Video Poker Rules

Video poker is a popular casino game which offers exciting and enjoyable experience to all players, regardless of their skill level. To knowledgeable gamblers, however, it offers significantly higher odds of winning than are usually found in slot games. Indeed, video poker is often compared to slots, because originally, the two are played on similar looking machines, but in fact, the two types of game have little in common.

Video poker first appeared in the 1970’s as a then-modern alternative to traditional poker and over the next decade, it became an essential addition to almost every land-based casino. Its huge popularity was due to the fact that it seemed simpler for players to just insert coins and place bets on machines than to actually sit at a table and play poker against others. Still, the game brought the same thrill and excitement, combined with great odds of winning and sometimes, even the prospects of hitting a jackpot. Today, video poker machines are still played at brick-and-mortar gambling facilities, but it is the virtual variation of the game which is a total fan favorite among players at online casinos.

Rules

There are various video poker games in casinos and each has slightly different rules and payouts. Some have the Jokers included, some offer bonuses. The diversity of games can be overwhelming even for those who have some prior experience playing traditional poker. This is why before commencing a session at any video poker game, players should become familiar with the basic rules. It is true that you can win if you are guessing during play, but if you are employing even the simplest strategy based on the rules of the game, you will significantly increase your odds of winning.

Objective

video poker objectiveThe objective of the game is to acquire a certain set of cards that offer some payout. These combinations of cards are almost the same as in poker, so players familiar with the classic game, should not find it difficult to understand the basics of video poker. The first thing to know is that it is based on the classic 5-card draw poker. The game starts when upon placing a bet and pressing the Deal button, the player receives 5 cards by the machine, a physical or a virtual one. He then has the option to exchange any one of the cards for another (or all of them) in order to collect a winning combination.

After the draw, the computer determines whether a winning set of cards is formed, or in other words, if the player has a winning hand. If so, it pays out the winning that corresponds to that exact combination in the pay table. It is also important to understand the probabilities in video poker – a hand of four Queens or any other face value happens more often than a Royal Flush, which is the strongest poker hand and brings the highest payout. Many players have misconceptions about that but it is certainly possible to hit, let’s say, a Full House two consecutive times. The reason is the Random Number Generator used in video poker – the cards you are dealt are completely random and cannot be predicted. And although a lot of people may believe in luck and charms, these are hardly a factor in gambling.

Winning Hands

The winning hands in video poker are almost the same as in regular poker, although there may be certain differences, depending on the video poker variation you have chosen to play. Starting with the highest paid combination, the hands are ranked in the following order: Royal Flush, Straight Flush, Four of a Kind, Full House, Flush, Straight, Three of a Kind, Two Pair, and Jacks or Better.

A Royal Flush is formed when you have a Ten, a Jack, a Queen, a King, and an Ace of the same suit. This is the best hand in table and video poker and is followed by a Straight Flush, which is a set of five consecutive cards of the same suit. The next best hands are Four of a Kind (four cards of the same value) and Full House, which consists of a pair and a three of a kind. The next hand you should try to achieve is Flush – these are any five cards of the same suit, in no particular order. It is followed by Straight, which is formed by any five cards of consecutive value (they do not have to be of the same suit).

Three of a Kind and Two Pair are quite straightforward and hardly need any further elaboration, except for the fact that in table poker, these are the lowest hands you can have. The lowest winning hand in video poker, however, is called Jacks or Better and it is formed by a pair of Jacks. And the name of the most basic, common variation of video poker derives from that very hand.

Video Poker Hand Rankings
Hand Example
Royal Flush
AA
KK
QQ
JJ
1010
Straight Flush
KK
QQ
JJ
1010
99
Four of a Kind
55
55
55
55
Full House
99
99
77
77
77
Flush
33
55
88
99
1010
Straight
66
77
88
99
1010
Three of a Kind
22
22
22
Two of a Kind
QQ
QQ
44
44

Pay Tables

The above mentioned winning hands are fundamental when playing video poker, but it is also essential to take the pay tables into account. The pay table is the chart where you can see how winning hands are ranked and their respective payouts. The payouts are based on how good and rare hands are, the value of the bets, and the game variation. Of course, pay tables also vary, depending on the game developer or the gambling operator.

If you wager a minimum amount of coins, you will, of course, earn the lowest payout corresponding to your winning hand. By wagering 5 coins, which is typically the maximum bet in video poker, you will receive the highest payout in case you get a winning hand after the draw. Usually, pay tables start with a Jacks or Better, which is paid evenly – if you insert 1 coin, you will win 1 coin. A max bet of 5 coins will, hence, earn you 5 coins.

It is also important to look at two other hands in the pay table of the game you are playing – Full House and Flush. In the so-called Full Pay video poker games, a Full House pays out 9 to 1, while a Flush pays out 6 to 1. If you bet 1 coin, you will get payouts of 9 and 6 coins for your two hands, respectively.

9/6 Video Poker Pay Table
Coins 1 2 3 4 5
Royal Flush 250 500 750 1000 4000
Straight Flush 50 100 150 200 250
Four of a Kind 25 50 75 100 125
Full House 9 18 27 36 45
Flush 6 12 18 24 30
Straight 4 8 12 16 20
Three of a Kind 3 6 9 12 15
Two Pair 2 4 6 8 10
Jacks or Better 1 2 3 4 5

RTP and House Edge

video poker house edgeAll casinos have an intrinsic statistical advantage over players, which is widely known as house edge. This is the reason why players usually lose – you lose not because you have no luck; you lose because the odds are stacked against you. It is a fundamental rule of gambling – the odds are always in favor of the casino. However, video poker is one of the games with the lowest house edge – the other being blackjack, where the player has better odds of winning.

When choosing a video poker variation, players always need to look at the pay tables and the payback percentages of the different games. It is the payback percentage, or RTP (Return to Player) rate, that helps determine the house edge. If you have wagered 100 coins on a video poker game with a payback rate of 95%, it does not mean that you win 95% of the time. You may lose 25 rounds and win 20, or the other way round. The payback percentage means that over time (after a hundred rounds or probably more), you will eventually get back 95% of your investment in the game.

Different variations of video poker have different payback percentages. For example, a full pay Jacks or Better, offers a payback of 99.54%, while some Deuces Wild games (another popular variation) have a theoretical return of 100.08%. This may seem impossible at first glance, but such a payback rate can be achieved – of course, with a perfect strategy.

Usually, the house edge in video poker games vary from 5% to 0.50% (or less), but in most full pay variations it is 0.46% (where the payback is 99.54%).

Video Poker Variations

Full pay video poker games are, understandably, extremely popular among players as they offer better payout rates. They are often referred to as 9/6 variations for the 9 to 1 payout from Full House and the 6 to 1 from Flush. But there are also games of higher house edge where the payouts are reduced from 9 to 1 to 8,7,6 to 1 and from 6 to 1 to 5 to 1.

There are dozens of other variations with more specific rules. Some, for instance, have Wild Cards, which substitute for any other card, so it is much easier for the player to collect a winning hand. There are also many variations with the term Bonus in their title – usually, they give a higher payout for a certain Four of a Kind hand, four Aces and a Five, for example. In addition, there are multi-play variations, where you play several hands all at once, as well as jackpot variations, where a certain hand will pay out an attractive jackpot.

Jacks or Better

video poker jacks or betterThe first video poker game, introduced in the 1970’s, was called Draw Poker and is better known today as Jacks or Better. This is the most common version of video poker and is based on the regular 5-card draw poker that has been a popular casino game for centuries. The game uses a single deck of 52 cards and upon every draw, the player is given 5 cards. The lowest winning hand is Jacks or Better and the best hand you can have is Royal Flush.

The 9/6 Jacks or Better has an RTP of 96.54% and its highest payout is 4,000 coins if you place maximum bets – 5 coins x 800. The payout for Full House is 45 coins and for Flush, 30 coins.

Tens or Better

video poker tens or betterJacks or Better has several variations itself, the most popular being Tens or Better, which is very closely related to it. It is practically the same but instead of a pair of Jacks (or higher), the lowest winning hand is a pair of Tens, hence the title of the game. Also, it is a 6/5 game, which means the payoffs for Full House and Flush are 6 and 5 times the bets, respectively.

As the winning odds are a little higher and the payouts lower, even with an optimum strategy, you will win less in the long run than in other, higher paying games.

Aces and Eights

video poker aces and facesAnother variation that is very close to Jacks or Better, and therefore, easy to learn by novices is Aces and Eights where you earn more if you collect a Four of a Kind of either Aces or Eights. This game is also played with a single deck of cards and the pay table is quite typical. These two hands – four Aces or four Eights, however, pay out 400 coins if you play with a bet of 5 coins, compared to a winning of only 125 coins in Jacks or Better. Sometimes, four Sevens will earn you twice as much as a regular Four of a Kind hand.

If they get a winning hand, players are also given the option to try their luck against the dealer in a double-or-nothing bonus round. They are presented with 5 cards which are face down. One of them is exposed and the player needs to choose one of the other 4 cards. If the player’s card has a higher value, the winning of the original round is doubled. If its value is lower, the player loses the bet.

Deuces Wild

video poker deuces wildDeuces Wild is one of the most popular variations of video poker, because it is quite simple, yet it is believed to offer payout percentages of over 100%. The main difference here is that all Twos serve as Wild Cards. If you have a Two and a pair of Sevens, for instance, you instantly form a Three of Sevens. The Twos in the deck will substitute any card so that you can achieve a winning combination easier.

Due to the great odds, a pair of Jacks is not a winning hand in the game and the pay table starts with a Three of Kind. The Wild Card can help you achieve a Royal Flush – in this case, the hand is called Deuces Royal Flush and it comes as a second best ranking hand. The highest paid hand is still a regular Royal Flush but in order to distinguish it from the Royal Flush with Twos, we call it a Natural Royal Flush. Sometimes, four Twos (or four Deuces) rank second in the pay table, directly after the Natural Royal Flush.

How to Play Video Poker

When a player starts a new video poker game, the first thing to do is place a bet and then, he or she will be dealt 5 cards. In order to achieve the strongest winning hand, the player can choose to keep some cards and exchange others. This is easily done by selecting each card you wish to hold and click on the Deal/Draw button. The decision which cards to keep and which to replace with new ones will make the difference between winning and losing the round. There are certain strategies one can employ to ensure the game is played the best way possible but they significantly differ from each other for each particular variation of video poker. Of course, the goal should always be winning more coins than you originally bet.

Betting

video poker bettingDifferent physical or virtual machines offer different coin denominations but in most cases, you can wager from $0.25 to $1.25 each round in land-based casinos and as little as $0.01 if you are playing online. It is recommended for new players to start with the lowest bet possible, learn the game, and then, proceed with placing higher bets. It is also important to determine what amount of money you are planning to wager, or in other words, how much you are comfortable with losing. Of course, even beginners will probably win several rounds just by guessing, so it would be very hard indeed to lose all your money. Still, it is very much possible if you play enough rounds. For this reason, it is better to have a fixed budget for gambling and never go beyond what you are prepared to lose.

A lot of experienced players prefer placing maximum bets in video poker and in fact, this is the best way to ensure maximum results. The logic behind this idea is quite simple – the payout for Royal Flush when playing with 4 coins takes a rapid jump when betting 5 coins, from 1,000 to 4,000 coins. So, playing with lower bets also means lower theoretical returns. Still, getting a Royal Flush, with or without Wild Cards, is far from child’s play – you may play tens of thousands of rounds before getting this hand. Statistically speaking, the odds of hitting a Royal Flush are approximately 1 to 40,000.

Finding the Right Video Poker Variation

video poker variationsThe variety of video poker games, especially online, is huge and can be overwhelming to new players who are still to learn the little differences between the games. This is why they should always look at the pay tables first where they will find detailed information about the payouts for each particular hand and bet value. Of course, many online casinos also post the payout percentages of each variation, so the higher the return, the better the game.

You need to look for full pay video poker games with the highest possible RTP rate. Usually, the most generous variations are the above mentioned 9/6 Jacks or Better and Deuces Wild, but there are many other games that offer attractive payouts. When looking at the pay table of a particular game, players need to take into account not just the payouts for Full House and Flush, but also for the lower paid hands, including Jacks or Better. There are variations where gambling operators make up for their losses from bonuses and Wilds by cutting on the winnings you get the most often – the winnings from lower ranking hands.

It is also wise to choose games with lower bet limits and to stay away from the so-called “featured” games in online casinos. Usually, there are the ones with the highest house edge. Additionally, new players should stick to one or two games, as different variations have different strategies. And while some are really simple, others require more advanced skills and greater experience.

Strategies

When playing video poker, one of the best ways to ensure your success in the long run is using a strategy list. It shows in a simple, straightforward way how to win when presented with different hands and is a useful tool, especially for those who are less experienced. However, each variation of video poker has its own strategy, based on the different pay tables and winning hands. As most games are based on Jacks or Better, the strategy for this particular variation lays the foundation for more advanced games and more complex strategies. It helps players decide what action to take in each particular occasion, depending on the set of cards dealt at the beginning of the round.

If the player receives a Royal Flush with the first draw, he or she needs to hold all cards and avoid the Double Down feature, if there is one. If the cards form a Straight Flush, it may be tempting to go for a Royal Flush, but it is better to keep the Straight Flush, as it brings a certain win – replacing the Nine with the hopes of getting an Ace does not guarantee any winning at all. The player should also hold the four cards if they form a Four of a Kind combination, as well as all 5 cards if they make a Full House. For example, if you are dealt 3 Aces and 2 Sevens, do no risk the payout of 45 coins with a 5 coin bet over the prospect of getting 125 coins for a Four of Aces. It is more likely to end up with a Three of Aces which will bring you a payout of only 15 coins.

In case the player is presented with a Flush in the beginning, he or she should hold all cards and collect the corresponding winnings. However, if there is a possibility of getting a Royal Flush when changing one card, the player should replace it. For instance, if you have a Five, a Ten, a Jack, a Queen, and a King of the same suit, hold all high cards and replace the Five. The strategy is the same if you are dealt a Straight – hold it unless there is a chance to hit a Royal Flush. If the cards in the beginning form a Three of a Kind hand, hold these 3 cards for a possible Four of a Kind or a Full House. Also, hold all four cards forming a Two Pair hand – do not risk a secure win for a potentially bigger win.

These situations and the winning strategy are quite simple, but there are cases, where the player has more options, depending on how much high or low cards are dealt. There are also several things you can do when you get a Jacks or Better in different variations of video poker – usually, it is always best to keep the high pair, but if it is possible to hit a Royal Flush or a Straight Flush, hold the corresponding cards, even though you may lose the Jack or Better. In fact, in most cases when you can get a Royal Flush by exchanging two cards, you should keep the three to a Royal – when you have 4 cards to a Flush, a low Pair, or 4 cards to a Straight (open-ended). An open-ended, also outside Straight is when you have 4 cards to achieving the Straight and it can be completed at either end. An inside draw, on the other hand, is when a Straight can be completed with a middle card. In case you have one, do not keep it, unless it consists of high cards – keep three or four of the hands in this case.

There are also plenty of options when you are dealt high cards – high cards are most commonly considered cards from Jacks to Ace, but in some variations, a Ten is also a high card. It is very important to remember that although the Ace has a higher value than face cards (a Jack, a Queen, and a King), it is less likely to form a winning combination when compared to them. This is why it is never a good idea to keep the Ace if you also have a Queen and a Jack, for instance. Keep the two face cards and discard the Ace. Another basic tip is to never simply keep three cards to a Straight or to a Flush. However, if you have three cards that can form a Straight Flush, hold them, even if they are low.

There are many other video poker strategies for the different variations of the game and for players’ different skill levels. There are complex strategies which cannot be learned after only a few games. But following even these basic rules should help you improve your long-term play and cut your losses.

Video Poker Basic Strategy
Players’ Hand Example Draw
4 card Royal
AA
KK
QQ
JJ
1
3 card Royal
AA
KK
QQ
2
2 card Royal (with a 10)
AA
1010
3
2 card Royal (without a 10)
AA
KK
3
4 card Flush
33
55
88
99
1
1 high card
AA
4
2 high cards
AA
QQ
3
3 high cards (J,Q,K)
JJ
QQ
KK
2
Three of a Kind
22
22
22
2
Any 4 card Straight Flush
77
88
99
1010
1
Any 3 card Straight Flush
88
99
1010
2
4 card Straight
66
77
88
99
1
Two Pair
QQ
QQ
44
44
1
Low Pair
33
33
3
High Pair (Jacks or Better)
KK
KK
3
No valuable cards
5