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Video Poker

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.

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

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.
Deuces wild
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 Straight Flushes.
-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.
Jokers wild
Remember that only K and A are high cards: this is a Kings or Better game.
General strategy:
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, All American 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.
The two techniques that are mandatory to becoming an educated and prepared video poker player are:
1) how to read a pay schedule with additional education to know the difference between short/partial pay and full-pay versions, and
2) strategies for all the VP types/games.
In a grouping of video poker machines, known as banks or carousels, all of which may look exactly the same, casinos will often ‘mix-in’ several VP machines with inferior pay programs (short/partial pay). Most often in such a bank of regular non-progressive, non-bonus VP machines, only 1 or 2 may be the Jacks or better 9/6 (nine coins for a full house, and 6 coins for a flush), while the rest are 8/5, 7/5, or even worse, 6/5.
This means that one player, on the 9/6 machine, will be winning more for the same hands than the other players. A 9/6 VP will generally hit the royal flush each 40,000 hands played, or every 80-100 hours of play, while the 8/5 each 45,000 hands, on average; the 7/5′s each 50,000 hands; and the 6/5′s only once about each 70,000 hands played.
If you bet 5 coins, all winning hands are paid out multiplied by a factor of 5, except for the royal flush. This is a bonus amount designed as an incentive to play five coins. All those players who play less than maximum coins are setting up the best payoffs for those who do.
Two of my favorite Video Poker versions follow with corresponding strategies:
Full-pay Deuces Wild Versions will be 9/5′s as you scan down the one coin payout line — 9 coins for a straight flush and 5 coins for 4-of-a-kind. Except in Nevada, most casinos offer 4 coins for 4-of-a-kind, the short-pay version.
Some players are reluctant to throw away five cards, but that is a most important strategy; you want to make room for additional card(s) that could be a deuce(s), and holding that ace or king is not going to help you if the next hand coming up could be four or five sevens. Here’s the reason for the reluctancy.
Die hard Jacks or Better players will throw away complete hands-5 cards only 3% of the time, while Deuces Wild players almost 20% of the time — nearly every fifth hand.
Do not keep two pairs. Select one or the other, as 3-of-a-kind is the minimum scheduled payout.
Inside straights should be held, if presenting the best possible return from your initial five cards dealt. Therefore, a 5, 6, 8, 9 hand can produce a 7 or wild card in this VP version.
Strategies for this VP version are determined by the number of deuces or absence of deuces that are dealt in your initial hand.
Approximately every 5000 hands will hit four deuces — a secondary jackpot that will keep you in the game or allow you to pocket some winnings.
Percentages speak for themselves, good reason to practice correct strategy for this 100%+ full-pay game
The excitement of all or nothing in Deuces makes it a thrilling, and “wild” game. You can go for stretches without seeing one Deuce, then hit a Royal with Deuces, and four-of-a-kind is easy to get; what a roller coaster ride!
First up, and most important, the full-pay Jokers Wild (JW) pay schedules will be 7/5 machines, 7 coins for a full house and 5 coins for a flush. There are two versions out there: one returns money on a pair of Kings or better, the other requires at least two pair before there is a payout.
The former is the more desirable full-pay version.

These strategies for Jokers, unlike Jacks+, reflect the wild card, a 53-card deck, and the different payouts. This game is almost as volatile as Deuces Wild, where original 5 cards dealt are discarded more often than Jacks+.
If you do not hold the joker, keep three cards to a royal over a pair of aces or kings because of the higher payout. You could catch another ace or king and still be paid.
If three cards are consecutive cards for a straight flush, i.e., 5, 6, 7 of hearts, discard other cards even a small pair, for the higher payback. If not consecutive, keep the small pair.

Don’t be afraid to hold the joker alone. More than 3% of the time, you won’t be able to connect with a straight, flush, straight flush, or a high pair; however, holding the joker only can give you four new cards, and a win.
They don’t throw you out of a casino as they do Blackjack counters but the casino can and will shut down machines that have been hammered for wins, and take it away. Those “temporarily out of service” signs do not necessarily mean a slot mechanic is on the way, rather this VP is headed for the dumpster, and permanently out of service.

Don’t get me started on casinos that install the short-pay, downright stinky versions of VP’s that target the uneducated player – outrageous!

And, there are quite a few casinos out there, probably near you, that deliberately install fewer VP’s because most casinos are mandated that games of chance with skill involved must have higher payouts. Therefore, slots impact the casino’s bottom line in a more profitable fashion. You will also receive more slot card points towards comps at a slot machine that any VP version.

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