Online Video Poker

Video poker is a computerized version of five-card draw poker and slots. Read on to learn more about this exciting, relatively new way to gamble!

History

Video Poker, as you can imagine from the name, is a new twist on an old game. It is based on poker, which dates back to medieval Europe, but its newness comes from its computerization, which began in the 1970s when computerized casino games were first being developed.

Video Poker was created by a Bally Technologies employee named Si Redd; he pitched his idea to the higher-ups at Bally but they shot him down. But Redd was so committed to his idea that he left Bally and created his own company, Sircoma, known today as International Game Technology (IGT).

Though it didn’t achieve immediate success, Video Poker hit its stride in the mid-1980s. This was also the beginning of the MTV era, when people were just beginning to understand the power of computer technology. Video Poker arrived at the perfect time to captivate Las Vegas gamblers.

The game was based originally on Draw Poker, where the lowest possible hand is two-pair. But the most popular version today is Jacks or Better, when the player needs a pair of Jacks or a better hand to win the game.

With the advent of online casinos, Video Poker has become more popular than ever, because as a computerized game, the internet is its natural home. Today, almost all online casinos offer a version of Video Poker, alongside classics like table poker, baccarat and black jack.

Terminology

Some of the terms in Video Poker are the same as those of regular poker (such as the names of hands); others are more specific to the actual, modern game itself.  

Action: The total amount wagered by the player in one game.

Bet Max: The maximum wager on one game. Usually, the bet max is five coins per hand.

Discard: The card(s) that the player throws away after the first round is dealt.

Flush: A hand in which all five cards are the same suit.

Four of a Kind:  A hand in which four of the cards are the same value (for example, four Kings).

Full House: A hand containing three of a kind and a pair.

Hand: The term for the five cards dealt to the player by the machine or computer.

Hold: The card(s) that the player holds on to (as opposed to the discard).

Jackpot: This is the maximum possible bonus, usually won if a player has a royal flush.

Pair: Two cards that have the same value (for example, two Kings).

Pay Back: The estimated payout percentage in a specific game, based on data from millions of hands.

Payout: The amount paid out to the player for one hand.

Pay Table: A list of payouts for every possible scenario, shown on the game screen.

Royal Flush: A hand that consists of five cards of the same suit, in consecutive order with an Ace high. This is the best hand in Video Poker – and regular poker.

Straight: A hand in which the player has five consecutive numbers, such as 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 or 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King. Suit does not matter in a straight.

Straight Flush: A hand in which the player’s straight is the same suit. The highest straight flush is a royal flush.

Winning Hand: The combination of cards that wins the game and gets the payout.

Rules

Video Poker is a relatively straightforward game in contrast to regular poker. Video Poker is played with a 52-card deck (except for the version Joker Wild, which includes Jokers). To begin a game, the player makes a bet and then presses “Deal.” Five cards will then be dealt. The player can then hold or discard as many cards as he or she wishes.  If the player discards any cards, the machine/computer will then deal more cards to replace those that were discarded. The five cards after the second deal is the player’s final hand.

If the player has a winning hand, his actual cash earnings depend on the hand, on the version of Video Poker played, and on the casino. Most versions of Video Poker are Jacks or Better, so any hand that doesn’t have at least a pair of Jacks cannot be a winning hand.

In Video Poker, as opposed to regular poker, the player plays against the machine/computer, not other players. This means that the player can either win or lose. There is no in-between! It also means that there is no real House advantage, so payout percentages can vary from 97% to as high as 99.5%.

Strategy

Given the relative simplicity of Video Poker, its strategy is relatively simple as well. After the first round of five cards, there are only two options – hold or discard. So your strategy will be based on exactly which cards to hold and which to discard. Below are some strategies based on the initial cards a player can be dealt in a game of Jacks or Better.  

Straight Flush: Hold all cards; this is a rare hand which can earn you a lot of money!

Four of a Kind: The second best combination you can get; there is no point in discarding your fifth card because you can’t improve upon four of a kind. So hold all cards.

Full House: The third best card combination; hold all cards. All five cards are in use so discarding can only hurt you.

Flush and straight: Hold all cards; these hands cannot be improved upon.

Three of a Kind: Keep the three of a kind and discard the other two cards. You might be able to get another pair (making it a full house), or a flush or straight, depending on what your cards are.

Two Pairs: Keep the two pairs; discard the fifth card so you can aim for a Full House.

Jacks or Better: Hold the pair and discard the other three cards. There are many other possibilities you can get.

If you don’t win anything on the initial hand (in other words, you don’t have a winning combination), you should discard all cards except picture cards and Aces.

Tips

Here are some useful tips to help you see more payouts in Video Poker:

  • Play real poker before trying Video Poker. It will give you a solid grasp of all the card combinations, and playing against a computer after playing against people can actually be easier.
  • Stay informed: Read the Pay Table before playing a new version of Video Poker. The best Pay Tables can have a payout percentage as high as 99.5%.
  • If you have any combination of a winning hand from the initial round (even if it’s just two Jacks, the lowest), do not discard all your cards. Even two Jacks can guarantee a win, albeit small. If you discard all five cards in hopes of something better, you might end up with nothing.
  • If a progressive jackpot is being offered for a royal flush, make sure to play the Max Bet – if you don’t, you won’t qualify to win the jackpot!
  • Just as in regular poker, you should keep your emotions at bay. Staying calm is the best way to remember your strategy and stick with it. And your strategy is to win!
  • Each hand is a new hand. Even if you’ve lost the past ten hands, it in no way impacts that 11th hand. So don’t despair; keep calm and play on.

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