Online Video Poker
What You Need to Know
Before Playing Video Poker
Real money video poker is one of the best ways to gamble in a casino. Many beginners overlook video poker machines because they’re overshadowed by the slots, which tend to be flashier. It’s a mistake to do so, because online video poker USA games have a much lower house edge.
One advantage of online video poker is the game is based on draw poker. Many gamblers first learned to play cards by playing 5-card draw at the kitchen table with friends and family. If you have, then you probably have a basic understanding of video poker strategy.
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It’s recommended for gamblers to master the game’s strategies because the optimal play on online video poker games provides some of the cheapest betting in any casino.
How To Play Online Video Poker
Online Video Poker is based on 5-card Draw Poker, which most gamblers know to play. For those who don’t, let’s give a short introduction. In 5-card draw, the player is dealt 5 cards. The player can choose to hit or stand. When you ask for a hit, a card is discarded and replaced with another drawn card. When you ask to stand, you keep the card you have.
Players can make a hit or stand decision on all cards separately. You can hit on 5, stand on 5, or choose any combination in-between. Once the redraw happens, your hand is compared against the paytable and the results are determined. You can check out the video poker tips to get you started on playing like a veteran.
Online Video Poker Games
Players are going to find a number of variants of these gaming machines. Naturally, some are going to offer better odds and payouts than others.
Below, Online United States Casinos gives a quick review of each of the top online video poker USA casino games, starting with the original: jacks-or-better video poker.
Jacks or better video poker is the basic game and still has some of the best odds. Many players simply call this game “draw poker”. Its name derives from the fact the basic winning hand is a pair of jacks. If you receive a pair of jacks (or better) on this gaming machine, you win money. Otherwise, you lose the bet.
That points out a key element of video poker. You are not playing against an opponent. Instead, you must compare your hand to the pay schedule. Payouts are received on the royal flush, straight flush, four of a kind, full house, flush, straight, three of a kind, two pair, or jacks or better.
The full pay version of this online video poker game is called “9/6 jacks or better”. It is called so because you’re paid 9x the bet on a full house and 6x the bet on a flush. This version has a house edge of 99.54%, which means you would expect to lose 46¢ on every $100 you wager on the game.
That’s a terrific payout, which is quite comparable to classic blackjack. More commonly, you’ll find machines which offer 8/6 jacks or better (98.39% return) or 8/5 jacks or better (97.35%). These are still good machines but offer a higher house edge than craps or baccarat.
Bonus Poker offers an additional big bonus on one of the rare hands while having a lower payout on one or more of the common hands. 9/6 Bonus Poker is the full pay version and it has a 99.64% return.
Often, 8/5 “Bonus Poker” is the best available version of video poker in a casino. It does not offer the same stellar results as several of the games listed below, but learning 8/5 Bonus Poker strategy is important, because of how common the game is. 8/5 Bonus Poker has an expected return of 99.17%.
To find an 8/5 Bonus Poker machine, look for the machine in which you receive a bonus payout of 80x the initial wager if you receive four aces.
Joker Wild adds a 53rd card to the deck: the joker. This acts as a wild card, substituting for any other card in the deck. The tradeoff is the player must build a hand with two pairs or better to win.
The full pay version of Joker Poker has an expected return of 100.65%. Most versions have a payout percentage between 98% and 99%. The best of these has a payout of 99.98%, but many machines in casinos offer Joker Wild in the 98% range. Joker Wild often is one of the best games you’ll find, but it has a wide variance between different machines.
“Tens or better” is similar to jacks or better, but it pays out when you receive a pair of tens. The tradeoff is you get paid less for certain hands. The full pay version of this game pays 99.14%. Another version exists with a payout of 97.96%.
The difference in the two games is the four of a kind. The full pay machine pays 25x on the four of a kind while it pays 20x on the lesser variant. This is a common game, but there are better online video poker variations available. USA online casinos know novice players are likely to assume a game which pays for a pair of 10s is better than a game which pays for jacks.
Deuces wild online video poker is a common game found in all online casinos and many land-based casinos. Deuces wild makes the 2-card wild, which unlocks many winning possibilities not allowed in jacks or better.
The full pay version of deuces wild has an expected return of 100.76%, making it a positive expectation game for those with the skills to play optimally. The full pay versionof this online video poker game pays 9x for a straight flush, 5x for a four of a kind, 3x for a full house, and 2x for a flush. Two other versions of this game should be mentioned.
Another online video poker USA version pays 11x for a straight flush, 4x for a four of a kind, 4x for a flush, and 2x for a flush. This highlights something gamblers should note. A casual glance makes this game appear far superior to the full pay version of deuces wild because 3 of the 4 payout deviations are better for this game. The increased payout for the four of a kind more than makes up the difference, though. The 11/4 version of deuces wild still has a nice 99.96% (99.9569%) payout percentage.
Yet another variant of this game exists, which is called “Not So Ugly Ducks” Deuces Wild. It pays 16x for a five of a kind, 10x for a straight flush, 4x for a four of a kind, 4x for a flush, and 3x for a flush. Notice again that the 4 of a kind payout trumps all other payouts, because of its hit frequency. “Not So Ugly Ducks” has an expected return of 99.73% (99.7283%).
Another trend players should note is the large number of “bonus” and “double bonus” video poker variants there are. These games offer an additional bonus payout for some card combination, in this case, a 400x payout for four deuces plus an ace. Bonus deuces wild has an expected return of 99.86%.
This is a tricky game because it forces players to decide when they should hold cards with the 2-rank. In draw poker, twos are not a common card one wants to hold, so a player needs to read strategy advice to learn what the optimal scenarios are for holding onto their 2-cards.
A second version of this game offers the same payouts, except for a 9x payout on a straight flush, instead of a 10x payout. This version has an expected return of 99.45% — still nice, but not full pay.
“Loose Deuces” video poker is another variant with excellent odds. The full pay version of this game is 101.64%, making it the best possible version of online video poker you can play in the USA. The best version could be found at “The D in Las Vegas” in Downtown Las Vegas until June 2015, but it no longer exists there.
The key payout in this online video poker variation is the 5 of a kind, which has a 17x payout on the full pay version. The next-best variant has a payout of 100.97%. The 5 of a kind in this version pays 15x the original wager.
Two other variants with 12x the initial bet for a 5 of a kind have an expected return of 100.47% and 100.02%. A fifth version of Loose Deuces with a 99.78% expected return is found in Las Vegas casinos, too. The main takeaway is the return on Loose Deuces is excellent, whichever version of the game you play.
Aces and Eights is a version of draw poker which pays bonus amounts for a four-of-a-kind built with either aces or eights. In either case, four aces or four 8s trigger an 80x payout, instead of the 25x payout for other hands. If you get four 7s, the payout is 50x the initial bet. Aces and Eights online video poker can be found in most online casinos.
The full pay version of Aces and Eights has a better payout percentage (99.78%) than full pay Jacks or Better (99.54%), so it’s a solid variant of the game and certainly worth learning.
In RealTime Gaming casinos, players have the option to play a hybrid game that is a cross between slots and video poker. European Slot Poker plays out like draw poker, but its payout table includes fruit symbols like oranges, grapes, lemons, watermelon slices, and cherries. The bar symbol is the highest rank in the game. It’s a fun game that isn’t quite a slot machine and isn’t quite an online video poker variant.
Keep in mind these are only going to be found in online and mobile casinos supported by RTG software. Several prominent sites use RealTime Gaming software, including Bovada. The Wizard of Odds says he does not know what the expected return on this game is, which is probably a bad sign.
Bally’s All-American video poker is a version of online video poker based on jacks or better. It increases the payouts on full houses and two pairs but reduces the payouts on straight flushes, flushes, and straights. Like most draw poker machine, the full pay version of this game is not available as often as it used to be.
Despite that, Bally’s All-American has one of the highest expected returns of all online video poker USA games — if you can play optimally. That’s a big “If” because the strategy is complex and most gamblers cannot master it. For bettors who like a challenge, it’s a challenge with a payoff.
USA Video Poker Variations
With the popularity of these online video poker USA games, there are many other games and variations of these popular titles, including:
Online Video Poker Return to Player
Full Pay Video Poker
The list below represent the most popular online video poker USA games. The table shows the best version of each game. Notice that several video poker machines offer better payouts than jacks or better.
Deuces Wild (100.76%)
Loose Deuces (101.64%)
Joker Wild (100.65%)
Bonus Deuces Wild (99.86%)
Bonus Poker (99.64%)
Jacks or Better (99.54%)
Tens or Better (99.14%)
Short Pay Video Poker
“Short pay” is a term to describe games which do not offer the best payout; if you’re interested in other terms and definitions, check our online video poker terms page. The online video poker USA games listed below still have nice payouts and do not represent the lowest expected return of all variants. They do represent a more realistic expectation of what you’ll find in casinos.
The multipliers on the Loose Deuces machines refer to the payout on a 5 of a Kind.
Loose Deuces (17x) (100.97%)
Loose Deuces (12x) (100.47%)
Loose Deuces (12x) (100.02%)
Joker Wild (99.98%)
Deuces Wild (99.96%)
Loose Deuces (11x) (99.78%)
Not So Ugly Ducks (99.73%)
Bonus Deuces Wild (99.45%)
Bonus Poker (98.17%)
Tens or Better (97.96%)
Multi-Hand Video Poker
In the last few years, online casinos have begun to offer multi-hand versions of video poker. The multi-hand games adds excitement and decreases volatility because more hands are played at once.
Most of the top games now have a multi-hand version, but availability varies a great deal from one online casino to the next. Since this might be new to readers, let’s focus on one version of multi-hand video poker.
52-Hand Deuces Wild
Below is a screenshot of 52-Hand Deuces Wild. This game provides a lot of excitement, because the more hands you play, the more action you have. That being said, playing more hands means you’ll be gambling more money unless you adjust the bet size.
Playing the max hands is recommended, but only if you play within your means. The great thing about 52-Hand Deuces Wild is you can play just a single hand of video poker or play 5 hand, 10 hand 25 hand, 52 hand and even 100 hand video poker games.
Full List of Video Poker Variations
The full list of games is hard to list. A partial list of games you might encounter includes:
Aces and Eights
Aces and Faces
Bonus Deuces Wild
Bonus Poker Plus
Chase the Royal
Deuces & Joker Wild
Five Aces Poker
Super Times Pay Poker
Triple Double Bonus
Many of these online video poker titles above have words like “bonus”, “double”, “triple”, “ultimate”, and “super” in the title. These tend to have either a bonus payout or a boosted payout. Most have worse odds than the original game the designer tweaked.
Choosing a Real Money Video Poker Game
When choosing a real money video poker game, the decision comes down to one of two choices: payouts or odds. If you plan to grind away on video poker online row, then you want to play the game with the best house edge. In this case, playing games like Deuces Wild, Loose Deuces, or Bally’s All-American is your best option.
If you want quick sessions before you go to dinner, a Vegas show, or the poker room, then it pays to consider games with the biggest payouts. An alternate strategy is to choose the games with more large payouts. In either case, the idea is you don’t mind more losing sessions if you want a chance at a quick score. These best online video poker USA games for this purpose are the “bonus” games, such as Bonus Poker or Double-Bonus.
Maintain Realistic Expectations
The problem with either of these strategies is the harsh reality of short pay video poker, once you go into a casino. The full pay video poker games with theoretical positive expectations are nice, but you might not find those gaming machines where you play. To get the best results, you’ll need to do some research and preparation before your casino visit.
You can start with the best online casinos recommended by us. Gamblers who live in the Las Vegas area should do a walk-through of the local casinos to find the best gaming machines. Once they do, then these real money gamblers can study one or two key games. With enough effort, local players can find some of the games above.
Advice for Las Vegas Tourists
For tourists and other out-of-towners, research at an online player’s forum helps. Before going to Las Vegas or Atlantic City or Tunica, find a forum which has a video poker general discussion and ask where the best machines are.
Failing that, visitors to Las Vegas should learn one or two basic games, knowing they’ll be able to play those gaming machines at most Las Vegas Strip casinos. Learning “Bonus Poker” is a good option because it’s so common. The same goes for Jacks or Better played at less-than the full pay version. Both sets of information travel well.
Pick a Game: Master One Strategy
A key part is studying video poker strategy. Each variant has its own complex strategy. It’s the rare gambler who can master a half-dozen or more games. Video poker is a game which rewards specialization. Find a game, memorize the strategies, and play that game with steady devotion.
Remember that online video poker in the USA has great odds, but only if you play the right strategies. Some gamblers are not going to enjoy playing the same variant all the time, but those who want strategy advice are probably wanting to stretch their bankroll as far as it will go.
The best way to do that in video poker is to do two things. One; learn how to spot the best version of an online video poker game in the US. Two; master the optimal strategies for those games. Taken to its logical conclusion, you’ll eventually settle on one version of video poker and master it.
Video poker machines had a humble beginning. The first true “draw poker” machines were built in the mid-1970s, as the first personal computers were being designed. The video poker machine combined a television-style screen with a solid state central processing unit. These were clunky, primitive machines which broke down often.
These machines had a niche entertainment value in the 1980s, but they were forgotten by most casino gamblers. Their popularity mirrored the rise of slot machines’ popularity. As electronic gaming machines (EGMs) became more popular, gambling writers began to discover the value of video poker.
Las Vegas gamblers enjoyed playing the machines at off-the-Strip casinos because they had a high expected return and low denominations. Still, most of the public ignored them.
Books on Video Poker
In the late 1990s, a handful of gaming journalists and authors began to analyze draw poker and recommend the game. John Grochowski’s Video Poker Answer Book and Frank Scoblete’s Victory at Video Poker helped gamblers learn the strategy.
Bob Dancer made video poker famous with Million Dollar Video Poker. In the 1990s, Bob Dancer arrived in Las Vegas with $6,000 and won a million dollars in 5 months playing the video poker machines. His book told the story of that windfall in an entertaining and eye-opening fashion.
These books convinced many gamblers that video poker machines (of the era) could be beaten. These EGMs each had two or three different pay tables. Those which offered “full pay” video poker machines had a greater than 100% expected return.
That is, they had a positive expectation. You could make money playing the VP machines, but only if you knew how and where to find the full pay machines. Learning strategy and playing optimally also was required.
Video Poker Boom
When the Poker Boom happened, new editions of the books above hit store shelves and Amazon.com. Online experts echoed what they read and this fueled mass interest in online video poker. Mainstream casino visitors began to look for full pay video poker machines. This naturally led casino operators to curtail the use of such machines.
These days, finding a full pay video poker game is a bit like finding a unicorn. Las Vegas casinos have done away with many of the penny machines, but 25¢ gaming machines are still available in Las Vegas. Even without full pay video poker widely available, the game competes with blackjack to offer the best house edge in brick-and-mortar, online, and mobile casinos.
A gambler could spend a lifetime mastering all there is to know about online video poker. The many rule variations and pay tables can be confusing. Video poker designers add to the confusion with frequent updates and payout changes. Their purpose is to make the game complicated.
If you wade through the information, video poker is worth the trouble. This guide to online USA video poker is a primer on the game for beginners and intermediate players, but this is a simple doorway into a larger world. Keep reading and practicing, and you’ll achieve near-optimal play.
Video Poker FAQ
Below are some frequently asked questions about online video poker. These are presented in a Q&A form, to help answer the common questions and concerns people have. For a more in-depth FAQ, check it out the video poker FAQ.
Do poker strategies work in video poker?
Some poker strategies work. Hand ranks are the same in both games. Building good hands requires similar strategies.
Skills that help in player-versus-player poker do not help. For instance, bluffing is no good, since video poker is all about hand strength. Reading the other player also doesn’t work, because the other player is a pay table.
Why do casinos offer video poker which can be beat?
Because it’s extremely difficult to beat the game. There is one reason casinos can offer such excellent odds on video poker: it’s hard to achieve optimal results.
Most gamblers are not going to be optimal video poker players. For that reason, even if the theoretical return is positive, they step up to the machine having a negative expectation. Better put, they’ll end up losing money on the game. Still, video poker is a game in which less-than-perfect play still produces less-than-perfect results.
Is there one comprehensive book for video poker strategy, complete with paytables?
Not really. While several good books have been written over the years, they become outdated quickly. Video poker is ever-changing, with many new variants and pay tables. This makes it hard for any book to be a comprehensive guide.
The books I discussed earlier in this article are fine books. They should not be considered the ultimate source of video poker knowledge.
Can video poker machines which tell gamblers which cards to hold be trusted to give optimal strategy?
In my experience, VP machines provide trustworthy, optimal moves. No machine which offers a positive expectation is going to offer such advice, or else it would lose money. If a video poker machine offers advice, it’s going to have a negative expectation for the player.
Are video poker hands ranked the same as poker hands?
Most of the time: yes. Bonus video poker variants often pay out more for specific hands, such as the five of a kind hand in Loose Deuces. Here, you are encouraged to build hands with lots of 2s.
Should I move on to a new machine if the four of a kind doesn’t hit quickly?
Video poker machines use a random number generator. Each result is self-contained. No hot or cold machines exist. When the hand is dealt, it is a completely random result.
Leave a machine if you need a drink, a meal, a restroom break, or a walk around the casino to stretch your legs. Walk away if you get bored or your losses are mounting. Do not assume the machine has grown cold, though.
Can you name a video poker strategy analyzer that can create a near-optimal strategy for any variant with any payable?
Yes. Winpoker 7.0 from Zamsow Software Solutions compiles strategy for video poker games. Winpoker can be downloaded from the iTunes Store for $9.99. It’s a good investment for anyone wanting to optimize strategy.
One drawback is Winpoker has not been updated since June 2014. While the strategy isn’t likely to have changed in that time, it’s a sign the application might not be supported in the years to come. The latest version is 2.1 and it is compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.
Frugal Video Poker by Jean Scott and Video Poker Strategy Master by Tom Ski are other programs which might help.
I have seen strategy charts for the same game which are different on some points. Shouldn’t strategy charts be the same for the same version of the game?
Some experts strive for total accuracy, while other experts want a brief and readable chart. Also, authors sometimes express their tips in different ways. Unless you’re reading charts which go into minute detail for the sake of total, optimal strategy, there are going to be slight variations.
Doesn’t the house have the advantage in video poker?
As a general rule, the casino has the advantage in all games they house. Video poker is a better proposition for players than most casino games, with the exception of certain blackjack variants.
Some video poker machines give a theoretical advantage to the player. These are expressed as a +100% expected return, also called a positive expectation game.
Other video poker machines give the advantage to the casino. These are expressed as less than 100% expected return, also known as a negative expectation game.
If a game has a negative expectation, that means you are expected to lose money while playing. Results vary, but the expected result is a loss. The house edge is the expected loss. For instance, real money slots with a 98% expected return to player (RTP) have a house edge of 2%.
Is it true that casinos which offer loose slots also offer loose video poker?
No hard evidence proves that theory. More than one respected mathematician says their incomplete data shows a correlation between loose slots and loose video poker, though.
If you can’t find up-to-date information on the loose VP machines at a casino, read where the loose slots are. I don’t guarantee they correlate, but both indicate a willingness by management to drive visits by offering better payouts. It’s a better guess than going in blind to the odds.
Some progressive jackpot video poker machines reset to a minimum level. Others reset to a smaller progressive amount. Why is that?
The traditional way is to reset to a minimum jackpot, such as $50,000 when the progressive hits. Games like Playtech MegaJacks does this.
Other games, like Jackpot Deuces from Viper, reset to a secondary jackpot or second meter. When you hit the big progressive, the second meter becomes the high jackpot. This pot often is significant by the time it becomes the main jackpot.
Should I play the single-play or multi-play versions of a gaming machine?
Either way has its advantages, but multi-play, multi-hand, and multi-spin games have a built-in trap. If you are used to $10 bets and you choose the 3-play version, you are making $30 bets each round. In that case, you need to drop your bet level down to something commensurate to your standard bet level.
All things being equal, multi-play has its advantages, though. If you’re playing 3 hands at a time instead of 1 hand and the overall bet size is the same, then playing multi-play cuts down on the variance. It’s three results instead of one, so the results should more closely mirror the expected return. If you play a positive expectation game, you want the multi-hand version at a comfortable bet level.
There is one big caveat.
Multi-play video poker often has stingier pay tables. As a general rule, the more hands, the worse the pay schedule is going to be.