Video Poker FAQ

On this page, you will find the most commonly asked questions about Video Poker and the answers from our OUSC team of experts.

What is Video Poker?

video poker faqIf you like a game that is a unique blend of skill and luck, then video poker could well be your bread and butter. It started appearing in casinos in the 1970s and has been one of the most popular casino games ever since. Walk into any Las Vegas casino and you’ll see hundreds of video poker machines and players hoping to hit the ever-elusive royal flush.

Due to the increasing popularity of video poker, you’ll now find machines in most casinos across the world. It’s also available in almost every reputable online casino. The game has a high payback rate when played using perfect strategy. Implementing the perfect strategy is difficult, however, and many mistakes are made by players which increase the house edge by decreasing the payback percentage.

Deck and Hand Rankings

Blackjack Shoe iconVideo poker uses a 52-card deck and the same hand rankings as traditional poker, however, you don’t play against anyone else. The best hand is a royal flush, with the worst hand varying depending on the type of video poker game you’re playing. In the most popular forms of video poker such as Jacks or Better and Deuces Wild, the lowest hand will be a pair of jacks and three of a kind respectively.

Video poker is a single draw game with five exposed cards. The player tries to achieve the best possible hand to win the most money, as outlined on the particular machines’ pay table.

How do I Play Video Poker?

Although video poker is a very simple game to play, it can be a hard game to play well. In its simplest form, you can play video poker by following these steps:

Insert cash or a voucher into the machine.
Select which game you’d like to play if it’s a multi-game machine.
Select how many coins you’d like to wager.
Press deal and receive five cards.
Hold or discard any of the five cards based on the best strategy.
Press deal again and the cards you didn’t hold will be discarded and you’ll receive new cards in their place.
Your final five card hand will either win or lose, based on the pay table.

As you can see it’s very simple to play video poker. The hardest part of the game, and where skill comes into play, is step 5; choosing which cards to hold and which to discard. See the question below on strategy for more information and advice on what to do in this step to ensure you’re achieving the highest possible payback percentage on a given machine or game.

What Type of Video Poker Games are Available?

Video poker machine SCVariety is the spice of life, and this is also true when trying to find a video poker variation that suits you. You can find hundreds of variations and multi-hand versions. Most video poker machines in casinos will have four or five game types available on each machine, and online you’ll find a plethora of game types in the online casino’s video poker library.

The two main types of video poker games are wild-based games and a pair or better variations. Pair or better machines pay players for a minimum of a pair of a certain rank, like Tens or Better or Jacks or Better. From this point, variations will have different payouts for different hands based on specific cards, such as aces and eights video poker, which is based on jacks or better game-play.

Some of the more popular video poker games include:

Aces and Eights

Aces and Eights

Online Bonus Deuces Wild

Bonus Deuces Wild

Online Bonus Poker

Bonus Poker

Deuces and Joker

Deuces and Joker

Online Deuces Wild

Deuces Wild

Online Double Bonus Poker

Double Bonus

Online Double Double Bonus Poker

Double Double Bonus

Full Pay Jacks or Better

Jacks or Better

Joker Wild

Jokers Wild

Tens or Better Poker

Tens or Better

What is the Difference Between Video Poker and Real Poker?

Poker Games iconVideo poker is based on the fundamentals of traditional poker. This means a 52-card deck is used and that five cards are dealt to the player. In video poker, it’s purely a solo game where the player attempts to make the best five-card poker hand that pays out the highest amount according to the pay table. The player does not have to beat the dealer or other players at all, and only loses if they fail to make the lowest winning hand, such as a pair of jacks in jacks or better.

As you can see some of the fundamentals of traditional poker are used in video poker and that is pretty much where the similarities stop. This is why it’s very appealing to a lot of players. You don’t have stress like you can experience at a poker table and you can play in peace and quiet while in your own world.

Can You Win at Video Poker?

Win IconYou can find some games that will offer over 100% payback when played with perfect strategy, which allows players to make money while using that machine. This is in the long run though and generally, most players will make mistakes which drop this percentage back below 100%. A game that offers over 100% payback is known as a positive expectation game, and they tend to be quite rare.

So to win at video poker you’ll need a huge bankroll, a lot of patience and perfect game-play, and a machine with a high payout. This in unrealistic to most players, but it does provide quite the incentive, especially when compared to online slots which have no skill involved at all and no chance to win in the long run.

You won’t find video poker machines online with 100% payback percentages. The best machines pay back over 99.5%, but never quite get to 100%.

One key point when playing video poker is that you must bet maximum coins to be eligible for the highest payout when you hit a royal flush. If you don’t do this, you’re hurting the payback percentage massively.

For recreational players, video poker is a great choice because you can implement your skills to achieve a payback percentage close to 100%. This is obviously very appealing, and if you’re lucky enough to hit that 1 in 40,000 royal flush, then you could be in for a very nice payday.

The reason a few casinos offer positive expectation games is because they know many players will make mistakes to drop this back down. If you play video poker make sure you always us the best possible strategy.

How is Video Poker different from Slots?

Slots iconSlots games are programmed to take money from players and are purely based on luck. You won’t find a slot machine that requires skill or strategy. Your slots outcome is purely based on luck. Generally, they’re programmed to pay back around 90-95% of the money that is wagered on them. This means, in the long run, there’s no way a player can win on slots. Alternatively, video poker is a game where luck mixes with skill. Players can implement a strategy to impact how much they win or lose in a session, and this can greatly improve the payback percentage.

Some video poker machines even have a payback percentage of over 100%, which means if you implement the perfect strategy, in the long run you’ll be a winner. However, most players make mistakes or don’t bet the max amount of coins, which can severely impact this payback percentage and drop it back below 100%.

As you can see, there is a big difference between slots and video poker and as a player, your money can go a lot further on video poker. Also, it’s a challenge, which will make it much more entertaining for some players as opposed to just hitting the spin button on a slot machine and hoping for the best.

What is Video Poker Strategy?

Betting Strategy iconStrategy in video poker is concerned with what cards to hold, and which to discard during the draw. It sounds simple, but in reality, the number of combinations you can be dealt is huge and deciding which to hold and discard can be quite a daunting and confusing task.

Another layer of complexity is introduced when you consider that there are a huge number of variations of video poker games, all which have different strategies. Bring in the games that have wilds, and the decisions become even harder.

Some online video poker games also have progressive jackpots which are awarded by hitting three or four extra cards in the deck. This increases the complexity of the strategy a player is required to follow when playing the game even more.

You can find online trainers to help you learn basic strategy. A good starting point for beginners is to play jacks or better and use a trainer. These trainers will alert you when you make a mistake and instruct you on what action you should’ve taken.

After you have strategy memorized for jacks or better you can then play video poker for real money and start training yourself on other variations. You should always follow the right strategy for the right game so that the payback percentage is as high as possible. Another great aspect of video poker is that you can take all the time you want when making a decision, so if you’re not sure of something then take your time and think it through.

Should I bet Max Coins in Video Poker?

Coins iconYes, you should always bet max coins, which will always be 5 coins, when you play video poker. This is because the royal flush payout on max coins will be proportionally larger than the payout for hitting one when betting 4, 3, 2 or 1 coins. This directly impacts the payback percentage of the machine and will hurt your chances of winning by a few percent, which is quite large when it comes to video poker.

If your bankroll doesn’t support max coins on a particular machine, then move to a lower coin denomination machine and bet max coins on that one. This will be much better for you in the long run and won’t leave you upset when you finally hit the royal flush but weren’t betting max coins, and missed out on a sizable chunk of the payout.

If you do need to drop down coin denomination size and move to a different machine to allow you to bet max coins, be sure to always check the pay table at the lower value machine as casinos will quite often pay out less on these machines because players aren’t betting as much. You’ll still be able to find good payout machines at low values, though, just with a little bit of searching.

How do I Read a Video Poker Pay Table?

Paytable iconAt first, a video poker pay table can seem daunting and confusing. However, if you’re armed with the basics of how betting on a video poker machine works, then the pay table will become quite easy to read.

On a pay table, there are five columns which list the poker hands that will award a win. The first column will indicate how much is won with a certain hand when betting 1 coin, and so on from there across the columns to the max bet at 5 coins. The hands will be ranked from highest at the top to lowest at the bottom. On most machines the best possible hand will be a natural royal flush.

The most important thing on a pay table is the amount that particular machine pays out for certain hands as this will allow you to determine the approximate payback percentage and whether it’s worth playing.

Many pay tables are referenced by how much they pay out for a flush and full house when betting 1 coin. For example, the best pay table for a jacks or better machine will be 9/6. This means a full house will be paid out 9 coins and a flush will be paid out 6 coins. The more complex the game the more complex the pay table and you may have to look beyond just the payouts for a flush and full house to determine which machine is the best.

What is a Progressive Jackpot?

Progressive slots jackpotA progressive jackpot is a prize pool that increases until someone wins it. Usually, this jackpot will be available across a group of machines or games so it can be won in multiple locations. For video poker, progressive jackpots are also available when a player hits a royal flush while betting maximum coins. This may be available at just a bank of machines at a bar in a casino or across the whole casino, on a particular online casino, or across many online casinos through a game that is developed by a particular software developer.

Some video poker games, such as Supajax which is available online, will have 53 cards in the deck and the progressive jackpot is completely separate to actual game-play. Supajax is available online across many casinos that use Microgaming software.

If the video poker game has a progressive jackpot for a max bet coin win on a royal flush, then you should always be betting max as this will drastically increase the payback percentage of that particular game. This is also true for machines that don’t have a progressive jackpot, as we touched on earlier.

You should be extra careful when playing for a progressive jackpot where a separate card is used, such as in Supajax. While a game like this plays much like other video poker games, the strategy is slightly different. Make sure you’re always using the best strategy chart.

What are Multi-Hand Machines and How do they Work?

Multi hand video poker allows you to play multiple hands at the same time. Some machines will let you play five hands while others will let you play up to 100 hands. You’ll need a larger bankroll to play more hands, as each one is considered a separate bet. So if you play 100 hands at 50 cents per hand, you’ll be paying $50 for that particular round.

For the most part, multi-hand games are exactly the same as standard single hand video poker. The same pay table and rules will be in play with the only difference being that when you’re dealt the first five cards this will only be shown on one hand.

Once you choose which cards to hold and discard, these choices will be mirrored on all other hands and each one will draw new cards from separate decks. This means if you flop a monster initially you could be in for a very nice payout. After you complete all of your hands, you’ll be paid out individually for each one and be awarded the relevant amount of credits.

What Type of Video Poker should I play?

For beginners, the best game to start on is jacks or better. For the more experienced players out there, you may be better going with a full pay deuces wild machine which often will pay out over 100% with a perfect strategy. There are many other types of video poker games you can try out.

New video poker machines are popping up daily online and in real casinos so you won’t be short of choice. It’s always a good idea to study the pay table of any game you play to ensure your chances of winning are as high as possible. Additionally, you should always be betting max coins to make sure you can win the top payout. After these two things, game preference is purely up to you. It’s always a good idea to train on a game for free first to learn how to implement the best strategy, before moving to a real money machine and wagering your hard earned cash.

Should I always go for the Royal Flush?

Royal FlushIn short, no. Based on the type of video poker game you’re playing, there will be a specific strategy to follow. If you get two cards to a royal, then quite often it’s not the best option to keep those and try to luck out.

If you have three cards to a royal, it depends on if you already have a winning hand. If you have four cards to a royal flush, you should always try to draw that fifth card to get the big win. Be sure to check up on the perfect strategy for each game though as this is only a very loose guide to going for the royal flush.

Although it seems strange to not go for the best possible hand, if you always do it you will be going against the perfect strategy and the payback percentage will be reduced. It’s always best to review the strategy for a particular game to determine when you should and shouldn’t go for that royal flush.

In video poker, you shouldn’t always be aiming to get the highest possible hand and pay out because in the long run it costs you money to do so. Sometimes it’s best to play it safe and be happy with a lower value hand that you have already made, to ensure you get some winnings.

Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller Online Casino and Game Expert

I've been writing for OUSC about the casino industry for more than 15 years. I love playing games, including poker, Scrabble, and trivia games. I enjoy researching and writing new online casino reviews and sharing game strategies.

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