How to Play Video Poker | Video Poker Rules & Game Play

video poker jacks or better4

If you've ever walked into a casino and seen players cozied up to a bar on the casino floor, downing free drinks all night and clicking around on a video poker machine, you might be wondering what their secrets are.

Here's the thing: Unlike a slot machine, video poker lets you make your own game-play choices. That means you actually have some control over the outcome of the hands you play.

Not only does video poker have one of the smallest house edges in the casino, if you play video poker optimally you can even give yourself the edge!

You have to pay attention to what type of video poker machine you play and how you play your hands but if you do you can pretty much guarantee yourself a winning night.

Rules of Video Poker

Although there are different variants of video poker and game variations you can choose from, all video poker games operate under a similar set of rules:

  • 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 rules for and how to play the three most popular variants of video poker - Jacks or Better, Deuces Wild and Joker's Wild

How to Play Video Poker - Jacks or Better

jacks or better video poker

The most common video poker game variation is known as Jacks or Better.

In this game, as you might have deduced, you must have at least a pair of Jacks to get paid. Any hand of inferior value to a pair of Jacks 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 on your specific machine 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 highest hand value you hold. For example hitting a full house will pay you 6x-9x your bet, depending on the actual machine and the payout scale.

You don't get paid for the full house, three of a kind and a pair!

Basic Jacks-or-Better Video Poker Strategy

Your goal is to get paid as often as possible and only take small risks on the big scores.

Here are the optimal ways to play each hand in Jacks-or-Better Video Poker:

  • If you have four to a straight or a flush, you should hold all four cards and draw to it
  • If you have three to a royal flush, hold and draw to it
  • If you have any pair dealt to you, you should hold it and draw three cards
  • 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

Bonus Poker, Double Bonus and Double Double Bonus Video Poker

Bonus Poker, Double Bonus Poker and Double Double Bonus Poker are increasingly popular video poker games based on the rules of Jacks or Better.

The differences are you get bonus payouts for specific hands. Pay tables for Bonus Poker pay bigger amounts for premium hand (eg quads or better) but your overall payout percentage is slightly lower. 

General Strategy Tips for Video Poker:

1. Always Play the Maximum Bet!

If you get lucky and hit a Royal Flush without playing your maximum credits you'll be kicking yourself for a long time.

Simply put, playing your maximum bet gives you full value for the royal flush - usually something around 4,000-1. If you play less you'll only get around 250-1. Big difference!

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How to Play Video Poker - Deuces Wild

deuceswildvideopoker

When playing Deuces Wild all deuces in the deck are wild and can be substituted for any card's 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

Basic Deuces Wild Video Poker 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 all 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

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How to Play Video Poker - Joker's Wild

jokerswildvideopoker

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 Joker's Wild Video Poker 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

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Video Poker FAQ

Q: What's the Difference Between Playing Video Poker Online and Live?

A: Besides the free drinks (at the casino, of course) ... not much. All of the video poker machines you find online are more or less identical to the ones you can play in any live casino.

The bigger online casinos (see 888 Casino, Ladbrokes Casino) tend to have more variety but you can likely find Jacks or Better, Deuces Wild and Joker's Wild at most online casinos.

Q: Is There Such a Thing as a "Hot" Video Poker Machine?

A: Despite the 'feelings' you might get playing a certain video poker machine, everything is completely and entirely random. All online and live casinos must have their Random Number Generators certified and inspected regularly.

There are 2.6 million unique video poker card combinations so any "hot" stretches of big hands and cards is just coincidence.

Q: What is the Best Video Poker Payout?

A: In a live casino there are some video poker machines who can reach a 100% payout - but that's only with very specific play over a very long term. Still, most video poker machines can payout over 99% with optimal play. Be sure to check the payout table on each individual machine before you play!

Q: Should I Really Bet Maximum Credits?

A: Yes, absolutely. As we mentioned above the payout for a Royal Flush (still a rarity, but still) are so much higher with maximum credits that you don't want to risk missing out on a maximum payout.

Q: How is Video Poker Different From Slots?

A: Despite their similarity in appearance, video poker machines are quite different from slots. To begin with, slots payout usually range from about 90-95% and there's nothing you can do to change it. All slot pulls are entirely random and you have no control over your odds of winning.

In video poker, however, you do have control over at least a few aspects of your play. First, you can pick the specific machine you'd like with the payouts for each hand listed. Then, once your cards are dealt, you can pick which cards you hold on to which dramatically alters your chances of winning.

With optimal video poker strategy you can increase your payout percentage to over 99%, which is much higher than with any average slot machine.

Q: Are There Multi-Hand Video Poker Machines?

A: Yes, a mutli-hand poker machine can allow for play with up to 100 hands at a time. You'll need a much bigger bankroll to play a multi-hand video poker machine as all of your bets are multiplied across the number of hands you're playing.

Q: Are There Progressive Jackpot Video Poker Machines?

A: Yes, a progressive jackpot video poker machine pays out a progressive jackpot if you hit a Royal Flush. The jackpot is pooled from a small percentage of every bet entered on that machine (or series of machines networked together).

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More Casino Poker Games:

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Want to play some free video poker online? Check our toplist above for the best poker sites to offer video poker in their online casinos!

Find step-by-step beginners guides to the rules, betting structures and game play of all the most popular poker variations below including:

Included in each guide 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.

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