How to Play Video Poker

When playing at an online casino, there is a wealth of games available to players. Some may be overlooked in favour of the stalwarts, such as slots and roulette, and one of those overlooked is video poker.

Despite having its roots in the 1970s, video poker is a game many are unfamiliar with due to the popularity of other games that dominate the online casino landscape.

In this guide, we will cover everything about the game, including what it is, how to play, the payout odds, and some helpful tips and tricks for new players to the game.

What is Video Poker?

As you can probably deduce from the name, video poker is a digital version of one of the world’s most popular card games and one that has endured for centuries. It began life in the 1970s and 80s when computer systems began to become more advanced, allowing for more technical casino games to utilise their hardware.

Due to the limited capacity of early computers, the game used a simplified version of poker, opting to base its gameplay around a five-card draw, which is often seen as being one of the easiest variants of the card game. That means that unlike playing Texas Hold ‘em online, when you play video poker it is a much simpler game.

  • Typical video poker machines or online games will:
  • Present players with five cards that make up their hands.
  • After selecting their bet and pressing Deal, they will be dealt the base cards for that session.

Players can then choose to discard or hold their cards after seeing what they have been dealt. Unlike typical poker, participants can swap out all of their cards if they decide they would like to and if their hand is weak. As this isn’t played against other players and is simply against the computer, the gameplay is slightly different. Instead of requiring certain hands to trump your opponents, different combinations of cards can pay out different amounts.

As a result of these differences in playstyle, some players might not know the exact details of how to play. Luckily, we have that covered too.

How to Play Video Poker

We’ve covered some of the rules and gameplay of the video poker game, but there’s much more to the game, and it can be daunting for a new player who is faced with a game screen and a brand-new experience. It may be a simpler derivative of the game of poker, but there are some deviations that even some could be blindsided by.

You must be fully aware of the common rules so that you can give yourself the best possible chance of a good experience playing video poker either online or at the casino. So, here’s our step-by-step guide on how to play online video poker.

  1. Add credit to your account or machine and select your bet amount - You will usually be able to choose from predefined amounts, as well as have the option to set your stake up to a defined maximum bet.
  2. Press Deal or the game’s corresponding button (each game might have a different way of doing this, so check before you start a game to be prepared to begin playing) - this will present you with the five cards that will make up your first hand.
  3. Study your hand and drop any cards you don’t think are useful - It’s unlikely that you will be dealt a good hand right away, so you can choose to hold as few or as many cards as you want, discarding the rest. If you hold none of your cards, you will receive five new ones.
  4. New cards - You will be given your replacement cards, and this will make up your final hand. At this point, your bet will be made and the outcome of this hand will decide whether or not you come away from the virtual table having won.
  5. Hands - Once your final five cards are locked in, it now depends on whether your hand makes up one of the combinations on the paytable. This can be as big as a Royal Flush or as low as a Jacks or Better. Each hand on the paytable will have a different payout amount depending on its importance. Remember, though, not all combinations equal a win.

The main thing that anyone familiar with poker can take away and use in video poker is the hands that are important in deciding the outcome.

In a traditional game of poker, a Royal Flush is the most coveted combination of cards and will usually mean a winning game for any player who gets it. In video poker, it represents the biggest chance of success on the table.

Always familiarise yourself with the paytable and the hands that make up the wins that pay out in the specific game you are playing. Not all games follow the same rules, so this can differ depending on your choice.

Payout Odds in Video Poker

As mentioned, with Jacks or Better video poker, you will find that there is a hierarchy of hands that make up a paytable. For each of these hands, there will be a different payout based on the perceived importance and likelihood of a combination appearing.

It’s important that you know which hands are likely to pay out what, especially if your first five cards are promising and you’re looking to discard only a couple at most. Below, we’ve listed the hands you will expect to find, what they are, and the odds of you getting them.

As video poker is completely random, these probabilities don’t mean that you will definitely get them. The below odds are based on the likelihood of drawing the hands from a 52-card deck over a long period of time.

HandCards CombinationOdds
Royal FlushFive consecutive cards - 10 to Ace - of the same suit1/649,740
Straight FlushAny five consecutive cards from a single suit that are not 10 to Ace1/72,193
Four of a KindFour of the same card (for example, 5) from any of the suits1/4,165
Full HouseThree cards of the same face value or number and two of the same face value or number (For example, 6, 6, 6, Q, Q)1/694
FlushFive cards not in consecutive order but from the same suit (For example, 3, 8, 10, K, J - all Clubs)1/509
StraightFive cards in consecutive order but not of the same suit (For example, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 - any suit)1/255
Three of a KindThree cards of the same numerical or face value (For example, 3, 3, 3, or K, K, K)1/22
Two PairsTwo cards of the same value twice but different pairs (For example, 2, 2, 4, 4)1/20
Jacks or BetterTwo pairs of Jacks or higher value cards1/8

Tips for Playing Video Poker

There are always going to be fairly universal tips and tricks that you can deploy to ensure that you’re setting yourself up in the best possible way with a video poker strategy.

A win can never be guaranteed, so there are methods that you can apply to ensure you’re not letting your gaming get away from you. These largely apply to all games, not just video poker, but there are some specific examples to keep in mind when sitting down at a video poker machine or an online casino.

Know the Rules

One thing to note with video poker is that, much like almost every other game that has made its way from the casino floor to the digital world, there is variety in the game. While Jacks or Better might be the most common that you will find - this means that a pair of jacks or more is the lowest winning hand - you will be able to find different types of the game, including Deuces Wild.

These may differ ever so slightly but will retain the fundamental rules of the game. As with any game, it’s important to familiarise yourself with the specifics before playing. It’s no good being surprised by a bonus game you didn’t know would be triggered or finding out that a specific hand is more important in a certain game type. Always look for the game’s instructions first before diving in.

Know the Odds

Understanding the odds is the most important part of playing any game at the casino. You need to be able to make decisions informed by the likelihood of a particular outcome occurring, and that’s particularly true of video poker.

As you can hold as many or as few cards as you want, potentially even dropping the whole of your hand, you should make sure to know the probability of the different hands available.

For example, if you have a Flush with a 2, 4, 6, 7, and 8, is it worth the risk of dropping your 2 in the hope of getting a 5 of the same suit and upgrading to a Straight Flush? The odds would suggest that you already have a good hand that is unlikely enough, so risking it all for an even less likely one wouldn’t be a smart move.

This is obviously a very simple example, but it demonstrates how knowing probabilities can inform your decision-making.

Know your Limits

We’ve already mentioned how a win can never be guaranteed at the casino - that’s just the nature of games of chance. That said, it’s key to know your bankroll and set yourself limits for both your wins and your losses. When playing a casino game, you’re likely to lose as well as win, so your bankroll should reflect this. This is where having a budget can be crucial. Budgets allow you to set a playing amount you are comfortable with, as well as help you to avoid chasing losses.

The same can be said for wins. We’ve all heard the age-old phrase “quit while you’re ahead” and never does that apply more than in bankroll management at the casino.

Placing small bets and maximising the longevity of your bankroll can make sure any losses aren’t as significant and improve your overall gameplay experience.

Video poker is a completely random game, so any tips and tricks provided can not guarantee any wins. It is just as likely that you will lose hands. All these tips can do is give you a better chance of a more positive experience by helping you manage your funds throughout your playing session.

Take Time to Think | BeGambleAware.org | 18+

We're sorry!

Unfortunately, 21 isn't available in your country.