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An Introduction To Video Poker For Beginners

video poker guide

Video Poker (or Video Pokies as they’re sometimes known) are among the most popular casino games on the planet. For many decades they’ve graced the floors of Vegas casinos – and today, they can be found offered at virtually all online casinos.

In this complete Video Poker guide, I’m going to be giving you an in-depth look at all aspects of the game.

You’ll also learn how Video Poker works, how to play and what strategy to use to maximise your wins.

You may have already seen our guide on the best places to play video poker on your mobile. The purpose of this guide is to go into more depth and cover everything else you need to know to go from beginner to pro.

To kick things off I’m going to give you a rundown of the history and background of these enjoyable machines.


Bally Technologies logo The fist “real” Video Poker machine was released in 1970 by a company called Dale Electronics. The game was known as Poker-Matic, and it proved to be an immense hit; in fact, virtually all Vegas casinos ended up featuring the game just months after its release, and it proved a phenomenal commercial success for the company.

The next major milestone in the “Video Poker journey” came in the mid 1970’s when Bally Gaming developed “Video Poker” – this set the standard for the game, and it became known solely as Video Poker from then on.

While the game was patented, Bally ended up licensing the game to a number of other game developers, including Fortune Coin Company. Bally had a significant monopoly on the game at land-based casinos until the online gambling scene emerged.

Today, a handful of game developers including Microgaming, Playtech and SG Gaming release their own versions of the game – many of which I like to enjoy on those nights where I don’t want the intensity of playing video slots or casino table games.

Types Of Video Poker

I’ll warn you in advance; this is going to be quite a lengthy section. That’s because there are so many variations of Video Poker available to play today.

Below, I’m going to do my best to summarise some of the most popular game variations you’re likely to come across at online casinos today. (Many of these games can also be found in land-based casinos too.)

Jacks or Better

Arguably one of the most well-known and popular forms of the game, Jacks or Better is offered at virtually every online casino on the planet.

The game is incredibly generous in terms of payouts, and it’s possible to find what’s known as a “9/6” machine, which offers you an average payout percentage of .995%. As the name suggests, Jacks or Better pays if you make a pair of Jacks in your hand – or better. This does mean, however, that singular pairs below Jacks don’t count as a win, however.

Deuces Wild

Another hugely popular variation of the game, Deuces Wild is a pretty unique form of the game – and it’s also one of the most enjoyable, in my opinion. When you play Deuces Wild, any ‘2s’ in the game become wild – substituting for any other card.

Let’s say you have four clubs on the board – and a 2 of diamonds. This 2 of diamonds would then act as another club, completing your flush and awarding a payout.

However, Deuces Wild games generally have two types of payout for a Royal Flush (the top payout) – a natural Royal Flush is the best-paying, and this is one where you don’t use any wild deuces to complete the hand.

Bonus Poker

One of the newer variations of the game to hit the online gambling world, Bonus Poker (also one of my favourites) is built heavily around Jacks or Better.

There’s one main difference though – and that’s that Bonus Poker offers a significantly better payout rate on 4-of-a-kind payouts. Depending on which type of game you’re playing, this may be compensated for worse pays elsewhere – usually the pairs and two-pairs.

Pick-em Poker

Pick-em Poker is one of the rarer Video Poker variations you’re likely to come across – but I wanted to include it as I think it’s a pretty cool version of the game.

The game format is also different – there’s still one 52-card deck of cards used, but initially you’re only dealt two cards. You then get to see another card, and then a final two – increasing your bet size (if you want) as each new card is dealt. It’s almost like Caribbean Stud Poker in a way.

Tens or Better

Many players I speak with assume Tens of Better was what kicked off the Video Poker boom. It’s actually more or less another clone of Jacks or Better – but, as the name suggests, in this variation of the game you’re paid for making a pair of 10s or above.

However, the 4-of-a-kind payouts are pretty severely impacted here – there are two main versions of the game. One, returns a payout of just 25 credits for a 4-of-a-kind hand while the other a rather miserable 20 credits.

Multi-Hand Poker

Multi-Hand Video Poker is a very unique variation of the game that allows you to play more than one hand at once – and this type of game was first made popular by online gambling giant Microgaming.

It’s possible to play between 5 and 100 hands simultaneously – and I should point out that the game’s variance is actually quite a lot higher, thanks to the fact that you’re paying a higher stake and all hands are still settled individually.

It works by drawing you five cards – and you then select which of these you want to keep. All the other hands you’re playing then display new cards, and any payouts are paid accordingly.

Ultimate X Poker

Ultimate X Poker is one of the newer forms of Video Poker – and it’s still pretty rare to see it offered at online casinos. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth checking out – and it’s a pretty novel way of playing the game.

In order to play, you’ll need to pay an additional “extra bet”. This then activates the “Ultimate X” feature. Every time you form a winning hand, the next hand will have a multiplier attached – so if you manage two consecutive wins, the second win will be worth significantly more than were you playing a conventional version of the game.

Dream Card Video Poker

Dream Card Video Poker is similar to Ultimate X Poker, in that you need to place an additional side bet in order to play. Doing so activates the “Dream Card” feature.

This adds an additional card into the deck – the Dream Card – and if this card is dealt at any point, it automatically becomes the best-possible card to help you win. For example, if you were dealt three 7s and a Dream Card, your hand would end up being a 4-of-a-kind.

Rules & How To Play

One of the main reasons behind Video Poker’s popularity is its ease of play; you really don’t need to know much about poker to get started. In a moment I’m going to give you a brief rundown of how to actually play the game – but first, let’s take a look at what the main objective is.

The goal of Video Poker is to make the first five-card hand possible – this is using conventional poker hands, like you’d like were you playing Texas Hold’em. Let’s look at the hand rankings below:

  • Pair – This means you have one pair in your hand (i.e. a pair of 5’s)
  • Two Pair – This means you have two different pairs in your hand (i.e. one pair of 5’s and one pair of 7’s.)
  • 3-Of-A-Kind – a 3-of-a-kind means you have three of the same card in your hand (i.e. three 5’s.)
  • Straight – A Straight means you have five cards in consecutive order (not of the same suit) – i.e. 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.
  • Flush – A Flush is made by making a hand with all five cards being the same suit – i.e. five clubs.
  • Full House – A Full House means you have both a singular pair and a 3-of-a-kind in your hand.
  • Four-Of-A-Kind – A 4-of-a-kind hand means you have four cards of the same value in your hand (i.e. four 5’s.)
  • Straight Flush: A straight flush means you have a straight – with all cards of the same suit – i.e. 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 all hearts.
  • Royal Flush – The creme de la creme of poker – a Royal Flush means you have 10, Jack, Queen, King and Ace all of the same suit.

When you play Video Poker you’ll be given five cards (in most variations). You can then choose to keep all five – select certain cards to keep – or discard them all.

One more draw is then issued, and the five cards you’re left with at the ones that make up your five-card hand.

A Simple Introduction To Playing Video Poker

  1. Step 1: Select which Video Poker game you want to play – you can refer to some of the ones I cover in this guide, or try something else!
  2. Step 2: Select how much you’d like to bet (paying close attention to the TOTAL cost of the bet, not just the credits.)
  3. Step 3: Start playing the hand by pressing the “Play” or “Bet Now” button – usually found in the bottom right-hand-corner of the screen.
  4. Step 4: Choose which cards you’d like to hold – most Video Poker games now give you the option to hold automatically, based on the best strategy. I.e. the computer makes the decision for you.
  5. Step 5: Confirm your selection and wait for your new cards to be dealt.

That’s it – that’s all there is to it! Once the hand is over any winnings you’ve won will be credited to your account automatically. On many Video Poker games you may also see a “Double Up” option appear after a win.

This is, essentially, a gamble feature that gives you the chance of doubling your winnings. If you’d like to try and win a bit more, you can take a punt on this – although be aware you do run the risk of losing all your winnings.

Differences Between Desktop and Mobile Video Poker

Playing video poker on mobile 10 years ago, very few Video Poker games were mobile-optimized. It’s always been somewhat of a computer/laptop orientated game – and I remember having to actually download software in order to play earlier versions of the game.

However, thanks to the birth of HTML5 technology this has all changed – and today, you’ll find yourself able to enjoy playing Video Poker from your mobile devices – phones and tablets included.

So, what are the main differences between desktop and mobile Video Poker?

Well, as you can imagine – one of the biggest differences is the screen size. I think it’s fair to say that playing casino games from your desktop/laptop is always going to be a slightly easier experience; the screen is simply much bigger, allowing developers to offer a more comprehensive and graphically-intense game.

However, mobile Video Poker can be better in other ways. Generally, due to the slightly less CPU-intensive graphics, mobile Video Poker is faster – meaning you wait less time between hands and experience a faster rate of gameplay.

Mobile Video Poker is also substantially more convenient. You can – quite literally – play anywhere and at any time – and you don’t need to worry about having to get your computer or laptop out; it’s all incredibly straightforward and you simply need to pull out your mobile device to get started!

Pay Tables

Video Poker paytable One of the biggest benefits of playing Video Poker (in my opinion anyway) is that it’s one of the few games where you can actually see the “price” or specific RTP of what you can expect to win on every machine you play.

This is thanks to something known as the pay table – an information page that’s present on every Video Poker machine.

The pay table shows you exactly how much every hand combination pays – either as a cash figure or a credit value. What’s great, is that in today’s day and age most game developers built dynamic pay tables.

This means that they change automatically depending on which stake size you’re playing at. In other words, you select your stake and you can see exactly how much various hand combinations pay – meaning you don’t need to worry about trying to decipher complex credits.

The pay table is accessible on most games by clicking the “Pay Table” or “Pays” button which is commonly found alongside the “Play” or “Spin” button.

Along with the pay table, I’d also recommend you take a close look at the RTP (return to player) that’s attached to each game. This gives you an indication of how much a specific machine is expected to pay out over the long-run. As a general rule of thumb, Video Poker machine RTPs are very high – often as much as 99.5%.

This means you can get incredibly “bang for your buck” and it means that – unlike video slots for example – you will rarely experience long losing droughts where wins are few and far between.

What Makes Video Poker Different From Multiplayer Poker?

I often see questions online asking what makes Video Poker so different from playing poker against other people. While the games do share some similarities, it’s important to note that they’re inherently different games.

If you’re playing a multiplayer game of poker (Texas Hold’em or Omaha) for example, you’re actually playing against other people – trying to win their money. There are also different betting rounds, making the game far more complex.

Video Poker on the other hand is a lot more straightforward. It’s simply you versus the computer. With a few exceptions, the aim of the game is to make the best 5-card hand right off the bat too – there are no betting streets, and you don’t have the option to increase your bet, bluff, fold or raise. In other words, you’re playing against the computer – not against other players.

Progressive Video Poker

Earlier in this guide you’ll have heard me talk about progressive Video Poker. I’ve held off talking about it until now – and in this section I’m going to tell you more about it, and how it works. Let’s kick things off with a look at what progressive Video Poker actually is.

Conventional Video Poker games typically use a fixed pay table (as we looked at in the previous section.) This means that a 4-of-a-kind, Royal Flush, 3-of-a-kind etc always pay the same amount (stake dependant.) Progressive Video Poker games are different, however.

They offer a large pooled progressive jackpot that increases as more players play the game. The jackpot itself usually is paid out upon forming a Royal Flush, and this makes the game a lot more (potentially) profitable.

Each time you (and all other players playing) spin a progressive jackpot Video Poker machine, a small percentage of your stake is deducted and the total jackpot amount increases. I should also point out that most progressive jackpot Video Poker machines have reduced payouts for certain hand combinations; this usually includes a Full House and a Flush.

Where things get even more interesting is when you look at the house edge of the game. While Video Poker machines typically offer extremely low house edges anyway, the higher the progressive jackpot amount the lower the house edge becomes.

In fact, there are certain scenarios where the house edge can actually tip into your favour to play – it’s rare, but it does happen.

To give you an example – if you were playing Jacks or Better Video Poker, the house edge decreases by about 0.5% for every additional 1,000 credits that’s added to the jackpot total.

Of course, when this happens more players will be playing the game – but it’s not hard to see why the game’s become so popular. In fact, for me, there’s nothing better than finding a high-jackpot Video Poker machine and sitting back and having some fun!

Video Poker Strategy

So far in this Video Poker guide I’ve given you an overview of the game – how it works – and what to expect when playing it for yourself. However, one of the things I haven’t talked about yet is strategy – and that’s what I’d like to talk about now.

Unlike other casino table games like Roulette, Video Poker actually has a mathematical strategy. While this doesn’t guarantee that you’ll win at the game, it does improve your chances of having a winning session.

For the purpose of this Video Poker strategy section, I’m going to already assume that you have knowledge of the various hand rankings. If you don’t, feel free to refer to the earlier stages of this guide, where I discuss all of that in more depth.

So, what do I mean exactly when I talk about Video Poker strategy? In virtually all variations of the game you’re given the opportunity to discard all or some of your cards – in return for new ones. However, knowing which cards to hold – and which to discard – can be tough.

Complicating things even further is the fact that specific strategies change depending on which version of the game you’re playing.

Our team is currently working on publishing strategy charts foe the most popular video poker games. You will then be able to view a breakdown of the specific strategy for the game variation you’re playing. So stay tuned for more on that soon.

Alex Smith
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Last Updated on January 5, 2021