Video Poker is what you get if you cross Stud Poker with a slot machine and throw in a few wild cards. It’s fast, almost like playing Stud, and you’ve got a huge range of options. You can choose Jacks or Better, Deuces Wild, All American, Joker Poker or a number of other variations. Each game has its own personality and rewards a particular kind of play. Also, the machines let you play anything from 1 through 5 coins, with the payoffs improving at the high end of the scale. So if you know your Poker hands and take the time to learn your game, Video Poker can be fast, fun, and rewarding.
Old Poker salts should keep in mind that each game has its own strategy. All American, for example, pays better than the others on straights and flushes, so that will effect your approach to card selection. When I first started playing Video Poker, I thought it would be a lonely hearts version of the real thing. Not so. The games do indeed have their own individual winning strategies, and taking the time to learn your game means better payoffs.
History of Video poker
Video poker is fast and fun but requires a lot on the part of the player. To play it you have to think. Unlike regular slot machines, video poker is an interactive machine game because you choose which cards to keep and which to discard. It’s based on five-card draw poker, which is relatively easy to learn and understand. You have a great amount of control in this game. You can pick the right machine, select the amount to wager and have an excellent edge against the house when you play skillfully.
The first video machines were introduced in Las Vegas in 1976. These early machines were limited on payout’s, but did have a $1,500 royal flush payout on the dollar machines if all five coins were inserted. Once the casino operators and manufacturers increased the payout’s (to levels like eight or nine coins for a full house, for example), players started to take notice and the game’s popularity began to improve. Today casino managers are moving old slots out and installing new video games as fast as possible. Video poker is not only popular with patrons, it’s also one of the best games in the casino for a player.
As with all forms of Poker. the player aims to get the best hand possible. The payoffs are marked right on the face of the Video Poker machine so it’s a fast lesson in what the hand ranks are. All Video Poker variations rank hands the same, though a given variation may add an extra rank or two.
As you would expect from a slots version of Poker, betting is pretty straightforward in Video Poker. On any given machine you can typically choose $0.25, $0.50, $1, or $5 games. And the bets are 1x, 2x, 3x, 4x, or 5x (Max Bet) whichever game you’re playing. So if you’re playing a $1 game, you can place bets of $1, $2, $3, $4, or $5.
The first thing to note is that the game face shows you the payoff for each betting level. Invariably playing Max Bet pays off better, overall, than any of the lower multiples. Smart players pick the betting level they are comfortable with and choose their game accordingly.
In other words, if you’re comfortable with a $5 bet, then pick a $1 machine and play at Max Bet for $5. If $25 bets are more your speed, pick a $5 game because Max Bet (5x) puts you at the $25 level. In either case, you’re getting the best payoff odds you can for that game. This is similar to Slots strategy.
Also of key importance is the fact that the payoff ratios vary from game to game. Where Jacks or Better may pay 25:1 for Four Of A Kind, All American typically pays 30:1 and Joker Poker only pays 20:1. These ratios do not necessarily reflect the true odds, so again, knowing your game helps you play smarter.
The odds on a given hand vary from game to game, of course, but generally speaking the house edge on Video Poker games is pretty small, even 0% in some cases. Where the Video Poker games get an edge is with players who do not follow an optimum strategy. In other words, winging any given game based on a loose understanding of Poker is going to lose you money.
Each Video Poker variation has its own quirks when it comes to the odds and optimum player strategy. In the next section we’ll give you a rough guide to the most popular games, but detailed strategy guides would take pages. If you’re serious about Video Poker, try some of the material in our reference section. Smart players can do pretty well at Video Poker.
Jacks or better
Jacks Or Better strategy can get a little complicated. For a full analysis check our references below, or follow this rough strategy guide:
Keep any hand that already pays. Possible exceptions, by potential value, are:
- Hold four card Royal Flushes to make Straights or Flushes.
- Four card straight flushes, inside or outside.
- High card Pairs rank here.
- Three card Royal Flushes.
- Four card Flushes.
- Low Pairs rank here, trying to build Three Of A Kind.
- Four card Flushes.
- Four card Straights. Hold inside Straights only if you’ve got three or more high cards (J, Q, K, A).
If you’ve got nothing worth money, here’s a general strategy, in order of preference:
- Keep any two suited high cards.
- Discard unsuited high cards.
Four mixed-suit high cards:
- keep any three suited, toss the unsuited.
- otherwise, keep them all.
Three unsuited high cards:
- Keep all three of K-Q-J.
- with A-K-J or A-Q-J, discard the A.
- Keep any two unsuited high cards.
- Keep any single high card.
- Tens or better
- Same strategy as Jacks Or Better where 10 is now a high card.
General strategy includes, best options first:
Hold any 5 Of A Kind or Royal Flush.
Else, if you’ve got four 2’s: keep ’em!.
Else, if you’ve got three 2’s:
hold any made 5 Of A Kind or Royal Flush
otherwise, keep the 2’s and discard the rest.
Else, if you’ve got two 2’s:
hold any made Straight, Five Of A Kind or Royal Flush.
hold any 4 of a Kind.
hold any 4 of a Royal Flush.
otherwise, keep the 2’s and discard the rest.
Else, if you’ve got a single 2, keep any made hand EXCEPT:
hold four card Royal Flushes over made Straights, Flushes and
- keep four card Straight Flushes of all types.
- hold three card Royal Flushes.
- pairs: with two pair, keep one, but not both.
- hold four card Flushes.
- hold four card Straights.
- hold three card Straight Flushes, including gaps.
- hold four card inside Straights.
- hang on to two card Q or J high Straight Flushes.
- discard two card Royal Flushes.
- if you’ve come this low in the list, discard everything and try again.
Remember that only K and A are high cards: this is a Kings or Better game.
Keep a Joker if you get it. You’ll only see in once in ten hands, on average.
Don’t keep an inside Straight.
Straight Flushes are a good payer and they occur considerably more frequently than in a game like Jacks or Better
Straights and Flushes pay well here so it tips the usual strategy in their favour
Prefer inside Straights over one or two high cards.
Prefer 4 card outside Straights and 4 card flushes over pairs, even high ones.
Hold any three cards to a Flush.