Online video poker

Learn how to beat the house with video poker.

Since its introduction in the 1970s, video poker has become a staple of casino gambling. There are two reasons for its popularity: firstly, it’s very easy to play. Secondly, it presents some of the best odds for players.

Our guide will get you up to speed with the rules of video poker, take you through some popular variants (with pay-out percentages) and teach you how to minimise (even beat) the house edge.

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About video poker

Video poker is a game that’s based on five-card draw poker. It’s a single player game, where the player tries to create as valuable a poker hand as possible. If they create a hand above a certain value (usually a pair of jacks) they win cash. If they don’t, they lose their stake.

For each round, the player is dealt five cards face up via a video screen. They must then choose whether to hold any of their cards for the ‘draw’. They can hold any number from zero to five. All cards that are not held are then re-dealt, and the final hand evaluated.

Winning hands can often be gambled via a ‘higher or lower’ game. UK players will be familiar with this concept as it was used in the popular 70s/80s quiz show ‘Play Your Cards Right’. A single card is dealt and the player must guess if the next card in sequence will be higher or lower. If they choose correctly, their prize is doubled. Choose incorrectly, and all winnings for that hand are lost. Players can usually gamble in this way up to five times in succession.

The history of video poker

The first video poker games arrived at the same time as ‘Pong’ and early, primitive personal computers. Video monitors were hooked up to integrated circuits in which the game was programmed. Early video poker consoles were dismissed as a passing fad.

All this changed in the early 1980s when SIRCOMA, the company that would eventually become International Game Technology, decided to concentrate on perfecting the video poker console. This turned out to be a Vegas-shattering success, as it gave poker players who felt intimidated while playing on casino tables the chance to play their favourite pastime against a faceless ‘opponent’.

The popularity of video poker has yet to wane. While not too popular with Las Vegas visitors, the locals tend to enjoy playing video poker machines off the main Vegas strip. Nearly all real-world casinos will house a few video poker terminals under their roof.

Despite massive strides in computer technology and in particular video graphics, contemporary video poker machines are little different from their primitive forebears. Video poker fans are keen that their game is kept as ‘traditional’ as possible, and video poker has not developed in the same way that online slots games have evolved to be feature-rich monsters.

Video poker at online casinos

Nearly every single online casino will offer at least one variety of video poker, and most will offer several. While not as popular as slots, blackjack or roulette, video poker is a rarity as with correct play and taking in all factors, the house edge can be swung ever-so-slightly in favour of the player.

There are four main varieties of video poker:

  • JACKS OR BETTER – This is the main version of the game. To secure a win, a player must end up with a hand that contains at least a pair of jacks. All other hands lose. Payouts start at x1 for any qualifying pair, up to x800 for a Royal Flush.
  • ALL AMERICAN – Similar to Jacks or Better and with the same basic rules, but with a better payout structure. There are increased payouts for flushes, straights and straight flushes, but reduced payouts for full houses and two pairs.
  • DEUCES WILD – The lowest winning hand in this game is a set, but as the name suggests, all deuces (twos) are wild. There are additional winning hands, such as Five of a Kind, Wild Royal Flush and Four Deuces. The five-credit version of this game with the correct pay table actually has a negative house edge when played with perfect strategy.
  • JOKER POKER – Also know as ‘Joker’s Wild’, is played with a deck containing 53 cards in which one of them is a joker and can be used as any card when drawn. The lowest possible winning hand is a pair of kings, and Five of a Kind and a Wild Royal Flush are added to the the mix just as with Deuces Wild. Again, if the pay table is set correctly, the player actually has a 0.64 percent edge over the house with perfect strategy. There are also self-explanatory sub-variations of Joker Poker known as Kings or Better, or Two Pairs or Better.

Multi-hand video poker games have become popular at online casinos in recent years. This allows you to play up to 100 hands at one from the draw. If, for example, you hold two aces before the draw and play 100 hands, you can play all 100 hands with two aces and three newly drawn cards. This is very beneficial if you are dealt a winning hand before the draw.

Other less common varieties of video poker are as follows:

  • ACES AND FACES – A standard game with increased payouts for four of a kind of any face card or an ace. Payouts for other hands such as a full house are reduced.
  • ALL ACES or BONUS POKER – Same as Jacks or Better but with increased payouts for four aces, deuces, threes or fours, and reduced payouts for other hands.
  • BONUS FLUSH – Jacks or Better but with increased payouts for flushes.
  • DEUCES AND JOKER – A combination of Deuces Wild and Joker Poker or Joker’s Wild.
  • DOUBLE BONUS – Same as Bonus Poker but with a different payout structure.
  • DOUBLE DOUBLE BONUS – As above, but with other bonus hands such as four aces with a two, three or four kicker.
  • DOUBLE JOKER – Same as Joker Poker or Joker’s Wild but with two jokers instead of one.
  • PICK’EM POKER – Players are dealt four cards. They must keep the first two, and MUST discard either (not both) of the next two. After the decision has been made, the final two cards are dealt to complete the hand.
  • TENS OR BETTER – A pair of tens is the lowest winning hand. There are reduced payouts for flushes and full houses.


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