Video Poker Casino Guide

Video poker is one of the oldest electronic games available today, this game initially became commercially available after the price of CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) monitors became affordable, and this was then paired with an SSCPU (Solid State Central Processing Unit). The original game models were made available to retail gambling locations around the same time as the first PC did; however, that was during the 1970s, and since then, they’ve become much more technologically advanced.

It was during the late 1970s when the game started to gain traction when a company called SIRCOMA (Si Redd’s Coin Machines) introduced a title called Draw Poker. Through the 1980s, the game gained more fans and was a huge success in casinos as it was viewed as a more user-friendly variation of traditional table poker. Modern casinos are now littered with these machines and they’re extremely popular with regular casino visitors.

This game has also taken off in online casinos, and most people are drawn to it as it’s still viewed as a more recreational form of poker; however, this doesn’t change the fact that it’s just as challenging. In this segment, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at this popular game, along with the rules, effective strategies, variations, and much more.

Playing Video Poker Online

Video Poker is incredibly popular online due to the variety of games available, and casino operators have taken advantage of this by deploying a variety of challenges, tournaments, and general contests for you to enjoy. Most of these have large cash prizes and they’re usually based on a points system. One of the great things about the game is that you’ll be able to enjoy the games on mobile devices too such as a smartphone or a tablet, and most games make a seamless transition to smaller, high-definition screens.

The most important part of playing online is finding a reputable casino that has the relevant licenses, is audited regularly, and can provide you with adequate customer support if needed. There’s also the important task of understanding how the welcome bonus works, and this should be read in the terms and conditions as some online casinos have a habit of being extremely vague when it comes to important information.

How to Get Started

Like any other game, there are a few things you’ll have to be familiar with before getting started with the game.


Like traditional poker, video poker has its terminology which is extremely important because if you don’t know it, it can give you a disadvantage when playing. Below you’ll find a full list.

  • Auto Hold – A feature of the game that automatically selects the cards to fold.
  • Discard – To remove cards from your hand after the first deal.
  • Draw – The second cards that are dealt, this only applies to you if you’ve discarded cards.
  • Full Pay – The highest paying variation of the game.
  • Game Denomination – The value of the coin size or cards in a game.
  • Hand – The cards that were dealt to you.
  • Hold – When you opt to keep the cards that you’ve been dealt with from the first deal.
  • Low Pay – Games with a higher house edge and a low RTP.
  • Multi-Play – An in-game feature that’ll allow you to play with more than one hand.
  • Not So Ugly Ducks – A game that pays 16 times for 5 of a kind and 10 times for a straight flush.
  • Power Poker – This is the most lucrative strategy.


It’s a good rule of thumb to practice a casino game for free before trying to play for real money. Video poker is a game that you should know like the back of your hand if you’re hoping to have any success. Hence it’s a good idea to play a couple of free practice games.

Rules & How to Play

When searching through the options provided by the online casino you’ve chosen, you’ll find a vast variety of titles. However, nearly all of them will be some kind of variation of a 5-card draw, which is the most popular. This variation starts with you being dealt a 5-card hand, which is completely random, that comes from a regular 52 card deck, sometimes it’ll be 53 if there’s a joker involved. The aim of the game is to try and improve on your current hand by deciding which cards to hold and which ones to keep. The discarded cards will be replaced by new ones, which are random, and this will be your final hand. When discarding, you're allowed to discard 0 to 5 cards from your original hand.

However, there are major differences between video poker and real poker. While there are similarities between the two such as the 52-card decks, the 5-card hands, and the hand rankings, everything else is different. When playing video poker, you should never try to implement strategies from real poker as gameplay between the two is different from one another. By doing this, you could even destroy your chances of finding any success in video poker.

The key difference between the two is that the choices you make in a real poker game depend on the actions of the players around you.

Understanding Paybacks

When playing a video poker game, the payback percentage is an influence of the odds essentially in a deck of cards and the payouts for the various hands. It's important to understand that the denomination you’re playing doesn’t matter. The payback percentage will stay the same when you move from one paytable to the other.

Poker Hands

One of the most confusing aspects of the game for new players, video poker/poker hands can be difficult to grasp if you’ve never played before. Below you’ll find a list and a detailed description of each hand.

  • Royal Flush – this features a 10, J, K, Q, and Ace in the same suit.
  • Straight Flush – these features five cards that belong in the same suit displayed in a row, e.g. 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 of Hearts.
  • Four of a Kind – this has the same card in each of the suits e.g. 8, 8, 8, 8, of spades + another card.
  • Full House – these features three of a kind + a pair in the same hand e.g. J, J, J, Q, and Q.
  • Flush – these are five cards in the same suit in no particular order.
  • Straight – these are five cards in order of but not of the same suit.
  • Three of a Kind – this has two unpaired cards with three of the same cards.
  • Two Pair – this has two different pairs or sets of the same card + one other card.
  • One Pair – one pair of the same card.
  • High Card – none of the cards match.

Variations of Video Poker

Like most casino games, this game has many variations and where each of them differs when it comes to the primary objective, the odds, and a whole range of other factors. Below you’ll find each of them under Full Pay Games and Low Pay Games.

Full Pay Games

These are the games that have a high payout percentage.

Jacks or Better

This is one of the most universal variations of the game, Jacks or Better is played by starting off with two Jacks. Jacks or Better features a full house payout that’s 9 times the original bet, and the payout for a flush is 6 times that. Occasionally, both9/7 and 10/6 variations of Jacks or Better are promoted at online casinos.

Bally's All American

This game was developed by the software provider, Bally Technologies, and All American Video Poker is a title that’s based on the aforementioned Jacks or Better. The main difference between the two of them is that All American features higher payouts for hands such as straights, straight flushes, and flushes, but it has a decreased payout for hands such as two pairs and full houses.

Tens or Better

Another game that stems from Jacks or Better, Tens or Better features the lowest paying hand in the form of two tens instead of two Jacks. The strategy amongst the games is pretty much the same, with the exception of the payouts regarding the flush and full house hands.

Joker's Wild

As the name suggests, Joker's Wild incorporates the use of a joker to the game. The joker acts as a fully wild card and can be used as a substitute for building a stronger hand. With the addition of the wild joker, comes an additional winning hand in the form of 5ofa Kind. There’s another full pay variation of this game called Joker Two Pair or better; however, it’s no longer played due to the extremely complex strategies despite the high returns.

Bonus Poker

Another game built on the concept of Jacks or Better, Bonus Poker features a much greater payout ratio towards four of a kind hands. The variation that falls under the full-pay category of this game has a return of 99.2%. This game has a range of versions that feature various bonus payouts which are based on the position of the four of a kind hand.

Most of the aforementioned games are based on Jacks or Better, and this is a testament to the overall popularity of the game. The key differences between these games are the return percentages on some of the hands.

Low Pay Games

These are games that have a relatively low payout percentage with a higher house edge. All of these games are once again based on Jacks or Better.

There are five variations which are listed below.

  • 9/5 Jacks or Better – Full house equals 9x the bet and the flush equals 5x the bet.
  • 8/6 Jacks or Better – Full house equals 8x the bet and the flush equals 6x the bet.
  • 8/5 Jacks or Better – Full house equals 8x the bet and the flush equals 5x the bet.
  • 7/5 Jacks or Better – Full house equals 7x the bet and the flush equals 5x the bet.
  • 6/5 Jacks or Better – Full house equals 6x the bet and the flush equals 5x the bet.

Progressive Jackpot Games

This could be any game of video poker; however, the total jackpot gets higher with each bet that’s made.

Effective Video Poker Strategies

Most people often think that slots and video poker are the same, and while you could say that they’re similar, video poker allows the player to make important decisions during the game that they’ve chosen to play. Both games are random; however, once the bet is made, that’s where things start to get very different.

With five random cards dealt, you’ll need to make a choice on which ones to keep and which ones you’ll discard. When playing the game, you have complete authority over the hand that you’ve been dealt. It’s your decision what happens to those cards and this will determine your success.

Every choice that you make is technically a strategy as your goal is to win, you could opt to discard the whole hand and make a Hail Mary draw for a royal flush. Another strategy you could follow is to discard your whole hand except the ace and hope for a royal flush too. Once again, it’s a conscious decision that you’re making because you want to win. However, not all strategies are equal, and that’s a bad strategy, especially when you factor in the odds of getting a royal flush is 1 in 649,737. The point we’re trying to make is that by discarding a potentially good hand for a perfect hand, you’re most likely going to come up short.

Being Aware of What You Have

There’s a lot of responsibility regarding the choice to keep or discard a card. And being aware of what you have will make things much easier for you. Here we have an example, let's say that you’re dealt a hand that consists of four 4s and an ace. What’s the right move to make? Would you keep the Four of a Kind, or would you discard it, keep the ace, and hope for a Royal Flush? A Royal Flush would pay handsomely; however, you already have Four of a Kind, so why take the risk?

Discarding or keeping cards based on your intuition are technically strategies, but developers have implemented the paytables based on the statistics and mathematics of the game. This allows the casinos to generate a profit, therefore to find success in the game, you’ll need to make decisions based on the same statistics and math.

Playing most games based on intuition will bring you some success for a short period; however, it’ll ultimately fail you, as the decisions you’re making are illogical. The more you use this strategy, the more money you’ll be handing over to the casino, and unless your goal is to lose, you won’t be having a good time. Only by using strategies based on math, you can be sure that you’ll find a lot more success in the long run.

It’s important to understand that you won’t receive the same hand every time if you do, then there’s a problem with the game. However, the point we’re trying to make is that each hand is a different situation that needs to be dealt with accordingly. Failure to handle it properly will result in a loss.

By combining luck and logic, and understanding what the odds are of getting the perfect hand, you’ll be able to execute a solid strategy. However, this is a game of chance, and there’s only so much that you’re in control of.

Our Final Thoughts

This classic game has been a casino favorite since the first personal computer was invented and developed into one of the most sophisticated games available at mobile casinos. There are plenty of variations available and with enough practice, and thorough research, not that you’ll need to do any, you’ll be finding success quite easily. Overall, this game relies on both luck and good decision-making skills, so be sure you’re ready before diving in.

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