choose the best casino or a casino with the best bonus, but to find the best (or favorite) version of video poker, and to find the one that has an adequate paytable for the game or even something better than that although that’s rare.