Video Poker

Unlike regular slots, there’s an element of decision-making involved in this game, so winning isn’t just a matter of luck. If you’re going to do well, you need to be proficient at poker; knowing the poker hands and their rankings can help you make better decisions and improve your chances of walking away in profit.

Like slots, video poker is a game you play by yourself; there are no other players involved, nor is there a dealer. It’s just you and your computer or smartphone (or if you’re playing in a land-based casino, the video poker gaming machine). There are numerous different versions of the game, each one of which has slight rule variations that are easy to understand and make gameplay more entertaining. If you’re new to the game, you’ll be able to play for free online; playing in demo mode is always recommended for beginners since you get to practice as much as you want without having to risk a single penny.

The Origins of video poker

As with other casino games, the history of video poker is colourful and extensive. The game first emerged in the late 19th century. Back then, land-based casinos and other gaming venues were becoming increasingly popular. The Sittman and Pitt Company, which was based in Brooklyn, developed an alternative to the slot machine: the poker machine. Instead of having three drums like the early slot machines, this one had five drums, and instead of symbols appearing on the reels it displayed playing cards, with ten different cards on each drum.

This set-up meant that the full deck of 52 cards wasn’t initially used - the two cards absent were usually the jack of hearts and the 10 of spades. Because of this, you weren’t able to land a royal flush with hearts or spades, so the chances of getting a royal flush at all were half of what they would have been if these two cards were in the game.

To play, you would insert money, pull a lever, and each drum would spin before stopping on a particular card, with the five cards from the five drums together forming a poker hand. In 1901, Charles Fey developed a poker machine that had a hold and respin feature; this took off, and Sittman and Pitt soon launched their version.

It wasn’t until 1970 that the first proper video poker machines hit the casino. These modern machines had video screens instead of mechanical drums. Developed by a company called Dale Electronics, they were installed in a number of casinos throughout Las Vegas. The game really took off in the late 1970s and early 1980s when a company called SIRCOMA (which eventually became International Game Technology) started mass-producing video poker machines for casinos around the country.

So why did they become so popular?

The popularity of video poker today is undeniable. It’s widely available both in land-based casinos and online casinos with a great many exciting game variations on offer. There are a few aspects that have contributed to its popularity. One of the most obvious answers is that because it is essentially a themed slot it is relatively easy to play. You don’t necessarily have to understand poker to enjoy it, although an understanding of poker hands and how they rank will help you to be more successful and potentially win more often.

The game has great appeal with poker players too and is sometimes a pleasant diversion from sitting at a poker table. This game is an obvious choice for anyone who enjoys playing poker, as they already understand the poker hands and making decisions on what cards to keep and which ones to throw away is reasonably straightforward.

Another significant reason for the rising popularity of video poker is it’s very low house edge. In fact, there are very few games to be found in the casino that has a higher return to player percentage (RTP) than video poker. When played correctly, it is possible to minimise the house edge to close to zero, and indeed there are machines on particular game variations that can even provide a minus house edge when played correctly.

If you don’t know what house edge and RTP are, more information can be found here

How to play Video Poker and the Basic Rules of the Game

To play a game of video poker, you must first select the coin value and the number of coins to wager as you would do on any other standard slot. If you are playing a progressive jackpot slot, you will need to bet the maximum number of coins the opportunity of winning the top prize. If you are on a tight budget and want to make it go further, it is advised to wager the minimum coin value and the maximum number of coins.

Once you have placed your wager, click or tap to spin the five reels. Each one will come to a stop and will reveal a card. You’ll end up with a row of five cards, which is your poker hand. For each card, you can choose to either keep it or have it replaced with another randomly determined card. When you have selected the cards you wish to retain, press the start button again to spin the discarded reels. This will ultimately reveal your final hand.

The value of your hand is determined according to poker hand values, and any payouts are made as displayed on the payout table accordingly. When it comes to betting on video poker, you typically choose between one and five coins to gamble with. The higher your bet, the more you stand to win. To win the game’s highest possible payout, you have to land a royal flush (the best poker hand) with a five-coin bet. Below is an example of a standard payout table for video poker, though some versions of the game may have slightly different payout rates.

 

1 COIN

2 COINS

3 COINS

4 COINS

5 COINS

Royal flush

250

500

750

1000

4000

Straight flush

50

100

150

200

250

Four of a kind

25

50

75

100

125

Full house

6

12

18

24

30

Flush

4

8

12

16

20

Straight

3

6

9

12

15

Three of a kind

2

4

6

8

10

Two pairs

1

2

3

4

5

 

What are the Poker Hand Values?

Poker hand values are shown here in order of highest value first

 

ROYAL FLUSH - A, K, Q, J and 10, all of the same suit

STRAIGHT FLUSH – Any five cards in sequence, all of the same suit

FOUR OF A KIND - Four cards of the same rank

FULL HOUSE - Three of a kind, plus a pair

FLUSH -  Five cards of the same suit, but not in sequence

STRAIGHT - Five cards in sequence, but not of the same suit

THREE OF A KIND - Three cards of the same rank

TWO PAIRS - Two pairs of cards

 

You’ll notice that in the table above, all of the payouts are multiplied by the number of coins. For example, for the royal flush, if you’re betting with one coin, the payout is 250 coins, but if you’re betting with three coins, the payout is multiplied by three to 750 coins. The only exception is the royal flush with maximum coins: if the payout were in line with the rest of the table, it would be 1,250 coins. However, video poker games typically give you a bonus for landing the best hand with the highest bet, hence the higher payout of 4,000 coins.

Video poker Game Variations 

Jacks or Better is a widespread variation of video poker you will come across. It also goes by the name of Draw Poker and has a pair of jacks as the lowest-value winning combination (it pays less than two pairs), with pairs of numbered cards not counting as winning combinations.

Aces and Faces  is pretty much the same, except its lowest hand is a pair of tens.

Deuces Wild has all number twos act as wilds - this means that any two can substitute for any other card. Because of this, it’s possible to get five-of-a-kind hands in this game. Bonus Poker is similar to Jacks or Better, though it has higher payouts for four-of-a-kind hands. 

Joker’s Wild, which is played with 53 cards - the 53rd card is the joker, which acts as a wild and can substitute for any other. Like Deuces Wild, it’s possible to have five-of-a-kind hands in Joker’s Wild.

Double Bonus Video Poker

Basic Video Poker Strategy and Tips to Improve the Odds of Winning         

With every round of video poker, you have up to five decisions to make - that is, you have five cards, and for each of them, you choose whether to keep or replace them individually. The best strategy for video poker, to put it simply, involves being able to make the most sensible and informed decisions about what to do with each of the cards. To make the best decisions, you need to know the different poker hands inside-out, plus you should know the payout rates for the video poker game you’re playing (these can vary from game to game).

If video poker is played to a perfect strategy, then it is possible to minimise the house edge to near or below zero. You don’t necessarily have to be a vastly experienced poker player to know the hand odds and play every hand to its maximum potential. There is much information available online that can tell you what hands to keep on every outcome. Indeed, in video poker, the best cards to keep after the first spin is not always the most intuitive over a long game session, therefore even the most experienced players could gain a more significant advantage by following a video poker strategy chart or calculator.

You should also find a game that has a good paytable with higher payout rates, plus an excellent overall RTP - the higher the RTP, the more of your money you’ll get back from the game, on average. Let’s say you have two video poker games: one has an RTP of 96% and a reasonable payout table; the other has an RTP of 99%, with most of its payouts higher. Any casino player looking to win will choose the latter, as this is more likely to pay back more money.

Another good tip is to always bet with the maximum number of coins to stand a chance of winning the top prize, which on progressive-jackpot games can be very substantial.