Things to Look Out for Before Playing Video Poker

Closeup Of a Video Poker Machine With Video Poker Wording

Video poker is pretty high on my list of top casino games. You can play at your own pace, so there’s no stress to quickly burn through hand after hand.

Real money video poker also gives players a legitimate shot at winning. Playing with the best strategy will significantly diminish the house edge. In rare instances, you may hold a slight edge over the casino.

However, not every aspect of video poker is a home run. Depending on your personal preferences, the game may work against you.

Here are a few reasons why video poker may not be your best bet in the casino.

Payout Can Be Confusing

Some gamblers look at the vast pay tables associated with video poker and delight in the detailed information that gives them the exact expectations based on their hand.

However, there are more than half a dozen video poker games that you’ll find in casinos. Many casinos offer four or more games within the exact location.

Each of these games has slightly different pay tables. This may not play a huge factor when you’re choosing a game, but it’s more important than you may think.

The expected payout for a game will depend on this pay table. Most games will range from 98% to slightly above 100%.

So, while they all have great odds, it can seriously impact just how well you do in the casino. You should note that these payout numbers reflect a player using the best video poker strategy for that game.

Research the best pay tables for the games offered at your favorite casino, and make sure to play the games that provide the best payout.

Finding the Right Game Is Not a Simple Task

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as merely walking into the casino and sitting down at the nearest video poker machine.

Many of the games look identical and even play the same but don’t offer you the best payout.

The task facing video poker players is finding a game with a 100% return to player. Anything over 100% will be the ideal payout percentage as it provides a long-term positive expectation.

It’s flipping the advantage on the casino, which is a rare feat accomplished by only the top echelon of advantage gamblers.

Row of Video Poker Machines

Unfortunately, most casino gamblers are entirely unaware of how payout works on video poker. They may have heard that Jacks or Better pays close to 100%, but that’s only under particular conditions.

If a player sits down on a game that is a slight variation, they’ll be none the wiser. I see more misinformation and confusion in the video poker forums than anywhere else.

There’s a lot to digest, and the casinos do a fantastic job of making it difficult to pin one game down as a clear frontrunner. In fact, you’ll have trouble distinguishing the best games from the worst.

Doing a fair amount of research before you ever leave for the casino is the best way to protect yourself from falling prey to the old bait and switch.

Strategy Varies Game to Game

All of these great payout percentages are based on one significant assumption. That’s the assumption that the player will be using the best possible strategy on every hand.

It sounds easy enough; just download and print the video poker strategy chart at home and study the chart until you’re easily able to recite it from memory.

Each game will have a unique strategy that will be needed to obtain the most optimistic expectation. Making matters more complicated is that the same game could have different pay tables with different ideal strategy.

The troubles go on when trying to match the right strategy with the proper game. Still, the most significant factor is that you’re using a strategy at all.

Even by playing the wrong strategy for a game, you’ll post better results than no strategy at all.

You should gather all of the information about the games offered by the casino you’ll be playing in, determine which game has the best payout and focus on the strategy for that game.

The House Edge Looks Amazing If You Bet Max Credits

Don’t overlook the fact that in order to get these fantastic payouts, you’re going to have to play max credits for every hand.

That’s because the higher payouts are only available if you bet max. This is an obvious ploy by the casinos to get you to bet more money.

The house edge dictates what the casino’s take will be on a particular game. So, the more money in play, the more money the casino stands to make.

Slot Machines at a Casino Floor - Video Poker Screenshot - Man Celebrating

Let’s take a game that pays out 99%. That means the casino will keep $1 for every $100 put into play.

Now, if you have a game that allows a max bet of 5 at $1 per credit, That’s $5 per spin as opposed to $1.

So, the casino is only keeping 1%, but it’s 1% of a much bigger pie. When you’re not betting max coins, you actually increase the house edge because you aren’t receiving the highest payout available.

Always find a video poker machine where you can afford to bet max credits for every hand.

The Game Moves Extremely Fast

Video poker hands develop in the blink of an eye. That’s rarely good news for the casino gambler.

In many games, players can get in as many as 400 hands per hour. When you’re playing a game that moves this quickly, it costs you money.

Even if you’re facing a low edge like in video poker, the casino still has an advantage. The faster you play, the more money you’re going to lose most of the time.

So, you should slow the game down as much as possible. If you can slow the game to only 200 hands per hour, you should still be playing at a more than fair pace.
Screenshot of Joker Poker Game on Bovada, Showing Five of Hearts, Diamond, and King Poker Cards
Yet, your expected hourly loss will be cut in half. Remember, the slower you play, the more money you’re going to leave the casino with on each trip.

Slowing down your play is an excellent method for extending your bankroll.

It’s so effective that the strategy will benefit you on any game in the casino.

It’s a Solitary Affair

Most casino games promote a very social atmosphere. Players huddle around tables and share in the thrill of victory.

You’ll usually find a shoulder to cry on when the crushing defeat hits you. It’s a camaraderie that’s been around since the first casinos opened.

In so many ways, it’s us versus them, and they almost always get the best of us. It can be reassuring to have other players in your corner.

Video poker will provide you with no such solace. You’re on an island; the nearest thing you have to a partner in crime is the bartender or cocktail server.

It’s a lonely way to gamble for sure, but you’ll have the best chance of making a profit. I find the solitude of video poker relaxing.

Rarely do I get the opportunity to travel to the casino alone anymore. I’m almost always joined by family, friends, or colleagues.

The chance to break off by myself for a few hours is time I look forward to each trip.

Low Limit Games Pay Poorly

I’ve already covered how you’re going to play max credits to get the best payouts, but that’s not the only trick the casinos have up their sleeves.

The video poker games come in denominations ranging from a nickel up to $5. It’s beautiful that the games are available to such a wide variety of players. Still, there’s something sinister below the surface.

The lower denomination games have much worse pay tables than the higher-stakes games.

Video Poker Odds

Tons of unsuspecting gamblers sit down to a game expecting breakeven odds, only to be left scratching their heads after they’ve burned through another $40.

Be sure to carefully examine the pay table for a machine before you start playing the game.

Equipment Malfunctions Might Cost You

The chances that the machine may malfunction and cost you wins are low. Still, I’ve experienced it myself.

More than once and, in several casinos, I’ve been the victim of a button jamming at the worst possible time. The problem is that people spill drinks and are overall dirty. This causes the buttons you use to select which cards to keep.

Imagine you’re dealt four cards of a royal flush, then your ace disappears with the other discard. It’s maddening, to say the least.

You can combat the janky games by slowing down and taking your time. You’ll be in a much better position to catch any missteps.

In Summary

Video poker is one of the finest games in the casino for players focused on staying close to even with a real shot to get into the black. If you’re consumed with a strategy on every result, video poker is worth a try.

As you can see, video poker comes with its own set of challenges. The reasons why video poker may not be your best bet can all be overcome by doing your homework before your trip.