Aside from perhaps blackjack, poker is the most well-known card game that’s associated with the exchange of money. Indeed, as money plays the most important part of poker playing, it’s a game that’s pretty dull unless money is involved.
However, poker takes both skill and luck. If you have an abundance of luck but no skill, then you may just come out even. If you are bereft of both, then your pockets are likely to empty, and pretty swiftly.
This deflates people who enjoy playing poker but do not have the time to develop the skills needed to play it successfully. For such people, though there are alternatives – one of those is casino poker (which we have already provided a guide for here), and the other is video poker.
Please read on in our online video poker casinos guide to learn all you need to know about video poker and its many variations.
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History of Video Poker
This guide is not going to cover the history of poker itself, as that has already been covered elsewhere. If you want to learn more about the history of poker, then consult the online casino poker guide, link given above.
We are though going to cover the history of video poker.
One of the most famous names in casino history – William ‘Si’ Redd – is credited with the invention of video poker. He took one look at the success of video slots in the late 1970s and wondered if that kind of technology could be applied to other casino games. The game he chooses was poker, or draw poker to be precise.
Si’s company – SIRCOMA – created the first video poker cabinets in 1979. The cabinets had a video screen and a collection of buttons. The game was simple to play, fast-paced and wins were frequent (although the casino always held an edge over the player of course).
A video poker craze swept through Las Vegas in the early 1980s, and for a brief time, video poker became as popular as slots. Although that is no longer the case, most casinos even in this present day and age will have several video poker cabinets available for players to play.
Just like slots video poker games moved online but unlike slots, video poker games even in the 2020s have progressed little from their 1980s counterparts. It is, perhaps, the simplistic nature of the game that maintains video poker’s popularity, so unlike slots, the addition of countless bonuses and features is something that is not required.
How to Play Video Poker at Online Casino
The most important aspect of video poker that you need to know is the value of the poker hands. Here is a quick refresher:
- High Card: – a hand of five unmatched cards
- Pair: – a hand with two identical cards in value
- Two Pair: – a hand with two sets of pairs
- Three of a Kind or Trip or Set: – a hand with three identical cards in value
- Straight: – a hand with five cards in sequence in value.
- Flush: – a hand with five cards of the same suit
- Full House: – a hand with a pair and three of a kind
- Four of a kind: – a hand with four identical cards in value
- Straight Flush: – a hand with five cards of the same suit in sequence in value
Hands are ranked from low (high card) to high (straight flush of which a Royal Flush – of the same suit, is the highest possible hand).
In video poker, you are dealt five cards face up. You then evaluate the value of your hand or the potential value of your hand. You can hold or discard as many cards in your hand as you wish – from none of them to all five of them.
When you have decided which cards you wish to keep those you discarded are replaced by freshly dealt ones. This forms your final hand, and your cards are evaluated for a potential win. Usually, you have to have a hand of the minimum value to win. In most forms of video poker, this is a pair of jacks.
Below is a typical paytable from a version of video poker:
|Four of a Kind||25||50||75||100||125|
|Three of a Kind||3||6||9||12||15|
|Jack or Better||1||2||3||4||5|
The ‘coins’ refers to the number of coins you gamble with each deal. If your coins size is $0.10 and you wager with five coins, then each deal costs you $0.50.
In the table above if you gambled with two coins and landed three of a kind, you would win six coins. So a wager with $0.10 as your coin size (and $0.20 as your bet size as you are wagering with two coins) would win you $0.60.
The minimum hand in the paytable is a pair of jacks. If you end up with a pair of tens or anything of lower value than that, then you do not win anything.
Most versions of video poker have a gamble feature that will allow you to gamble your winnings after any single win. There are usually one of three versions of a gamble feature.
- Guess the colour – double your winnings if you correctly guess the colour (red or black) of a card drawn at random from a deck.
- Guess the suit – quadruple your winnings if you correctly guess the suit (spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs) of a card drawn at random from a deck.
- Higher or lower – double your winnings if you correctly guess whether the next card drawn from a deck will be higher (or lower) than the one proceeding it.
There will be a limit on how many times you can gamble in sequence. There are other types of gamble features, but these three are the most common.
Most people who play video poker intending to be successful recommend that you do not gamble any winnings.
Online Video Poker Variants at Online Casinos
There are many variants of video poker available at online casinos. Here are brief descriptions of the ones that are most commonly found.
Jacks or Better
The most common form of video poker. Players have to land a minimum of a pair of jacks to win a payout.
A version of Jacks or Better that pays more for flushes, straights and straight flushes but pays less for full houses and two pairs. The payout rate for the player is better than standard Jacks or Better because of this.
Tens or Better
Identical to Jacks or Better except that the minimum hand for a win is a pair of tens. Full house and flush payouts are reduced.
This game is played with a standard deck of card except that a joker has been added. This adds another possible hand to the paytable – five of a kind.
Played with a standard deck but all deuces are wild cards. Three hands are added to the paytable – five of a kind, wild royal flush (a royal flush that contains a wild card) and four deuces.
The same as Jacks or Better but with better payouts for four of a kind.
The same as bonus poker but with better payouts for four aces. When played with five credits, double bonus video poker has an RTP (return-to-player) above 100%.
Double Double Bonus
The same as a double bonus but bonus payouts for specific hands. These are four deuces, four threes, four fours, four aces, four deuces, threes or fours with an ace kicker and four aces with a deuce, three or four kickers.
When played with five coins, double double bonus video poker is again one of the few casino games with an RTP more than 100%.
Jacks or Better Variations
The payout table for Jacks or Better is fairly standard, but variations do exist. The most common has a 9x payout for a full house and a 6x payout for a flush (as outlined in the table above) however other payout rates exist. If you see a game noted as being ‘8/6 Jacks or Better’, then that means it pays 8x for a full house and 6x for a flush. Other versions include 9/5, 8/5, 7/5 and 6/5.
Successful Video Poker Strategy at Online Casinos
Video poker is actually more like a slots game than a card game like other forms of poker or blackjack. You are not actually competing against anyone else, but you are competing to gain the best hand possible. You could consider ‘Jacks or Better’ as a game in which you compete the dealer, but that the dealer always has a pair of tens.
Just like blackjack, you only maximise the game’s RTP if you play with an understanding of strategy. You need to analyse your hand and decide which cards you need to hold. If, for example, you are dealt three hearts, should you hold them in the hope of being drawn two more hearts and completing a flush. What if you are dealt 678? Do you hold them in the hope of landing 45, 59 or 9T?
What if you are dealt 7c 8c 9c Th Ac? You are one shy of a flush, and one shy of a straight. Do you discard the ace and hope for a straight, or do you discard the ten and hope for a flush? Knowing what to do will increase your chances of a winning hand (on this occasion you go for the flush as nine cards can complete the flush and only eight that can complete the straight, even though a straight pays more).
Perfect strategy charts for video poker do exist, but they are far more complicated than perfect strategy charts for blackjack. The basics though are as follows:
- First and foremost, if you are dealt a winning hand, hold the cards that complete the winning hand. Obviously for a full house, flush or straight this means holding all five cards. You should also hold all five cards if you are dealt four of a kind as you cannot improve your hand unless you are playing a version with jokers or where deuces are wild.
- There are other, non-winning beneficial cards that you should hold. For example, holding four cards to a straight or flush is a no-brainer.
- All court cards are worth holding too in most circumstances. If you have QJ986, there are eight cards in the deck that can turn your hand into a winning hand. You need to discard the 986 as there are only four cards that can complete your inside straight.
- Tens should only be held if your hand also has an ace, king, queen or jack of the same suit. Suppose you have three cards of the same suit they should only be held if they are in sequence.
- Any hand that does not fall into any of the above categories or descriptions should be discarded.
Video poker is becoming less popular at online casinos and pokies sites, and this is a shame as it really is an excellent game with a decent RTP that puts it far ahead of slots in terms of reward and approaching other ‘potential high reward’ casino games like blackjack and baccarat. Despite being ‘potential high reward’ in the vast majority of video poker versions, the casino will maintain its edge over the player. You can reduce this edge and even swing it slightly in your favour by learning video poker basic strategy, but this is complicated and is even more complicated than perfect strategy for blackjack.
It is perhaps best to consider video poker as you should consider all other online casino games – as a source of entertainment and never as a reliable source of income. Always play responsibly (and never take the ‘gamble your winnings option’) and never gamble with money that you cannot afford to lose.
Video Poker FAQ
Any way of card counting with video poker?
How many coins should I bet with when playing video poker?
Why do some video poker games have a payout for ‘five of a kind’, which is not a poker hand?
Are video poker games offered by online casinos fixed?
What’s the difference between video poker and casino poker?
Can I find a video poker bonus at an online casino?