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
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 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.
Bonus Poker specifically pays out a higher percentage for hitting four of a kind (quads). Variations of Bonus Poker also pay out higher amounts based on the ranking of the four of a kind itself.
The full-pay version of Bonus Poker offers an astoundingly high payout return of 99.2%. With additional payouts for hitting quads the payout for hitting a full house is reduced slightly.
Double Bonus Video Poker
Double Bonus Video Poker is a variation of Bonus Poker that has three extra payouts for hitting different four of a kind hands:
- 2-2-2-2, 3-3-3-3, 4-4-4-4
- Four of a kind 5s-Ks
When playing max credits per spin, quad aces will pay out approx. 800 credits. Payouts for quads 2-4 are also substantial at around 400 credits. Hitting a four-of-a-kind ranked from 5-K will typically pay out around 250 credits.
Playing "perfect" Double Bonus video poker strategy in fact raises the theoretical payout from Double Bonus poker to over 100%, although that is based on the payouts for a Full House/Flush staying at 10/7.
In other variations of Double Bonus Video poker the payouts for a full house/flush are reduced to 9/6 although the overall payout rate for Double Bonus video poker is still up over 98%.
Double Bonus Video Poker Strategy
Playing standard optimal Jacks or Better strategy will work for Double Bonus poker but will reduce your expected payout slightly. This is because of the extra incentive to make quads.
The biggest strategy differences are:
- If you have Aces full, keep the Aces and draw for quads
- Keep a straight flush over going for a Royal
- Go for the Royal over a standard flush
- Keep two pair over just a pair of aces
Double Double Bonus Video Poker
Double Double Bonus Video Poker is actually the most popular video poker variation in casino play because it expands the payouts for four-of-a-kinds even further with two extra payouts added:
- A-A-A-A with the fifth card being a 2, 3 or 4
- 2-2-2-2, 3-3-3-3, 4-4-4-4 with the fifth card being an A-4
The three quads payouts from standard Double Bonus poker remain the same. But the extra payouts for Double Double Bonus video poker are quite exceptional with 2000 credits paid out on a max bet for quad Aces with the 2, 3 or 4 kicker and 800 paid out for a max bet on the other extra quad payout.
Casino players LOVE Double Double Bonus because of this significant payout for the top four-of-a-kind with kicker combo. The payout is essentially half of hitting a Royal Flush but the frequency of it occurring is greater than half that of a Royal, giving players an edge.
Being dealt four aces with a 2, 3, or 4 kicker will happen roughly 1 in 16,000 hands but a Royal will occur only once every 40,000 hands.
With the added payouts for more quads combos, the payouts for full houses or flushes will accordingly be reduced. As with Double Bonus poker a "perfect" strategy for Double Double Bonus offers a theoretical payout rate of over 100%.
Double Double Bonus Video Poker Strategy
Because of the high-value payouts offered for four-of-a-kind with kickers in Double Double Bonus video poker your variance will be slightly higher than when playing standard video poker. That said, though, the payouts are so high that if you play optimal strategy (meaning holding all of the correct cards at the right times) you will increase your theoretical payout to over 100%.
Payouts for full houses, flushes, two pair etc are lower so you'll find you'll go through long stretches of minimal wins and then hit it big with a big hand. If you want to sustain the swings of Double Double Bonus video poker you'll need to have a more substantial bankroll when you get started. A rough estimate of the increased variance is around 40% - meaning an extra $4 to every $10.
If you play to hit quads with kickers and with max bets every time, though, you will see your bankroll returned to you completely over time - and hopefully some major profit streaks.
The underlying strategy is similar to but more complicated than standard Jacks or Better strategy (see above). Because payout for full houses and flushes, etc. are reduced it will affect the cards you hold in many situations.
Some key Double Double Bonus poker strategy points to note:
- If you're dealt A-A-J-J-4 you would normally hold the two-pair hand; in Double Double Bonus you would just hold the Aces as two pair is paid out like a single pair
- Hold a single ace - as opposed to Jacks or Better, if you get and A, J and random cards, instead of holding both high cards, hold just the ace
- Don't always hold a single ace - if you have a draw to a Royal Flush, Flush, Straight etc it's still better to play for the made hand than hold for quads
- If you have Aces full, don't hold the full house - draw for the fourth ace.
- In Double Double Bonus poker you should draw to an inside straight
Play Double Double Bonus Video Poker Free Online
If you'd like to play free Double Double Bonus video poker online to try out varying strategies, you can play it for free at 888 casino:
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!
How to Play Video Poker - Deuces Wild
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
How to Play Video Poker - 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 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
Video Poker FAQ
What's the Difference Between Playing Video Poker Online and Live?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.
Is There Such a Thing as aDespite 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.
What is the Best Video Poker Payout?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!
Should I Really Bet Maximum Credits?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.
How is Video Poker Different From Slots?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.
Are There Multi-Hand Video Poker Machines?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.
Are There Progressive Jackpot Video Poker Machines?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).
More on Online Casinos
More on Casino Poker Games:
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.
More on How to Play Poker:
- How to Play Poker - The Ultimate Guide for Poker Beginners
- How to Play Poker Online - A Beginner's Guide
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