Bad Habits That Make Video Poker Players Lose Money

Distressed Man With a Video Poker Graphic and Background

Video poker is one of my top options every time I go to the casino. If the casino has a good Jacks or Better machine I usually spend at least part of my time trying my luck chasing a royal flush. But I have to keep a few things in mind to make sure I don’t fall into some bad habits.

It doesn’t matter which video poker games you like, if you develop bad habits, it’s going to cost you money. I’ve had to overcome many different bad habits, and I’ve put together the list on this page to help you learn from my mistakes.

Here are five terrible habits that every real money video poker player needs to know about and eliminate.

Royal Flush or Bust Strategy

When I play Jacks or Better, the top-paying hand is a royal flush. But other machines have a different top-paying hand, depending on the odds of hitting each hand.

You have to get lucky and hit a top-paying hand from time to time to help make up for your losses all of the other times you play and don’t get lucky. But you have to be careful about chasing the top-paying hand if it ends up costing you money.

Here’s an example of chasing a royal flush when it’s more profitable to play a hand a different way.

Video Poker Royal Flush of Diamonds

You’re playing Jacks or Better and have the queen of spades, queen of clubs, jack or clubs, seven of hearts, and six of diamonds. If you’re chasing a royal flush at all costs, you keep the queen and jack of clubs. But the most profitable play is to keep the pair of queens.

You have to use smart strategy when you play video poker. This means that sometimes, you have to take a smaller payout instead of taking a long shot draw to a royal flush or other top-paying hand.

The best way to learn which hand is the most profitable is to get a video poker strategy chart for the game you’re playing. A strategy chart already has the best plays listed in order so you always make the most profitable playing decision.

Going Cheap on Betting

Video poker pay tables are designed are particular way. The machines give you an option to wager from one to five coins, but the pay tables punish players for risking fewer than five coins. If you’re going to play video poker, you need to forget about all of the coin options other than the five-coin maximum wager amount.

Take a quick look at the pay table on your favorite video poker machines. I’m going to use a Jacks or Better pay table for this example because it’s my favorite game. But almost every video poker pay table is designed in a similar way.

When I wager one to four coins, the payment for a royal flush starts at 250 coins and is multiplied times the number of coins. This means I win 500 coins if I risk two coins, 750 for three coins, and 1,000 coins for risking four coins.

If this progression continued the payment for a five-coin wager would be 1,250 coins. But you can clearly see the payment for a five-coin wager is 4,000. This is a big difference.

The extra coins you get when you make a five-coin wager and hit a royal flush make a big difference in the overall casino house edge you’re fighting against. If you’re not going to wager five coins, you’re better off playing many other gambling options in the casino.

Don’t get in the habit of being cheap when it comes to betting on video poker games. The best strategy is to bet five coins. So, if you can’t afford to do this, you should either not play video poker or find a machine with a lower coin value.

Accepting a Weak Casino Pay Table

Every video poker game variation has different pay tables. And every variation also has a single best pay table. If you don’t know the difference each available pay table makes, you need to learn before you play another video poker hand.

The pay table sets the minimum edge the casino has for the machine. The best pay tables for you are the ones that set the lowest possible casino edge. These machines give you the best chance to win, and every time you play on a machine that doesn’t have a good pay table, you’re losing more money than you need to.

Online Video Poker Game

You should never accept anything less than the best pay table. The casino counts on players sitting down at a machine that doesn’t have a good pay table and playing, or they expect players to accept a lower pay table even when they know better. You can’t afford to fall for this trap or get in this habit.

Spend some time researching the pay tables for your favorite video poker variations. I prefer to play Jacks or Better so I know the pay table I’m looking for is a 9/6 table. If the casino doesn’t offer a 9/6 machine, I don’t play video poker.

This is something that I won’t compromise on. You need to learn what you need to know so you can set a line that you won’t compromise on. Every time you compromise, you’re losing money.

Banking on Wild Cards

Many video poker variations use one or more wild cards. Wild cards are fun, and many gamblers like games that have them. But video poker machines that use wild cards come with a price. And if you’re not careful, you’re going to make this price higher than it needs to be.

The first thing you need to learn is how many wild cards your video poker machine uses. Deuces Wild uses four wild cards, while some other video poker variations just use one wild card. This is important to know so you can get an idea of how likely you are to get a wild card.

With four wild cards, one out of every 13 cards is a wild card. But with a game that adds a joker to the deck as a wild card, only one out of every 53 cards is a wild card. Consider these two scenarios to see how much of a difference this makes.

You’re playing deuces wild and have four cards to a straight flush. You fold the remaining card and draw one card. This means there are 47 cards remaining in the deck, with four wild deuces and the one card you need to complete the natural straight flush. This means that five out of the 47 cards complete your straight flush.

If you’re playing a video poker variation that adds a single joker to a standard deck, and you’re in the same situation, there are two cards in the deck that complete your straight flush out of 48 cards.

As you can see, you have a much better chance of completing the straight flush when there are five out of 47 than when there are only two out of 48.

The point I’m trying to make with these examples is you need to learn not to rely on wild cards too much when you’re making strategy decisions. And when you do need a wild card, know the odds of getting one.

Refusing to Use Gambling Win Limits

The longer you play video poker, the more you lose—unless you get lucky and get a big hand. The odds of getting a big hand are small, so most of the time, you lose if you play too long.

Sometimes, you lose from the beginning. But other times, you get ahead. Because a lot of players might not know when to stop, most video poker gamblers keep playing and end up losing.

Progressive Video Poker Machines

The best way to lock in a video poker win is to set a win limit before playing. Set an amount that you’re happy with as a win limit and anytime you get ahead by this much, just stop your session and move on.

You’re not going to hit your win limit often. But when you do hit it, you can walk away from the video poker machine and sustain your gambling bankroll.


Now that you know the top five bad habits that cost video poker players money, you can start eliminating them and building better habits. Getting a royal flush or the top-paying hand is always a good thing, but you can’t afford to chase it at all costs.

Learn the best pay table options for your favorite game and use the maximum coins. This gives you the best chance to win. When you play a video poker game with wild cards, don’t depend on them too much. And finally, use limits to lock in wins and limit your video poker losses.