Most of my gambling activity is spent playing poker and blackjack, or betting on sports. But there are a few games that I play from time to time because I enjoy them. Video poker and Let It Ride are my two go to games when I want to take a break and still gamble.

I only play video poker at low limits, because in the long run I can’t get an edge on my favorite game. I usually play Jacks or Better because it has a low house edge and the strategy is easy.

Video poker is a game that lets you use strategy to lower the house edge. This means that every time you make a mistake it costs you money in the long run. Here’ a list of nine video poker mistakes you need to avoid in order to give yourself the best chance to win.

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1 – Play Less Than Five Coins per Hand

Most traditional video poker games let you choose how many coins to bet on every hand. You can bet from one coin to five coins. The pay tables show the payout amounts for each coin wagered.

Here’s the pay table for a 9/6 Jacks or Better video poker machine:

Hand 1 Coin 2 Coins 3 Coins 4 Coins 5 Coins
Royal Flush 250 500 750 1,000 4,000
Straight Flush 50 100 150 200 250
4 of a Kind 25 50 75 100 125
Full House 9 18 27 36 45
Flush 6 12 18 24 30
Straight 4 8 12 16 20
3 of a Kind 3 6 9 12 15
Two Pairs 2 4 6 8 10
Pair Jacks or Better 1 2 3 4 5

All of the payouts are consistent based on the number of coins wagered except the five coin royal flush payout. Instead of paying 1250, a five coin wager pays 4,000. While you only hit a royal flush on average somewhere around one out of every 40,000 hands, it’s still important to always bet five coins.

The extra 2,750 coin bonus when you do get lucky enough to hit a royal flush is a big reason the house edge is less than a half percent overall for 9/6 Jacks or Better. This is why it’s important to always bet five coins when you play video poker.

Because of the way the payouts are designed, there’s never a reason to bet two, three, or four coins. Either bet one coin to keep your total wagers per hour down or bet five coins to unlock the bonus royal flush payout. But if you want to keep your bet amount down, there’s a better option.

If you want to bet less per hand you should look for a machine with a lower coin value so you can bet five coins per hand. If you can’t find a lower coin denomination in your local casino, you can play online. Many online casinos offer video poker games at a nickel coin value. This makes a five coin wager only 25 cents.

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2 – Don’t Use a Strategy Card or Chart

Unless you have the complete strategy memorized, you should always us e a strategy card or strategy chart when you play video poker. You can find cards and charts online or for sale in casino gift shops. You can even buy video poker strategy cards on Amazon and eBay.

The house edge for video poker games is based on the payouts and the odds of completing each of the paying hands. The choices you make when it comes to time to draw new cards change the house edge.

Each starting five card hand has a mathematically best way to be played. You can work through all of the possible outcomes on every hand to determine which is the best play. But you don’t need to do all of the extra work because computer programs have been used to develop the strategy charts and cards that are available.

What’s important to understand is that every time you don’t make the best play mathematically it makes the house edge higher. When the best play is determined it takes into account the odds of hitting each possible paying hand and the amount the hand pays.

If you use a strategy chart every time you play video poker you’re going to quickly learn most of the correct plays. If you play long enough you’re going to find that you don’t need to use the strategy chart at all, because you’ve trained your mind to recognize the correct play.

Different video poker variations use different strategy charts, and some of them are harder to learn than others. I recommend starting with 9/6 Jacks or Better because it has a low house edge and is one of the easiest strategies to learn.

Once you master Jacks or Better you can consider learning how to play NSUD Deuces Wild. It offers a lower house edge than Jacks or Better, but the strategy is a little more challenging to learn.

The important thing to understand is that you should never play a video poker game if you can’t use the best strategy. It costs you quite a bit of money over time to make strategy mistakes while playing video poker.

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3 – Don’t Find the Best Pay Tables

Each video poker pay table creates a specific house edge based on the odds of completing each of the paying hands. Unlike slot machines, video poker machines are based on playing cards. This means that you know exactly how many cards are in the deck and can determine the probabilities of completing hands you’re drawing to.

Here’s an example:

You’re playing Jacks or Better video poker and are dealt the 10, jack, queen, and king of spades and the two of clubs. Jacks or Better uses a 52 card deck. You discard the two of clubs and draw one card.

Here’s a list of the possible outcomes:

  • If you draw the ace of spades you complete a royal flush
  • If you draw the nine of spades you complete a straight flush
  • If you draw any of the other three aces or three nines you complete a straight
  • If you draw one of the other seven spades you complete a flush
  • If you draw one of the other three jacks, queens, or kings you have a pair of jacks or better

When you total all of the winning hands above you have 24 cards that complete a winning hand. The deck only has 47 cards left, so in this situation you’re going to complete a winning hand 24 times and not finish with a winning hand 23 times.

Some video poker games use a standard 52 card deck of playing cards, while others us one or more jokers. Some video poker games use wild cards and some don’t. It doesn’t matter which video poker game you play, it’s easy to determine the number of cards in the deck, and you can use this information to help you make better playing decisions.

It’s important to always find the best pay tables when you play video poker. Any time you play at a machine without a good pay table it costs you money. The first step is to know which pay tables you’re looking for.

You should learn about all of the available play tables for every video poker variation you play. You can find dozens of different video poker variations so it can be difficult to know the best pay table for each variation.

I’ve already recommended that you start with Jacks or Better and then add Deuces Wild, so you should know which pay tables to look for on both of these variations. Here are the pay tables you should look for on each of these two machines.

For Jacks or Better you should look for the pay table listed in the first section above. The full house should pay nine coins and the flush should pay six. The only other thing to look for is to make sure the five coin royal flush pays 4,000.

The Deuces Wild pay chart you’re looking for is sometimes called Not So Ugly Ducks, or NSUD. The royal flush pays 4,000 for a five coin wager, just like Jacks or Better.

Here’s the rest of the pay table:

Four deuces 200
Royal Flush with wild 25
Five of a kind 16
Straight Flush 4
Four of a kind 6
Full house 4
Flush 3
Straight 2
Three of a kind 1

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4 – Play above Your Bankroll

Video poker machines, especially when you stick to playing ones with a good pay table, have a low house edge. This makes these machines some of your best options in the casino. But video poker machines are still designed to keep more for the house than they pay out.

This means that eventually you’re going to lose money. You might not lose the first time you play, and the odds are good that you won’t lose every time you play, but in the long run you’re going to lose more than you win.

You need to have a bankroll big enough to play as long as you want. If you get unlucky a video poker machine can drain a modest bankroll quickly. If you just play for fun every now and then with extra money you have in your pocket it’s fine. But if you want to play for a set amount of time or longer you need to determine your bankroll needs.

You can estimate how much you’re going to lose by making a simple calculation. Every time you make a bet it has an expected value. Expected value is based on the average win or loss on the bet if the results were run thousands and thousands of times.

On any single bet you either lose your entire wager or win one or more times your bet when you have a winning hand. But over time you can average all of the losses and wins out to find the exact amount you win or lose on average every time you make the bet.

When you have this information you can use it to determine how big your bankroll needs to be to pay for a certain amount of time. Here’s how to determine your expected loss rate playing 9/6 Jacks or Better video poker.

Multiply the house edge, which is .46%, times the amount you bet per hand times the number of hands you play every hour.

Here’s an example:

.46% X $5.00 X 400 = $9.20 expected loss per hour.
Does this mean you can play an hour betting $5 per hand with only $10? In theory it does, but remember that this is just an average over thousands of hands. You can easily lose the first two hands.

As a matter of fact, you might even run out of money in the first hour if you start with $100. Even if you know and understand all of the expected value umbers, it’s easy to underestimate the amount of bankroll you need.

I recommend having a bankroll of 20 to 30 times your expected loss rate, especially if you’re only playing a few hours. The longer you play, the closer your expected loss rate will come to your actual loss rate.

This means that if you’re only going to play a couple hours using the example above, I recommend at least $200 or $300 as your bankroll. If you want to play 20 hours using the example, your expected loss rate is $184.

This is a much longer playing period, so you don’t need as big of a multiple to have a good chance to play that long. Instead of 20 to 30 times your expected loss; you can usually get by on five times your expected loss. In this case, a bankroll of between $900 and $1,000 gives you a realistic chance to play for 20 hours.

Of course, the best situation is to have a much higher bankroll so you don’t have to worry about running out of money. If you have a $1,000 bankroll and play 25 cents per hand on a nickel machine you can play for hundreds of hours before running out of money. $1,000 divided by (400 hands per hour X .25 X .46%) = 2173 hours of expected play.

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5 – Don’t Get Comps

Every time you play video poker you should earn comps. Casinos offer comps for play through their player’s club or slot’s club program. Sign up for the club at every casino where you pay and always remember to use your card when you play.

You don’t earn a huge amount of comps for video poker play, but every dollar you earn helps offset your expected losses. Different casino offers different percentages of your play in comps, and most of them don’t publish the exact amount.

But even if you only earn .1 or .2% of your total wagers in comps, it effectively reduces the house edge. The edge in 9/6 Jacks or Better using perfect strategy is .46%. With .1% return in comps it lowers the effective edge to .36%.

I can’t think of any good reason why a video poker player shouldn’t earn comps. It’s just like getting something for free just for playing a game you’re planning to play anyway. Always get comps when you play video poker. If the casino where you play doesn’t offer comps, find a different casino that does.

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6 – Don’t Get Online Bonuses

Online casinos offer many advantages for video poker players. It’s easier to find machines with good pay tables and the minimum bet per hand is usually lower than in and based casinos. Another advantage is that many online casinos offer a bonus when you deposit that you can use to play video poker.

Almost every online casino offers a sign up bonus, but not all of them can be used to play video poker. Make sure you read the terms and conditions before you make a deposit to verify you can use the bonus while playing video poker.

In the last section I mentioned playing for comps. Many online casinos offer comps, but not all of them do. If you can find an online casino that offers a video poker bonus and a comps program you have the best of both worlds. If you have to pick between an online casino that offers comps or a bonus, you’re usually better off taking the bonus.

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7 – Play Games That You’re Not Familiar With

The main advantage of playing video poker is being able to use strategy to lower the house edge. This is only applicable when you know the best strategy to use. If you play video poker games that you aren’t familiar with it makes it difficult to use the best strategy.

Casinos know that when they can get players to play games where the players make mistakes that it increases the profit for the casino. This is one reason why the casinos are always looking for new games to introduce.

Never play a new video poker variation until you learn about the available pay tables and the best strategy. If you see a game you’re not familiar with, make a note of the name and pay table so you can look it up online later. Until then, stick with a game you know.

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8 – Play Too Many Hands per Hour

In the section about your bankroll you learned how to determine your expected loss rate per hour. One of the variables used to determine your loss rate is hands per hour. Once you learn the best strategy you can play hundreds of hands per hour on a video poker machine. Some players can play 400 to 500 hands per hour.

But you control how many hands per hour you play at the video poker machine. Instead of playing as fast as you can, consider playing slower. This reduces the expected loss per hour, which makes your bankroll last longer and lets you play longer.

If you train yourself to take fewer hands per hour you can get used to it quickly. If you play 200 hands per hour instead of 400, it effectively doubles the amount of time you can play on the same bankroll.

When you’re learning the best strategy you play slower because you keep checking your card or chart for the best play. The problem is that most players start playing faster once they memorize the strategy chart. The only situation where it’s best to play as fast as you can is when you’re playing in a video poker tournament and are trying to hit a royal flush as quickly as possible.

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9 – Overestimate How Often You Can Hit a Royal Flush

In the long run you hit a royal flush playing Jacks or Better roughly one out of every 40,000 hands. This doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed to hit one every 40,000 hands, but on average that’s how often it happens.

If you play 400 hands per hour, it means that you’re going to hit a royal flush once in 100 hours of play. If you pay 200 hands per hour you’re going to hit one in every 200 hours of play, on average.

The big 4,000 coin jackpot looks good and it goes a long way toward replenishing your bankroll, but it’s a rare occurrence. Don’t count on hitting a royal flush to make up for your losses. You can chase one for days before you hit one.



Video poker offers a low house edge and a great deal of control over how fast you play and how much you bet. But you have to find the best pay tables and use the best strategy. Every time you make a mistake playing video poker it costs you money. Avoid the nine mistakes on this page to improve your video poker results.

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