Guide to Video Poker
Video poker is a favorite among players both online and offline and it’s no surprise why. It's a fun, easy, straightforward game to play, featuring rich and dynamic graphics. But, 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 special symbols, pay tables, bonus rounds, jackpots, and other special features. However, the difference between video poker and slots lies in the fact that slots are a game of chance whereas video poker typically requires some strategic thinking.
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 the strategies that can make video poker really pay off. If you go by hunches or with your gut, you’ll be forking over boatloads of cash to the casino.
That’s why we put together this all-encompassing guide to help you learn how to play video poker and win.
What is Video Poker?
Video poker takes a huge page from the slot machine playbook. It's not a surprise that it comes second only to slots in popularity. But unlike slots, which are purely a game of chance, video poker requires a degree of strategic thinking.
Basically, video poker is five-card draw poker played on a video screen. 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 choices you make while playing can cause you to win or lose.
During video poker, cards are randomly shuffled and dealt from a 52 or 53-card deck. A game with 53 cards is Joker’s Wild video poker. It is best for well-seasoned players to learn and be able to readily recognize potential combinations.
The objective of video poker is to figure out the number of times specific card combinations will appear. Once you understand this, you’ll be able to come up with an effective strategy to win the most from the combinations.
For instance, take Jacks or Better, a classic video poker game with an RTP of 99.5% for long-term play. Interestingly, a few Deuces Wild games have a positive return, including RTPs of 100%. To put it simply, if you play video poker games long enough, you'll get more than 100% in return.
The History of Video Poker
Interestingly, video poker is historically tied to slot machines. In fact, the very first video poker machines existed as early as the 1800s and were referred to as “poker slots.”
The early poker slot machines were games of chance, like slot machines. Players simply pulled a lever to set the reels rolling. Each of the 5 reels displayed a card, delivering a poker hand, once the reels stopped.
Since the early poker machines were games of chance, they were hard to beat and players sometimes complained the games were rigged.
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 devise their own ‘draw’ strategies to sway the outcome.
In the early 1970s, video poker burst onto the Las Vegas Strip. William Redds, who worked for Bally Gaming, invented the first modern video poker machine. Since Bally's wanted to stick with slot machines, Redds was able to keep the patent.
That was good news for Redds, and he soon signed a deal with Fortune Coin Company to produce his video poker machines. In 1979, the Bally's and Fortune Coin Company teamed up to produce Draw Poker. This revolutionary video poker machine quickly spread across the country.
Fortune Coin Company eventually combined with Sircoma, launching an IPO as International Game Technology. The company, now known as IGT, continues to dominate the world of video poker.
Without a doubt, video poker machines have grown in popularity and can be found everywhere slot machines are. 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 was the first to take video poker online. These days, it’s unlikely you'll find an online or live casino that doesn’t have at least a few video poker games. 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, video poker, allows the player to calculate potential payouts and returns based on the paytable information. This is why you need to look at the paytable of a particular video poker game first.
When it comes to choosing the best video poker game, you need to consider the variance or volatility. The higher the volatility, the higher your risk. In this case, you’ll need a bigger bankroll.
Low Volatility Games
Low volatility video poker pays out more often, but big jackpots are rare. In other words, low volatility video poker games deliver a lot of small wins.
A video poker game with a variance of 30 or less is generally considered low-variance. Low variance games are great for players on a budget, or those with a small bankroll. Best of all, if you want to have more fun while making your money last, low volatility video poker is perfect for you. However, don’t expect a lot of jackpots 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 a low-variance video poker game appeals to you, try games like Jacks or Better, Aces and Eights, Bonus Poker, Aces & Faces, Pick'Em Poker, and Double Jackpot Poker, to name a few.
Please note that not every online casino will have all of these low-volatility poker games. However, you should be able to find a low-volatility video poker game in nearly every online casino.
Low volatility usually means you can employ an easy video poker strategy. That also means you're less likely to make a serious mistake. Unfortunately, this could also translate to a less exciting, or even a boring game.
Moderate Volatility Games
While low volatility video poker is great for new players since they're pretty easy to play and don't require a big bankroll. However, if you're ready to up your game, moderate variance video poker games may interest you.
These games combine the best of low and high volatility games; you can get more frequent payouts with a smaller bankroll. Plus, they aren’t as boring. Moderate volatility video poker is games with a variance ranging between 30 to 50.
The best examples of moderate volatility video poker include Double Bonus Poker, Deuces Wild Double Bonus, Double Double Jackpot Poker, White Hot Aces, and Super Double Bonus Poker.
High Variance Games
These video poker games payout less frequently, but, big jackpots are rather common. These high volatility games have a huge appeal with high rollers, and these players have the massive bankrolls to make it work.
If you have a giant bankroll to burn through, with a tremendous payout as the end goal, high variance video poker is for you. These are video poker games that have volatility above 50. A few video poker games have a volatility of 180.
As you can imagine, these high volatility poker games come packed with plenty of action and lots of excitement. The main draw here is you can exhaust a huge percentage of your bankroll ahead of hitting a big payout. Of course, that’s the thrill that high rollers live for.
That being said, if you are a high roller, capable of crafting an intricate video poker strategy, and have an enormous bankroll, high volatility video poker is you.
However, your choice of games is slim. You have your choice of Triple Double Bonus Poker, Loose Deuces Poker, Triple Deuces Poker, Super Double Double Bonus or, Poker Royal Aces Poker with an incredible variance of 184.
Bear in mind that your casino will also be a deciding factor if you want to play video poker online. Not every online casino will have every game. Some may have only low volatility games, and some may have mostly high volatility games.
Generally, be sure to look at the video poker titles before signing up at a casino site. Also, read the online reviews, ask your friends for recommendations, but ultimately, trust your instincts.
If something doesn’t feel right, don’t hesitate to try a different online casino. There is nothing that says you can't sign up for more than one. One casino might have the slot games you like, another could have the best live dealer games. Signing up for more than one casino could get you all of the video poker games you want to try.
Of course, always check out every casino carefully; you can never be too careful with your hard-earned money. Always verify that the online casino has state-of-the-art encryption and other security features in place. It's always important to keep your information secure online.
Get to Know the Paytable
Once you have chosen the right video poker game for you and found the best online casino to play that game, the next logical step is to study and understand the game's paytable.
The paytable could be described as the instruction manual for the game. That's because the paytable will help you craft your video poker strategy. Once you have a good strategy, get ready to win.
The paytables for video poker are based on 5-card poker hands. For the game Jacks or Better the hands are ranked as follows:
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 the 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 the hearts.
Four-of-a-Kind; As the name suggests, this is when you get a hand with 4 different cards of a similar rank. For example, you can get King of diamonds, King of clubs, King of spades, and King of hearts.
Full House; This is a hand with 2 cards of the same rank and 3 cards of a different rank. For instance, 9 of spades, 9 of hearts, 9 of clubs, 7 of spades, and 7 of hearts.
Flush; Unlike a Royal Flush, the 5 cards don’t have to be consecutive. But they need to be the same suit. For example, A, Q, 7, 4, 3, all hearts.
Straight; This is similar to a Royal Flush, but the consecutive cards don’t have to be the same suit. For example, 5 of spades, 6 of clubs, 7 of hearts, 8 of spades, and 9 of diamonds.
Three-of-a-Kind; This is a hand with 3 cards of the same rank. For example, 8 of diamonds, 8 of hearts, and 8 of clubs.
Two Pair; This hand has 2 cards of one rank and 2 other cards of another rank. For instance, 2 hearts, 2 clubs, 9 diamonds, and 9 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 know how much each potential hand for Jacks or Better is ranked, let’s see how to craft a strategy to increase your chances of winning.
Hone the Strategy
For the most part, video poker is a game of strategy and skill. You can't play expecting to win without a sound strategy and game plan. However, right now, your goal is to learn the best strategy for the specific video poker game you will be playing.
As a video poker player, remember your decisions impact the outcomes of your games unlike when you are playing slots. Without a doubt, every hand that is dealt with you will be unique. How you approach each scenario could significantly impact your hand’s outcome.
With every hand you are dealt, you may need to adjust your strategy. And when it comes to video poker, only a mathematically based strategy will maximize your chances of winning at video poker. For example, a strategy that’s great for Jacks or Better, may not work for Deuces, or vice versa.
The following simplified strategy for Jacks or Better is a good example of a general approach. According to this strategy, you pass on a small portion of the return, usually 0.8%. Accordingly, you’ll have a strategy that is far easier to learn and remember.
The theory behind this strategy is to play the highest hand which best matches your cards. The following is a good example that only works for 9/6 Jacks or Better:
Begin 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. Lastly, get rid of everything.
Even the newest players want to jump right into the action. But, if you're inexperienced in playing video poker, it’s important to take some time to practice and hone your skills and strategy. Even an experienced player can use some time to practice and brush up on their strategy.
Fortunately, most online casinos offer free-to-play versions of their video poker games. It's a risk-free and easy way for you to practice before betting real money where it really counts. Practice games, such as Wizard’s will show when you've made a strategic error. Also, Bovada Casino has a very useful practice game.
Place Your First Bet
Hopefully, you've picked your best bet video poker game. Also, you must have lined up your online casino, your bankroll, and you're armed with strategy and skills. Make sure that you have also gotten plenty of practice.
Finally, the time is now to place your first bet. Fortunately, you can adjust your bet at any time. First, choose your bet or insert your money or loaded player card, if you’re playing at a physical casino.
Depending on the amount of your bet, the machine will display the number of credits you have. For example, when you insert $20 and the credit limit is 10 cents, the screen will say you have 200 credits.
When playing online video poker games, you'll pick the credit limits you want to bet. Usually, you can jump between 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents, 50 cents, $1, $5, and $10.
As a general rule, you should play a maximum bet to make the most of your credits every game. For instance, if you want to bet 25 cents per game, always play the maximum number of credits and choose a lower limit per game. The potential payout will be much higher than if you played fewer credits at a higher limit.
Which Cards Should You Hold?
This is where the excitement and fun begin. Also, this is the most difficult part of playing video poker. Knowing which cards to hold will definitely make a huge difference to your outcome. This is where your video poker strategy comes in. Do not deviate from your strategy, even if it seems counterintuitive.
Use your strategy when you practice. This helps you commit it to memory and prevent gaming mistakes. Every bad decision you make will cost you. It’s worth remembering that your knowing the poker hand rankings and remembering the paytable will become vital. Take these into account when mastering the strategy of your chosen video poker game as you play.
When to Double Down on Your Winnings
An important question to ask yourself is, should you or should you not continue betting your video poker winnings? This is especially true of games with a very low house edge. Sometimes, casinos will offer you a chance to double your winnings if you keep going. Or, go home with nothing if you lose. It's a risky offer, to say the least.
This is a big risk and a real worry for many video poker players. To put it simply, it works like this; the casino allows you to pick just one card from your winning hand. If the card you pick is higher in value than the one the house picked, your winnings are doubled.
Some casinos may place a limit on how many times you can double down on your winnings. Some casinos will allow you to quadruple your winnings. This is often the case for video poker games made by Playtech. Once again, this is a situation where your carefully crafted strategy will serve you well.
Video poker can sound complex, but really, it’s one of the easiest casino games to learn, play, and master. The critical thing to consider is your strategy, and sticking to the optimum strategy for every hand. Also remember, practice makes perfect, and it will be worth your time.