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Video Poker

Video poker has been around for decades, but its lack of outrageous graphics and flashing lights have always left it playing second fiddle to the slots. Most VP veterans are perfectly happy with that arrangement, as it leaves these potentially profitable machines free of crowds and curious onlookers.

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About Video Poker

In case you’re unaware, video poker is the rare casino game where the player can actually gain an advantage over the house in the right set of circumstances. This isn’t always easy to achieve, of course, and losses are still bound to happen. But for those who want to be smart when it comes to gambling, this game represents one of the best bets in any online or land-based casino.

This article is meant to explain the basics of the game, from how to play video poker to the most common types of variants. While reading this won’t guarantee you any wins in the future, it should at least provide enough information to determine whether or not VP is right for you. 

How to Play Video Poker

Video poker is an easy game to learn, especially when you consider that the player can actually gain a slight advantage over the house. Played like a game of five-card draw poker, the game begins when the player makes their wager and gets dealt five virtual cards.

After examining their hand, the player must decide how many of their cards are going to be retained. They may keep all of them, a few of them, or none at all. This is accomplished by pressing (or clicking) the button that corresponds to each card on the screen.

Once the keeper cards have been selected, the game discards the others and deals replacements to the player. This is where the game ends, as the computer determines the final value of the player’s hand and issues a payout accordingly. As you might imagine, a stronger hand receives more money (with the royal flush being the top prize on the majority of VP machines).

Popular Types of Video Poker

The following list includes some of the most common versions of video poker. When possible, we've also included the expected return for the player. Expressed as a percentage, this number indicates the amount that the player should expect to receive back in the long term. For example, a return of 99 percent would deliver $99 for every $100 wagered (on average).

You’ll also notice that games sometimes have a fractional number in front of them, such as 9/6 Jacks or Better. This means that a full house pays nine times the original wager, while a flush pays six times the player’s bet. 9/6 is generally the top payout for Jacks or Better, so this is known as a “full pay” machine. An 8/5 machine, meanwhile, would be labeled a “short pay” game due to a decreased payout.

Jacks or Better

Also referred to as “draw poker,” this game doesn’t deliver a payout unless the player gets a pair of jacks or higher. Using a simple strategy on this game delivers an expected return of 99.46 percent, while employing a more advanced optimal strategy yields 99.54 percent.

Deuces Wild

Two cards are considered in this version of the game. While a royal flush comprised of one or more wild cards pays 125 credits, a natural royal flush is far more valuable with a 4,000-coin payout. Using a simple strategy on the full-pay version of this game yields an expected return of 100.71 percent, which means the player actually has an advantage over the house.

Bonus Poker

One of the most common casino options, this version offers a full pay of 8/5 and includes a number of four-of-a-kind payouts. When using optimal strategy, the expected return is 99.17 percent. It’s not uncommon for this version of video poker to be the most profitable version offered in some casinos, especially since the others often give the player a mathematical edge over the house.

Double Bonus Poker

10/7 is common for the full-pay version. Players are paid with jacks or better, although four-of-a-kind hands offer the largest prize. 100.17 percent expected return.

Joker Poker

The joker acts as a wild card, and a pair of kings or better are required for a payout. The expected return is 100.64 percent when using a basic strategy.

Double Double Bonus Poker

This game offers increased payouts for four-of-a-kind hands in specific combinations. For example, four aces with a 2-4 kicker pays 400 coins, while four of a kind of 2-4 with an ace-4 kicker pays 160 coins. The full-pay version is 10/6, and employing basic strategy on this machine yields an expected return of 100.07 percent.

Progressive Jackpot

While this isn’t a specific type of machine, we should mention that VP games can offer progressive wins just like slots. In some cases, multiple machines may be linked together at various locations.

Video poker is the best-kept secret in the casino, and many patrons are happy to pass it by once they realize that it’s not a slot machine. However, veteran gamblers and advantage players know the truth, which is why many of them scour online and land-based casinos for the VP machines with the best pay tables. Once they’ve found a suitable option, all they have to do is apply the proper strategy, wait for the house edge to drop, and watch their bank account begin to rise.

Video Poker Odds

Some online casino games offer better casino odds than others.

Most players like to mix up their play, but serious online players know that some of the best odds to be found are in the video poker games.

Structured to play as stud poker variants, video poker games should be played with the proper strategy in order to maximize one’s chances of winning.

Video poker payout odds can be different depending on the game, but a Jacks or Better game played with a perfect strategy can give the player a 99.54 percent return on their money. Even if you don’t know perfect video poker strategy and you only make the occasional mistake, that average return will only drop down to 99.52 percent.

The one thing to look for when you play video poker games is a 9/6 pay table. Games with a table of 9/6 will pay 9 to 1 if you get a full house, and 6 to 1 when you get a flush. Games with these payout odds are often called “full pay” games.

Casinos will offer games that seem to be the same as the full-pay games, but in reality they often offer only an 8/6 or even an 8/5 pay table. The full house only pays 8 to 1 and the flush gets 5 to 1. That small difference will greatly increase the house edge over you, so take the time to find the best pay table games before you play.

No House Edge?

Professional video poker players know that the best games are the full-pay Deuces Wild games. If you are able to play a perfect strategy in these games, the house edge will disappear, and your average return will be above 100 percent – somewhere in the vicinity of 100.7 percent. That’s not an easy edge to find in a casino, and finding one of these games without a professional playing at it is no easy feat for a player.

This edge can be increased when you play games with a progressive jackpot. The bigger the jackpot, the better your potential return. The one thing to remember when playing any progressive jackpot game is to bet the maximum bet. Only max bet hands will qualify for the jackpot, and if you don’t bet the max your potential return drops down dramatically.

And don’t try to hit that royal flush every time you get dealt a face card, as the odds of hitting it are 1 in 40,000. Stick to the video poker strategies, as they will give you the best chance at a big payday.

Video Poker Strategy

Video poker strategy can make a significant difference when playing this sometimes overlooked casino game. While VP offers a decent payback percentage to players under normal circumstances, the house edge can often be erased by following proper strategy based on the initial five-card hand.

In this article, we’ll provide a couple of strategy charts for the most popular types of video poker. In addition, we’ll discuss some basic tips for the game that are bound to improve your overall performance.

Importance of Using Strategy in Video Poker

A lot of VP players like to “wing it” during their gaming sessions. While their instincts may be solid in some cases, the lack of a definite plan of attack ultimately allows the house edge to get the better of them in the long run.

By employing a basic strategy, however, the player is relying on a rigid system that delivers the best chance of winning based on the rules and payout options. This can result in a major shift for the player, moving the expected payback percentage by a few points and putting the house at an actual disadvantage.

Deuces Wild Strategy

Deuces Wild card holding strategy consists of some simple rules to follow depending on how many, or if any, deuces have been dealt to you initially. Any other cards other than the combinations on these lists should be discarded in the drawing round.

When no deuces are dealt
  • Hold four cards to a royal flush
  • Hold any hand that pays out profit
  • Hold four cards to a straight flush
  • Hold three cards to a royal flush
  • Hold a pair
  • Hold four cards to a flush
  • Hold four cards to an open-ended straight
  • Hold three cards to a straight flush
  • Hold four cards to an inside straight
  • Hold two cards to a royal flush if they’re higher than a jack
When one deuce is dealt
  • Hold four of a kind or higher
  • Hold four cards to a royal flush
  • Hold a full house
  • Hold four cards to a full house with three consecutive running cards 5-7 or higher
  • Hold a flush, straight or three of a kind
  • Hold any combination of four cards to a straight flush
  • Hold three cards to a royal flush
  • Hold three cards to a straight flush with two consecutive running cards 6-7 or higher
  • Hold one deuce
When two deuces are dealt
  • Hold four of a kind or better
  • Hold four cards to a royal flush
  • Hold four cards to a straight flush with two consecutive running cards 6-7 or better
  • Hold two deuces
When three deuces are dealt
  • Hold a royal flush
  • Hold a straight flush
  • Hold three deuces
When four deuces are dealt
  • Hold four deuces when fifth card is smaller than a ten

A player will get dealt a deuce in their starting hand on average every 2.6 hands. Getting dealt a pair (without a deuce) will occur on average 42 percent of the time, and players have a 15 percent chance of getting dealt a pair and a deuce. When drawing three cards while holding a pair, you have a 1 in 4 chance of drawing a deuce.

Jacks or Better Strategy

This example of video poker strategy is for Jacks or Better and should yield an expected return of 99.46 percent. Once the game has dealt your five cards, look at your starting hand and determine the various ways that it can be played. The objective is to find the highest-ranking possibility on the list below and stick with it.

Jacks or Better Rankings
  • Four of a kind, royal flush, straight flush
  • Four cards toward completing a royal flush
  • Straight, flush, three of a kind, full house
  • Four cards toward completing a straight flush
  • Two pair
  • High pair (pair of jacks or above)
  • Three cards toward a royal flush
  • Four cards toward a flush
  • Low pair (a pair of 10s or less)
  • Four cards toward an outside straight
  • Two suited high cards (jacks or better)
  • Three cards toward completing a straight flush
  • Two unsuited high cards
  • One of these suited combinations: J/10, Q/10 or K/10
  • Single high card
  • If none of the above options are present in your hand, then you should discard everything.

Bonus Poker Strategy

8/5 Bonus Poker is one of the most common VP games found in casinos. Because of this, I thought it would be helpful to share a traditional strategy table that should yield a 99.17 percent return. As with the Jacks or Better strategy, look at your initial five-card hand and play the highest-ranking option from the list below.

Bonus Poker Rankings
  • Royal flush, straight flush, four of a kind
  • Four cards toward a royal flush
  • Full house, straight, flush
  • Three of a kind
  • Four cards toward the completion of a straight flush
  • Two pair
  • High pair (a pair of jacks or better)
  • Three cards toward the completion of a royal flush
  • Four cards toward a flush
  • Unsuited king, queen, jack and 10
  • Low pair (10s or less)
  • Four cards toward an outside straight
  • Three cards toward a straight flush. This must be an open-ended draw with no more than 1 gap. There must also be one or more high cards.
  • Unsuited ace, king, queen and jack
  • Two suited high cards
  • Three cards toward a straight flush. Open-ended draw with no high cards or gaps.
  • Four cards toward an inside straight, with 3 high cards
  • Unsuited king, queen and jack
  • Unsuited queen and jack
  • Three cards toward a straight flush. The draw must contain 2 gaps and a single high card.
  • K/J or K/Q unsuited
  • Suited J/10
  • One of the following unsuited combinations: A/J, A/Q or A/K
  • Ace
  • Three cards to a straight flush. Open-ended draw with no gaps and one high card.
  • Q/T or K/T suited
  • A king, queen or jack
  • Three cards to a straight flush. This draw has two gaps and no high cards.
  • If none of the above options exist, discard your hand and take five new cards.

Tips for Playing Video Poker

The next time you try your luck at a VP machine, keep the following suggestions in mind:

Video Poker Tips
  • Know the Types of Games – Each version of video poker has a different pay table, so choose the one that’s most appealing to you. Whether it’s Double Bonus, Deuces Wild, or All American, it pays to know the available options.
  • Play Max Coins – Most VP games offer a bonus amount for wins while playing maximum coins. If you want to get the most for your money, I suggest keeping this in mind.
  • Establish a Time Limit – Before you begin a gaming session, it’s always wise to establish the maximum amount of time you’re going to play. This helps keep your mind relatively fresh, as someone who’s stared at a screen for too long can wind up losing focus and making costly mistakes.
  • Focus on Accuracy – While slots players try to get in as many spins in an hour as possible, VP fans should concentrate on making correct decisions instead of striving for volume.  
  • Check the Pay Tables – Some games offer better payouts than others, so it’s in your best interests to search through the pay tables to find the most profitable options. Otherwise, you could be missing out on available cash.

As you can see, video poker strategy is not difficult to learn. It only requires a moderate level of memorization, and anyone with an average amount of brainpower can pull it off. If you’re serious about making a profit during your next visit to a casino, devoting some time to the above information can make a significant difference.

History of Video Poker

Video poker history may not be filled with the same colorful characters and anecdotes as the traditional version of poker, but its origin story remains an important chapter in the annals of casino gambling. From the darkened corners of land-based establishments to the virtual realms of the internet, video poker has managed to adapt, flourish and draw in new players in the process.

This article is meant to examine the natural progression of the game over the years, from its creation to the current state of affairs. While this information won’t result in you hitting a royal flush during your next gaming session, it should provide an interesting lesson about how far VP has come over the years.

Early Years

Poker machines existed during the first half of the 20th century, but these games were mechanical in nature and never managed to capture the imagination of the gaming public. In 1964, however, electronic games arrived on the scene thanks to the creation of “21” by Nevada Electronics.

Before long, everything from roulette to horseracing was represented in an electronic form, and poker games also followed suit. The most notable example was Poker-Matic, a straightforward machine created by the developers at Dale Electronics.

While Poker-Matic contained a traditional representation of the game, its popularity managed to plant the seed of imagination within several key figures. As this seed continued to grow, the climate eventually became right for the game to take the next step in its evolution.

Creation of Video Poker

By the middle of the 1970s, computer technology was undergoing a rapid shift. Devices were becoming smaller and faster, and personal computers were finally being offering to the average person.

Si Redd was working as a distributor for Bally, and he had already contributed to the gaming industry by suggesting a number of successful innovations. During a meeting with company executives in Chicago, Si attempted to convince them that video poker was ready to take the next step in its development.

He cited the 1975 release of a video bell slot machine by the Fortune Coin Company, a game that has evolved over time into a draw poker machine. It had developed a sizable following by that point, and Si was eager to take it one step further.

The Bally bigwigs, however, were quite comfortable being in the slot machine business, and they saw no reason to risk their money on a game that was untested. Si accepted their rejection with grace, but not before convincing them to let him take the patent on the game. This was a decision that would put Mr. Redd on the gaming map and wind up costing Bally an untold amount of money.

Within months of securing the patent, Si had reached out to the people at the Reno-based Fortune Coin Company. This led to the formation of Sircoma, which stands for “Si Redd’s Coin Machines,” and they were mass-producing video poker machines in no time.

1979’s Draw Poker was the earliest release by the new company, and it required players to get two pair or better in order to receive a payout. The games took some time to gain traction with wary gamblers, but they had managed to become a regular part of the casino landscape by 1981. Eventually changing the payout requirement to a pair of jacks or better also went a long way to securing the game’s popularity.

Now that Sircoma was doing well, Si decided to take the company public. He re-branded it as International Game Technology and started selling stocks. This organization is alive and well today, and you’ve probably heard it referred to under the name IGT, one of the leading developers of casino games on the planet.

Online Video Poker

By the 1990s, an invention called the “internet” was beginning to get the attention of people around the world. By combining a personal computer with a modem connection, it was supposed to be possible to communicate on a global basis and access an ever-growing stockpile of information. The stories were true, of course, and soon the World Wide Web was in full swing.

Online casino gambling wasn’t there from the beginning, but it didn’t take long for a few enterprising souls to realize that customers might enjoy internet wagers just as much as the real thing. The first online casino software was created by Microgaming in 1994, and its popularity began to grow as soon as it was introduced. Since it was found in most land-based casinos, video poker was among the games included in the earliest forms of software.

As the years progressed and the internet became available to an increasing number of people, online gambling grew at an exponential rate. This also brought greater exposure to games outside of the traditional Jacks or Better model. Some of the more popular internet versions have included the following: Deuces Wild, Bonus Deuces Wild, All American, Aces and Faces, Ten or Better, and Jackpot Deuces.

That brings us to the current point in video poker history, although the final chapter is yet to be written. Luckily, you get a chance to be part of this ongoing story.