Video Poker

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Guide to Video Poker - Online Casino Gems

Video poker is a favorite among players both online and offline and it’s no surprise why. These enjoyable games feature-rich graphics and are fairly easy and straightforward to play.  

Perhaps the most enticing aspect of video poker is its lucrative odds. In fact, some video poker games have a return to player (RTP) of 100% or higher. 

At the heart of it all, video poker is fairly similar to slots. Both are reel-based games that have pay tables, symbols, jackpots, bonus rounds, and other special features. The main difference between slots and video poker is that slots are a game of chance whereas video poker is typically strategy-based.

Did you know that you are 500% more likely to hit a jackpot playing video poker than playing online slots? If you’re thinking of leaving online slots in favor of something that’s more rewarding than online slots, look no further than video poker. 

Given its higher player odds and straightforward gameplay, there’s one small catch. You’ll need to learn video poker strategy to take full advantage of the excellent odds. If you go by hunches or with your gut, you’ll be forking over boatloads of cash to the casino. 

That’s why we assembled this comprehensive guide to help you learn how to play and win at video poker. 

What is Video Poker?

Video poker takes a huge page from the slot machine playbook. Unsurprisingly, it’s the second most popular casino game right behind online slots. Unlike slot machines that are purely chance-based, however, video poker features an element of strategy or tactics. 

Essentially, video poker is a five-card draw poker game played on a video slot machine. Because of this, you will need to deploy all the skills and strategies that are called for in regular 5-card draw poker. In other words, the decisions you make as a player can affect your chances of winning.

In a video poker game, cards are dealt from a randomly shuffled 52 or 53-card deck. Joker’s Wild video poker games are the ones that offer an extra card. It is best for well-seasoned players to learn and be able to readily recognize potential combinations.

As a player, your goal is to be able to calculate the frequency at which certain card combinations will appear. This way, you’ll be able to effectively strategize how to make the most winnings out of the combinations. 

That’s the beauty of video poker. If you play some of the best video poker titles using the proper techniques and strategies, you can enjoy odds that beat those of table games like Blackjack, Roulette, or Baccarat.

For instance, take Jacks or Better, a classic video poker game with an RTP of 99.5% for long-term play. Interestingly enough, some variations of Deuces Wild are known to have positive returns, which means RTPs of greater than 100%. Said another way, when you play these video poker games over a long period of time, you will get more than 100% in returns in its full-pay version.

The History of Video Poker

Video poker’s interesting history is closely tied to that of slot machines. In fact, the very first video poker machines existed as early as the 1800s and were referred to as “poker slots.”

As the name suggests, poker slots were based largely on chance, just like slot machines. Players had no choice of drawing or holding any cards they received. Similar to today’s online slots, poker slot machines featured 5 spinning reels, which delivered a poker hand when the reels stopped.

Since they were games of pure luck, the predecessors of video poker didn’t catch on with players and casinos alike. They were difficult to beat and the players often complained of being cheated.

Skill Draw, the first poker machine with a ‘draw feature’ was developed in 1971 by a gaming engineer named Charles Fey. All of a sudden, poker machine gameplay shifted from chance to strategy. Players could use certain ‘draw’ skills to influence their gambling outcomes.

Video poker made its way into the scene in the early 1970s when William Redds, an employee of Bally Distributing Company created the first video poker machine on behalf of Bally Gaming. Because the company didn’t want to veer away from slot machines, allowed Si Redds to own the patent. 

That was a true blessing for him because he soon struck a deal with Fortune Coin Company to produce video poker machines at scale. In 1979, the two companies jointly produced Draw Poker, the first-ever video poker machine which was unveiled across the United States. It was an overnight sensation.

Sircoma and Fortune Coin Company formed International Game Technology and filed an IPO in 1980. The company is what’s now called IGT, one of the biggest names in the video poker gaming sector.

Over the years, video poker made its way everywhere slot machines can be found. Players can not only find them in casinos, but also airports, adult clubs, bus terminals, pubs, bars, and even bowling alleys. This is no coincidence. Both types of machines feature reels that are run by a random number generator (RNG) and they don’t require a dealer to be present. 

In 1994, Microgaming beat IGT to taking video poker online. It’s hard to find an online or brick-and-mortar casino that doesn’t feature at least a handful of video poker games these days. They are some of the most popular and frequently played casino games among players, available on desktop, tablets, and mobile devices. 

The Ultimate Guide to Playing Video Poker

1) Choose the Right Video Poker Game Wisely

Video poker games are available in different versions in online casinos, coming in all shapes and sizes. So, you may ask, how do I choose a video poker game that’s a good fit for me?

The first course of action is to consider the theoretical RTP percentage. If you’re a slot veteran, you’re typically at the mercy of the RTP and payout numbers that are published by the software developer and online casino. 

Unlike slots which is a game of pure chance, with video poker, you can actually calculate possible payouts and returns based on the information available from the paytable. This is why it’s important to look at the paytable of a particular video poker game first. 

When all’s said and done, choosing the best video poker game boils down to variance, also known as volatility. The higher the variance or volatility, the higher your risk, which means you’ll need a larger bankroll.

Here is a listing of the three types of video poker games based on volatility:

  1. a) Low Volatility Games

Low variance games pay out more frequently, but big wins are also rarer. In other words, these are the games that deliver small wins more often.

A video poker variant with a volatility of 30 or less is often considered a low-variance game. These are ideal games for budget video poker players with the smallest bankroll. Also, if you want to stretch your money and have more fun, this is what the doctor prescribed. Equally, don’t expect many massive jackpot wins to come your way.

A video poker variant is considered low-variance when it has a volatility of 30 or less. Low volatility games are ideal for video poker players who’re on a budget with the smallest bankroll. If you want to stretch your dollars and have more fun, these low volatility games are the way to go. On the flip side, don’t expect many massive jackpots wins to come your way. 

If the description sounds like you, opt for low-variance video poker games like Jacks or Better, Bonus Poker, Aces and Eights, Pick'Em Poker, Aces & Faces, and Double Jackpot Poker, just to name a few.

Note, however, that not every online casino features all of these low-variance games. Nonetheless, you should be able to find a version of these games in almost all online casinos.

Low volatility often means an easier video poker strategy. This means you are less likely to make a mistake. Unfortunately, this also may translate to lowered levels of excitement and the game can feel boring.

  1. b) Moderate Volatility Games

Low volatility games are great for rookie players because they are fairly easy to play and require a smaller bankroll. However, if you want to take it up to the next level you may be interested in moderate variance video poker games.

They combine the best of the two worlds - more frequent payouts with a smaller bankroll yet they aren’t as boring. Moderate volatility games are defined as those whose variance ranges from 30 to 50.

The best examples include Double Bonus Poker, Double Double Jackpot Poker, Deuces Wild Double Bonus, Super Double Bonus Poker, and White Hot Aces.

  1. c) High Variance Games

As the phrase suggests, these are video poker games with high volatility. They pay less frequently, but big wins are quite common. They are usually designed for high rollers, players with massive bankrolls.

If you have a giant bankroll to burn through while waiting for an enormous payout, high variance video poker is your best bet. These are games whose variance is higher than 50. Some high variance video poker games have a volatility of up to 180.

As you can see, such high volatility games can create plenty of action and come with lots of thrill and excitement. The main draw here is you can exhaust a big percentage of your bankroll before you hit a major payout. Of course, that’s the point.

That being said, if you are a gambler with an elaborate video poker strategy and an enormous bankroll to match, high variance games are for you. Unfortunately, your choices are narrow. You have to choose from Royal Aces Poker with a variance of a whopping 184, Triple Double Bonus Poker, Triple Deuces Poker, Loose Deuces Poker or Super Double Double Bonus Poker.

Bear in mind that your choice of the casino will also matter if you are looking to play video poker online. As a general rule, be sure to do your due diligence on potential casino sites by reading online reviews, asking for player recommendations, checking out player ratings and ultimately trusting your instincts.

If something doesn’t add up, don’t hesitate to walk away from a particular online casino. Remember a reputable and worthy casino site should operate under close supervision of a recognized gambling licensing authority, preferably the UK Gambling Commission, Malta Gaming Authority, e-Gaming Curacao, and the Alderney Gambling Control Commission (AGCC).

One can never be too careful with their hard-earned money online. That being said, you need to verify that the casino site has cutting-edge encryption and other security technologies in place. This will help keep you and your information secure online.

2) Get to Know the Paytable

Once you have selected the right video poker game and, of course, the best online casino to play at, the next sensible step is to peruse and understand the paytable. This is like the instruction manual for the game because it will help you devise your video poker strategy, and determine potential winnings.

A paytable in video poker is drawn based on 5-card poker hands, which are ranked as follows for the game Jacks or Better:

Royal Flush; This means you see 10-J-Q-K-A, all of the same suit. For example, 10-jack-queen-king-ace all of clubs, spades, hearts or diamonds.

Straight Flush; This means 5 consecutive cards of a similar suit appear. For instance, 4-5-6-7-8, all of hearts.

Four-of-a-Kind; As its name suggests, this is where you get a hand with 4 different cards of a similar rank. For instance, you can get A of diamonds, A of clubs, A of spades, and A of hearts.

Full House; This is a hand with 2 cards of the same rank and 3 cards of a different rank. For example, 7 of spades, 7 of hearts, 7 of clubs, 4 of spades, and 4 of hearts.

Flush; Unlike the Royal Flush, the 5 cards don’t have to be consecutive. But they need to be of the same suit. For instance, A, Q, 7, 4, 3, all of the spades.

Straight; This is similar to Royal Flush, but the consecutive cards don’t have to be of the same suit. For example, 5 of clubs, 6 of spades, 7 of clubs, 8 of hearts, and 9 of diamonds.

Three-of-a-Kind; This is a hand with 3 cards of the same rank. For example, 5 of diamonds, 5 of hearts, and 5 of clubs.

Two Pair; This hand has 2 cards of one rank and 2 other cards of another rank. For example, 4 of hearts, 4 of clubs, 7 of diamonds, and 7 of spades.

Pair of Jacks or Better; it’s exactly what it sounds like - 2 J’s, Q’s, K’s, or A’s

Now that you are aware of how much each possible hand of Jacks or Better is worth, let’s see how to strategize and increase your chances of winning. 

3) Hone the Strategy

To reiterate, video poker is, for the most part, a game of skill and strategy. You can't play expecting to win without a sound strategy and game plan. At this point, you should aim to learn the best strategy for the specific video poker game you’ve selected.

As a video poker player, remember your decisions impact the outcomes of your games unlike when you are playing slots. No doubt, every hand that the machine deals you will be a unique scenario. How you approach each scenario could significantly impact your hand’s outcome.

This happens with every hand you are dealt. Only a mathematically based strategy will maximize your video poker playing session. A strategy that’s great for Deuces, for instance, may not work for Jacks or Better, or vice versa.

The Simplified Strategy by Wizard for Jacks or Better is an example of a good general approach. In this strategy, you relegate a small part of the return, usually 0.8%. In return, you’ll enjoy a strategy that is far easier to remember and learn.

The idea behind this approach is to play the list’s highest hand which best matches your cards. Here is a prime example which only works for 9/6 Jacks or Better;

Start with a Full house or better, 4 to a royal flush, straight, three of a kind, or flush, 4 to a straight flush, two pair, high pair, 3 to a royal flush, 4 to a flush, low pair, 4 to an outside straight, 2 suited high cards, 3 to a straight flush, 2 unsuited high cards, suited 10/J, 10/Q, or 10/K, one high card, and finally, get rid of everything.

4) Practice, Practice, Practice!

Decisions, decisions! Even the best of us want to jump right in on the action, but, if you don’t have experience playing video poker before, it’s important to take some time to practice and sharpen your game-playing skills and strategy. A veteran player can also use some practice to brush up on some of their tactics.

The good news is that most online casinos offer free-play versions of their video poker games. This makes it easy and risk-free for you to practice before betting real money where it really counts. External practice games like Wizard will indicate when you make a strategy error. Bovada Casino features a solid practice game, also.

5) Place Your Maiden Bet

By now, you should have selected your favorite video poker game. You must also have obtained your desired bankroll, online casino, strategy, and skills. Make sure that you have also gotten plenty of practice.

Finally, the time is now to place your first bet. The good thing is that you can adjust your bet amount at any time. But, first, you have to choose your bet size or insert a money/load card in case you’re playing at a physical video poker machine.

Depending on the amount you inserted into the machine, you will see the number of credits on the screen. For instance, when you insert $50 and the credit limit is 10 cents, the machine will tell you that you have 500 credits.

For online video poker games, you will have to pick the credit limits you want. Generally, you can switch between 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents, 50 cents, $1, $5, and $10.

As a general rule, you must play a max bet to make the most of your credits per game. For example, if you intended to wager 50 cents per game, always play the max number of credits and pick a lower limit per game. The possible payout will be much higher than when you play fewer credits at a higher limit.

6) Which Cards to Hold?

This is where the fun and excitement begins. It’s also the most challenging part of playing video poker. Knowing which card to hold will certainly make a big difference to your gaming outcomes. Thankfully, this is where your video strategy chart comes into play. Stick to your strategy no matter how counterintuitive it might seem.

Use the strategy chart when you practice. This helps you commit it to memory and prevent gaming mistakes. Every incorrect decision you make will cost you in return. It’s worth noting that your knowledge of the poker hand ranks and paytable may also become especially useful. Take them into account when mastering the strategy of whatever video poker game you intend to play.

7) Know When to Double Down on Your Winnings

The major question is: should you or should you not wager your video poker winnings? This is particularly true with video poker games with a very low house edge. Casinos offer you a chance to double your winnings if you succeed or go home with nothing if you lose.

This is a big gamble and a genuine concern for most video poker players. The way this works is simple: the casino lets you choose a single card from the winning hand. If the card you choose is higher in value than the one chosen by the house, you double your winnings.

Some casinos may place limits and other requirements that apply to how many times you can double down on your winnings. In some cases, the casino may allow you to quadruple your winnings. This is usually the case for video poker games from software provider Playtech. Again, this is a scenario in which your master strategy will come to your rescue.

Conclusion

We understand that video poker may sound complicated but it’s one of the easiest types of casino games to learn, play, and master. The most important thing to remember is to learn and adhere to the best strategy for each hand. Consistent practice will also be worth your while and money!