Most people have tried video poker, and if you have any experience with a deck of cards, video poker becomes pretty easy.
It’s basically a video game version of draw poker – you get dealt 5 cards, you get to decide how many cards you want to discard and replace, and you get paid off based on the poker hand value you wind up with after the drawing.
But video poker isn’t the same as regular poker. The hand values aren’t the same, and you’re not facing a competitor.
It is, though, your best choice when it comes to gambling machines.
This post explains why that is and offers advice about how to get the most out of your video poker experiences.
1- Always Play for 5 Coins
The first thing to know when playing video poker is that you always – without exception – play for the maximum 5-coin bet.
The reason is that you don’t activate the maximum jackpot for the game without betting the max.’
The best-paying hand in every video poker game is the royal flush – 5 cards 10 or higher of the same suit that are also all adjacent to each other in ranking.
Also, all video poker coins have a base setting where you decide to bet between 1 and 5 coins.
If you bet fewer than 5 coins, the payoff for a royal flush is 200 for 1 or (sometimes) 250 for 1.
If you bet 5 coins, the payoff for a royal flush is 800 for 1.
That’s the only payout that changes based on how many coins you play, but it’s a big enough difference to have a strong effect on the house edge.
Don’t give 2% of your action back to the casino because you decided to play for 4 coins or fewer.
Just place the max bet.
If you have to, go down in stakes.
If you can’t afford a $5 bet on a dollar machine, find a quarter machine and bet $1.25 per spin instead.
2- Start with Jacks or Better
The most basic game of video poker you can play is Jacks or Better. All other video poker games are just variations of Jacks or Better.
The game is called Jacks or Better because that’s where the payoffs start – with a pair of jacks or higher. Any lower ranked hand results in no payout.
Variations of video poker take the Jacks or Better gameplay and trick it up, usually with the addition of wild cards and different payouts for various hands.
For example, in Joker Poker, you’re playing with a 53-card deck instead of a 52-card deck, and the extra card is a joker.
In Deuces Wild, all the 2s are wild.
The pay tables, of course, reflect the addition of wild cards by reducing the size of the payout for most hands. They also often have a pay table that starts with a tougher hand, like 3 of a kind instead of a pair of jacks or higher.
In Bonus Poker variations, you don’t have wild cards, but you do get bigger payouts for 4 of a kind if the cards are of a certain rank. The size of those payouts can change the name of the game, too, so you can wind up with Double Bonus Poker and Triple Bonus Poker.
But the starting point for learning any of these games is Jacks or Better. Once you’ve learned Jacks or Better, consider checking out our blog on common Jacks or Better video poker mistakes.
3- Learn the Most Common Pay Table Differences
One of the reasons I suggest starting with Jacks or Better is because the pay tables stay remarkably consistent from one game to the other – with the exception of 2 hands.
This is a full-pay (or 9/6) Jacks or Better pay table:
- Royal flush – 800 for 1
- Straight flush – 50 for 1
- 4 of a kind – 25 for 1
- Full house – 9 for 1
- Flush – 6 for 1
- Straight – 4 for 1
- 3 of a kind – 3 for 1
- 2 pairs – 2 for 1
- Pair of jacks or better – 1 for 1
You’ll notice that the payout for a full house is 9 for 1, and the payout for a flush is 6 for 1. This is pretty much the best scenario with a Jacks or Better game. If you play with optimal decisions, the house edge on this game is only 0.5%.
But many casinos will have machines with a lower payback percentage, and they’ve only tweaked the payouts for those 2 hands. An 8/5 Jacks or Better game, for example, pays off at 8 for 1 for a full house and 5 for 1 for a flush.
The house edge on that game is 2.7% instead of 0.5%.
You’ll notice that I mentioned that the house edge I’m quoting is based on you making the “optimal decisions.”
That’s something else to love about video poker. It’s a game where the decisions you make actually influence your outcome.
In most casino games, like craps or real money roulette, the best thing you can do is pick the bet with the lowest house edge and move on from there.
But in video poker, you decide which cards to keep and which cards to throw away.
And your general idea about which decision is correct might or might not be the mathematically optimal choice.
This is why computer programmers and video poker enthusiasts have created software that calculates the mathematically optimal strategy for each game.
You can buy software and find websites which offer practice video poker games where you can test your decision-making against the algorithm.
These video poker trainers are worth using if you want to maximize your return on video poker.
5- Use that Slot Players’ Club Card
Most people who’ve spent some time reading about casinos know that you’re supposed to join the players club and always play with your players club card inserted.
This is more important for video poker players than for most gamblers because the house edge is so low that an additional 0.2% can reduce the house edge to practically nothing.
I often advise people to consider how much marketing they’re signing up for when they’re joining the players club. The casino clearly thinks that the ability to advertise to you is worth 0.2% of your action, but if you’re a video poker player, you’re already losing far less than the average casino player.
6- Remember that Video Poker Isn’t Traditional Poker
This goes back to the point I made earlier about practicing and getting the hang of video poker strategy. Some of the decisions you’ll make in video poker will be markedly different from the decisions you might make in a traditional poker game.
Here’s an example:
7- Scout Out the Best Games in the Best Casinos
I wrote a post recently with some roulette advice, and in it, I suggested that you try to find the casino that offers the better roulette games – the ones with a single zero on the wheel.
This advice applies to video poker players, too. You should try to find casinos or online casinos offering video poker games you know how to play with the best possible pay tables.
But since casinos don’t publish information that specific about their offerings, how are you to do that?
I suggest checking out Bing and/or Google for player reports from specific casinos. Multiple sites offer reviews of Vegas casinos that explain which video poker pay tables are available at them.
To me, video poker is a far better option than a slot machine. The payback percentage is almost always higher, and it’s just as easy to learn and play.
Most importantly for me, I have something to do with my mind when playing video poker. I don’t like pulling a lever and getting a random result that I have no part of.
I like to think about which cards I should keep and which cards I should discard.
Video poker, along with blackjack, are the 2 casino games which offer the most intellectual stimulation. They also offer the best odds in the casino.