Video Poker Rules and Game Play

Unlike a slot machine, video poker lets you make some game play choices meaning you actually have some control over the outcome of the hands you play.

Although there are different variants and game modes, all video poker games function under the same set of basic principles:

  • Standard "table" poker hands are used*
  • You're dealt five starting cards.
  • You can choose to hold or discard any or all of your cards.
  • All cards you choose to discard will be replaced in a single random draw
  • If your hand now matches any of the qualifying poker hands, you win the corresponding prize

*For more information, head to our guide to poker hand rankings.

Here's a look at the three most popular variants of video poker.

Jacks or Better

The most common video poker game mode is known as Jacks or Better. In this mode you must have at least a pair of jacks to get paid. Any hand of inferior value is worthless, while any hand of superior value pays out based on a predetermined pay scale.

Here are the typical payouts for a Jacks or Better game (be sure to check the actual payouts at the time of playing):

Royal Flush - 250x (with bonuses of 4000x or more when betting max credits)

Straight Flush - 50x

Four of a Kind - 25x

Full House - 6x to 9x

Flush - 5x or 6x

Straight - 4x

Three of a Kind - 3x

Two Pair - 2x

Pair of Jacks or Better - 1x

When getting paid, you can only be paid for the top most ranking hand value. For example hitting a full house will pay you 6x to 9x your bet, depending on the actual payout. You do not receive payment for the full house, three of a kind and a pair.

Example Hand

You bet one quarter (one credit of ¢25)

You're dealt:           

You hold the A♥ and J♦

Final hand:           

You have a pair of Aces, you receive ¢25 (¢25 x 1= ¢25).

Basic Strategy:

Your goal is to get paid as often as possible, and only take small risks on the big scores. If you have four to a straight or a flush, you should draw to it.

If you have three to a royal flush, draw to it.

If you have any pair dealt to you, you should hold it.

Hold any three cards to a straight flush.

If you have none of the above, hold any cards Jacks or Higher.

If you have none of the above, cross your fingers and draw five new cards.

Deuces Wild

When playing Deuces Wild all deuces in the deck are wild, and can be substituted for any rank and suit. Because this makes it a lot easier to get big hands, the payout scales are greatly reduced:

Royal Flush (no wild cards) - 250x (with bonuses of 4000x or more when betting max)

Four Deuces - 200x

Royal Flush (with wild cards) - 20x or 25x

Five of a Kind - 12x to 16x

Straight Flush - 8x to 10x

Four of a Kind - 4x or 5x

Full House - 3x or 4x

Flush - 2x or 3x

Straight - 2x

Three of a Kind - 1x

Example Hand

You bet one quarter (one credit of ¢25)

You're dealt:           

You hold the 2♥, 2♣, A♣ and K♣

Final hand:           

You have four of a kind, you receive $1.25 (¢25 x 5= ¢1.25)

Basic Strategy

If you're dealt four deuces hold all cards since it's impossible to improve this hand.

If you're dealt three deuces only hold cards if you have a royal flush or five of a kind.

If you're dealt two deuces keep any hand four of a kind or better. Hold any four cards to a royal flush, otherwise just hold the deuces.

If you're dealt just one deuce, keep all paying hands unless you have three or four cards to a straight flush or royal flush.

If you have no deuce, keep all paying hands and four to a straight or flush.

Hold three cards to a royal flush.

If you have none of the above hold on to any pair, if you have two pair only hold the second pair if a full house pays the same as four of a kind.

If you have no pair, hold any to high cards (ten or better) if they're the same suit.

If you have none of the above, draw five new cards.

Joker's Wild

Joker's Wild is somewhere between Jacks or Better and Deuces Wild. The game is played with a 53 card deck (a standard 52 card deck plus one joker). The joker can be used in place of any rank or suit. The pay scale for Joker's Wild is as follows:

Royal Flush (no joker) - 250x (with bonuses of 4000x or more when betting max)

Five of a Kind - 200x

Royal Flush (with joker) - 100x

Straight Flush - 40x or 50x

Four of a Kind - 15x to 20x

Full House - 5x to 8x

Flush - 5x

Straight - 3x

Three of a Kind - 2x

Two Pair - 1x

One Pair kings or better - 1x

Basic Strategy

You'll want to stick to the same basic strategy as you used in Jacks or Better, but just remember that jokers are awesome.

You want to keep all three of a kinds and higher, especially with a joker.

Keep all four cards to a big paying hand, or three cards if you have a joker.

Below find step-by-step beginners guides to the rules, betting structures and game play of all the most popular poker variations, including Texas Hold'em, Omaha and Seven-Card Stud.

Included are definitions for common poker terms (blinds, button, position, etc.), detailed explanations of betting rounds, how to determine the winning hand and more. Find official poker hand rankings here.

If you have a specific question about what poker hands beat what, try our Which Poker Hand Wins Calculator.

View the best online poker sites here.

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