Video Poker 

Video Poker is one of the most popular and commonly played games in land based casinos around the world today, and – particularly popular in Las Vegas – the game has risen to become a player favourite due to the incredibly low house edge that can be found within the game, as well as the chance of big payouts and an overall exciting gambling experience.

Video poker is designed much in the same way that a slot machine is – it actually shares quite a few similarities with a video slot, although one of the main differences, and subsequently benefits, is the payout percentage that can be enjoyed while playing video poker. While video slots typically offer between 85% and 97% payout ratios, video poker games generally start at around 95%, and can go as high as 99%, especially when played correctly.

How to Play Video Poker

Video poker plays out much in the same way as a slot machine does, and as soon as you load up a video poker game you will be faced with a screen where you can adjust stake settings, and change some game related functions. Once you have chosen the stake you wish to wager, simply press the spin button, and the game will begin.

Now video poker is based loosely around Texas Hold ‘em, and the hand rankings are actually directly based on the popular poker game that’s recently taken the world by storm. This means the best possible hand you can make is a royal flush, and the worst possible hand, is usually a pair of tens or better. Depending on the machine variation you are choosing to play, this may increase to Jacks or Better, or even higher. A high card hand isn’t worth anything in video poker, as it is on a poker table and in other poker related games.

Once you have chosen your stake and placed your wager, you will see five cards dealt in front of you. If you have a premium hand, then great – you simply press the play or spin button once again. If, however, you don’t have much of a hand, you are given a free chance to exchange one, or all of your cards for new ones. For example, if you are dealt 4 spades, and the fifth card is a red diamond, the optimal play would be to hold the five spades and draw 1/5 card – if you are lucky enough to draw a spade, you will make a flush, and enjoy a nice payout.

Once you have made your decision on which card you are going to keep, and which ones you want to discard, the video poker machine will give you your replacement cards, and then you will automatically be paid out dependent on the strength of your hand. Note: There is no dealer in video poker – you are playing solely on your own, and there is no dealer hand to beat.

In video poker, you have an option to bet usually between one and five coins. It’s always generally worth betting five coins, as, while the payouts for most hands don’t increase, the Royal flush payouts always are increased when playing the maximum bet, and for example, on the one bet, a royal flush may pay 250 to 1, whereas paying the five coin bet – the maximum – the same hand can pay up to 1000 to 1, so you can see it’s well worth playing the maximum stake – in fact, playing the maximum stake can actually reduce the house edge, to less than 1%!

Optimal Strategy

If you are dealt a hand that contains no pair or better, and no high cards (high cards being a ten, Jack, Queen, King, or Ace), you will generally want to just take five new cards and get a completely fresh new hand. If you don’t have a pair, but have one of the high cards, is generally recommended to hold the high card, and draw 4, or 3 new cards. If you are dealt an open ended straight – for example, four, five, six, and 7 – it’s worth taking a gamble and hoping to hit a 3 or an 8 with the fifth card. The same goes if you are dealt a 4-flush – that is, 4 cards of the same suit – in this case, you’d also be well worth taking a gamble on hitting that fifth card for a flush.

You should always check out the optimal strategy for the specific video poker game you are playing before you begin to play – the difference in house edge can be staggering when compared to playing the game correctly versus incorrectly.

Game Variations

  • Jacks or Better – Jacks or Better is generally the most popular form of video poker you will find online, and it’s based on just a 5 card draw. This means you simply get five cards, as discussed earlier in this post, and your hand relies solely on those five cards. Playing regular Jacks or Better video poker uses a 52 card deck, and this is the game you are most likely to find at an online casino, as well as being the game that new players are advised to play – thanks to its simplicity.
  • Deuces Wild – Deuces Wild is fairly similar to Jacks or Better video poker, and in this variation, you will again receive a five card hand. The main difference between Deuces Wild, and Jacks or Better poker, is that Deuces Wild includes wildcards – there is still 52 cards in the deck, and the game plays out identically, with the bonus that 2’s are wild and can be used to substitute any symbol to make a winning hand. Of course, this benefit doesn’t come without a downside, and in this variation of the game, you won’t be paid for a singular or two paid hand. 3-of-a-kind is the minimum hand required to win.
  • Anything’s Wild – This is quite a popular new game that plays out much like deuces wild, instead, that in this game variation, you can actually choose which card is going to be the wild. Of course, you need to select the wildcard before the cards are dealt, although ironically, it is actually still best practice to make the two card wild, as this gives you the best chance of winning and minimises the house edge.
  • Progressive Jackpots – Progressive jackpot video poker is usually offered on Jacks or Better versions, but can occasionally be found in Deuces Wild, as well. A progressive jackpot is built up over time as more player’s wager money on the video slot with a tiny fraction of each wager being pooled into the progressive jackpot. If you manage to make a royal flush whilst playing the maximum coin bet, you will win the progressive jackpot, which can often run into hundreds of thousands or even millions of pounds!

History of Video Poker

Video poker is one of the newer casino games, due to the fact that the technology behind the game only originated in the late 1970s. Video poker machines first begun to make their way into casinos when the cost of producing the machines and coding the software was economically viable for the casino – don’t forget, this is in a time when computers cost tens of thousands of pounds, and so the casinos needed to be sure that the machines would generate a profit before they invested the money into purchasing them. The machines almost instantaneously caught the attention of local gamblers, and Vegas – the pioneer of video poker – was soon filled with rows upon rows of video poker machines in every casino on the strip.

As the popularity of the machines grew, so did the technology behind them, and the 1990s saw a multitude of different variations of the game begin to appear. The progressive jackpot was one of the first of these, and many land-based casinos feature multimillion pound video poker jackpots, which not only act is a fantastic way for the casino to generate attention and revenue, but one also gives players – regular, ordinary folk – the chance to win life-changing sums of money from a single one dollar spent.

When online gambling begun to emerge, video poker was quick to adapt, and it wasn’t long before software providers around the world begun creating online versions of video poker that could be enjoyed by players around the world. One of the big benefits of playing video poker online is that many of the games actually show you the best strategy to take while playing – this means that once you get your first five cards, the machine will automatically hold the cards you should hold, in order to play basic strategy – but don’t worry, if you don’t like the cards that the machine has held, or if you are just feeling in a gambling mood and want to take a chance at a longshot coming in, you can un-hold any cards before your redraw is dealt.

Today, video poker is more popular than ever with over 300 different variations available to enjoy online. Software creators are continuing to come up with exciting and unique variations of the game for players to enjoy, so it is not uncommon to see new styles of gameplay you have never seen before each week. Video poker is fun, easy to play, and potentially incredibly profitable, so it’s a game that every player can enjoy whether a seasoned video poker veteran, or gambling newbie just wanting to pass a bit of time online and use up a few spec remaining in their online account.

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Disclaimer: Please note that the legality of gambling online varies between countries and it is your responsibility to verify that your actions are legal in the country you reside. Please play responsibly - if you feel you may have a problem and need advice please visit Gamble Aware (UK) or Gamblers Anonymous.