How to Play Video Poker: Game Guide, Strategy and Odds
Video Poker is a brilliant casino game with a really low house edge that offers players a great chance to win. It is also an excellent introduction to poker for those players wanting the thrill of the famous card game without fear of being intimidated by other players and the more intricate points of the multi-player version. Here we take a look at how to play video poker, as well as offering a look at strategy, tips and the overall odds.
How to Play Video Poker
There are almost countless variations of video poker but they are all based on the same core rules and by far the most common type of video poker, especially when playing on mobile, is Jacks or Better. The game is a single-player version of five card draw poker in which the player plays against the casino. Rather than having to beat the casino or other players, the player is rewarded for the strength of the hand he or she achieves, with some form of payout usually being granted for a pair of jacks or better.
Five cards are dealt face up and the player can choose to hold any number of them – whether changing all five, keeping all of the original cards, or just changing some. Hands are paid according to the game’s pay table (which relates to traditional poker hands) and based on how many coins the player staked, with the decision to bet between one and five coins having been made prior to the deal.
It really is that simple and all that is needed to get going with video poker is knowledge of the winning hands, which is detailed below under the odds and strategy section.
Video Poker Odds and Strategy
Video poker has a very low house edge and that, combined with the possibility of big wins and the simplicity of the game, is what has helped make it so popular. The house edge varies according to the exact version of the game being played but a mark of around 0.5% is not uncommon, making it comparable with blackjack.
Like blackjack, there is an optimum strategy that guarantees the lowest house edge possible and gives you the best chance of winning but it is slightly more complex than the so-called basic strategy of blackjack, although simpler versions are worth using with little sacrificed in terms of house edge.
Before we take a look at the strategy, let’s first run through the winning hands and what they normally pay (based on a single coin bet).
- Royal Flush – 10 to Ace of the same suit, pays 250 coins
- Straight Flush – Five consecutive cards of the same suit, pays 50 coins
- Four of a Kind – Four cards of the same value, pays 25 coins
- Full House – Three cards of the same value AND a pair, pays 9 coins
- Flush – Five cards of the same suit, pays 6 coins
- Straight – Five cards of consecutive numbers, e.g. 4-5-6-7-8, pays 4 coins
- Three of a Kind – E.g. 3 jacks, pays 3 coins
- Two Pairs – Pays 2 coins
- Pair of Jacks or Higher – Pays 1 coin
Whilst we have said that video poker has a very low house edge, it can actually have a negative edge at times, that is to say it actually favours the player from a probabilistic perspective. Almost all forms of video poker pay a significant bonus when a player uses the maximum five coins and hits a straight flush. For example, the payout for all other hands is proportionate to the increased number of coins staked, so a flush pays 6 coins to a single coin bet, then 12, 18, 24 and 30 for a five coin bet. However, whilst a royal flush pays 250 for a single coin wager and 1000 for four coins, it may often pay up to 4000 coins for a full five coin bet.
This, along with the most generous rules video poker can offer can, especially when combined with VIP schemes or loyalty bonuses, produce a small advantage to the player. Whilst the chances of hitting that all-important royal flush remain tiny, the huge reward granted to a player staking five coins, means video poker is THE best game in the casino in terms of your chances of earning a profit over the long-term.
All the different game variants have slightly different strategies in order to extract the lowest possible house edge from the casino but here we will consider Jacks or Better, simply, as said, because it is by far the most common version of video poker, especially for those playing on their mobile.
The fundamental principle is that because the higher hands pay off so much better than the lower ones, you are usually better taking the smaller chance of making the better hands. However, the one most basic principle that you must ALWAYS remember is to ALWAYS play the maximum coins as the bonus for the royal flush improves your overall chances significantly.
For full details of the exact strategy and options to employ please see the Wizard of Odds site, as it is beyond the scope of this article to accurately detail the various options.