You’ll have to make decisions every hand. Make good ones, and you will win more. Make bad ones, and your video poker experience can get expensive. For a standard game of Jacks or Better, follow the rules below, and you’ll be on your way to success.
I’ll go through each possible starting hand and guide you to the best payoffs, but keep in mind that the “jackpot” on a video poker machine is a royal flush. When possible, you’ll keep cards that can make a royal, or choose the next-best option to get a payoff. When presented with a hand like K-clubs, Q-clubs, T-clubs, Q-spades, and 4-hearts, what would you guess is the best play?
Well, it would be fun to keep the K, Q, and ten of clubs and go for the royal, and that’s how some people play. If you want more royals, go for it; I understand. If you miss and don’t make a royal, you’ll occasionally make a flush, a straight, or a high pair that pays something.
However, if you want the best odds, you should keep the high pair of queens because it’s a guaranteed winner every time. The odds of getting the jack and ten of clubs to make a royal are .00923, or about once in 923 tries. Trust me, that’s, like, forever in video poker land. All decisions for video poker strategy are based on the overall best payoffs according to the mathematical probabilities presented for each starting hand.
That’s a fancy way of saying you should follow the strategy because it pays the most, simple as that. Don’t go with hunches, and don’t vary from your strategy and save an ace while throwing away a small pair because it could make a royal. It could, but it probably won’t in your lifetime of play.
So, here’s another example. You press the Deal button, and the machine gives you a new hand. This time, you get the worst starting hand: one that has only two of a single suit, no straight draw, and all cards are below a jack. Yuck, this is as bad as it gets. As I mentioned before, you need to toss all your cards and draw new ones. You do this by pressing the Draw button without using the Hold option on any cards, or by pressing the screen. Newer video poker machines in land-based locations all have touch screens.
After pressing Draw, you get five new cards. Most of the time, you’ll miss, but if you catch something like a high pair, you’ll get a payoff. Either way, your decisions for that hand are over. So, press Deal, and let’s move on to the next hand. The second-worst starting hand has just one high card. It’s still a dog, but at least you get to keep the single jack, king, queen, or ace and discard the other four cards. Press the Hold button under the card you are keeping, and cross your fingers. You’ll need some luck to survive.
You keep the high cards of jacks or better because that’s where the payoffs start. If you make a high pair or better, the machine will automatically add your payoff to your existing credits and await your next play. And what’s your play each hand? Keep the good cards and trade up to improve.
For instance, if you have no pairs and no four-straight or four-flush, but you get two suited face cards, you can keep them (that would be king, queen, jack, or ace). If you get A-T, discard the ten and save the ace. With these high suited cards, you can make a high pair or better, a straight, or even a flush.
- Two unsuited high cards with no pair, straight, or flush draw is another hand that shows up often. Keep them, and discard the garbage.
- Should you get three high cards, keep only the two lowest (J-Q, Q-J, K-Q) and discard the higher card to improve your chances of making a straight.
- Here are the rest of the cards in ascending order that you will want to keep, assuming no big pair. The way to play them is to run through the list and play the highest possible option (closest to a royal flush).
- Three suited cards that can make a straight flush. Keep those, and toss the junk.
- Any four cards to make an outside straight. You’ll get hands like 4-5-6-7 quite often. Drawing a single card to an outside straight will pay off 8 times in every 47, or about once every six tries.
- You’ll also get a small pair (twos through tens) quite often. Hold them and hope for trips or four of a kind. What you’ll usually get is three random cards. If you catch another pair, you get paid 10 coins. Not too shabby.
- When you get four cards of the same suit with no pair, toss the offending off-suit and prepare to make a flush. Assuming there is no straight flush draw and you have a pair, keep the pair, and discard the four-straight.
- Any three cards to make a royal flush is great. Keep them, and discard the rest, unless you have a higher starting hand listed below.
- A pair of jacks or better is a guaranteed payoff. That’s a great start, so discard the junk.
- Any two pairs can easily make a full house. Discard the rag, and keep the two pairs.
- Four cards to make a straight flush is fun and profitable. You can make a straight, a flush, or even the elusive straight flush. Sometimes you won’t make a payable hand. Call for cocktails.
- Three of a kind pays off well. Toss any other non-pair and draw two cards. You’ll often make a full house or even four of a kind.
- A five-card straight should always be saved. Hold all cards.
- A five-card flush should also be saved. Hold all cards.
- A full house should be saved.
- Four cards to a royal flush has lots of possible payoffs. You’ll hit a royal once in 47 draws for the big payoff. You’ll also hit a non-royal flush eight times out of 47, and several straights. As a consolation prize, you’ll hit several paying pairs.
- Four of a kind can’t be improved, so enjoy.
- A straight flush pays 250 coins/credits. Just hold all your cards.
- A royal flush dealt pat only happens once in about 630,000 hands, but I’ve been lucky enough to see it happen on my video machine!
Although the payoffs listed earlier are for Jacks or Better, variations of video poker like Double Bonus and Deuces Wild have different pay tables. Each casino has the option of offering higher or lower payoffs for straights, flushes, and full houses.
The payoffs are adjusted to produce varying casino win rates. The 9/6 pay table shown above has a terrific payback for players, with 9 credits per coin wagered (45 credits for 5 wagered) for a full house and 6 credits per coin wagered (30 credits for 5 wagered) for flushes.
If you find a Jacks or Better game with a 7/5 payoff table (35 credits for a full house and 25 for a flush), the house edge is closer to 96%. On the other hand, you may find a 10/7 payoff game. To compensate for the higher full house payoff, two-pair pays only 1 to 1. That reduces the overall casino edge to close to 98%. Another example of this is the Double Double Bonus video game.
Double Double Bonus
|4 aces with any A,2,3,4
|4 2,3,4 with any A,2,3,4
|4 2s, 3s,4s
|4 5s through Ks
|3 of a kind
|Jacks or better
This video poker game is very popular. As you can see, Jacks or better and 2 pair pay the same. The flush and full house payoffs are also reduced to allow for the maximum payoffs when you get four of a kind, especially 4 aces with a small card.
Unfortunately, these changes reduce the overall payoffs to about 95.5%, so the house edge climbs to 4.5%.
Online Video Poker Versus Land-Based Casinos
Land-based casinos compete with other casinos found nearby, so slot and video poker payoffs are usually similar. If you are playing in Downtown Las Vegas where the casinos are side by side and right across the street from each other, there are lots of game choices, but are the payoffs significantly different?
Not usually. The games at the D aren’t much different than those at the Nugget or across the street at the Fremont casino. However, you may find slightly better payoff tables on the higher-denomination video poker games. Quarter and dollar slots are often better than nickel slots.
In a gambling town like Vegas, you’ll often find better payoffs at some of the outlying casinos which are considered “locals” properties where a lot of effort is made to accommodate players who play regularly all year long.
You’ll also find a good selection of games when playing online. Look for Jacks or Better, American Poker, Double Double Bonus, Joker Poker, and Deuces Wild. You’ll also find the denomination you want. It’s easy to change most online video poker games from a nickel to a dime or quarter or even drop your play to a penny. To do this, just click on the coin slot or denomination and see if it changes to what you are looking for.
That’s one of the good things about online play. A bad thing about playing online is that the payoff percentages are more dependent on the software used than the casino. The software can also give you a very real experience on most providers, but you’ll have to check for yourself to see what you like.
Your internet provider and computer graphics card will also have an impact on your graphics. Personally, I don’t have a problem with the Flash version of most casino sites. That means I can connect and play very quickly without a drive to a local casino.
If you like Triple Play, you won’t find the exact item that IGT offers to live casinos. However, there are several varieties of multi-line games to choose from.
Be careful with both multi-line games and multi-credit games. Although you will win more for a royal flush if you are playing more than five credits per spin, your variance will be much higher. That means your bankroll is likely to take a hit before you catch four aces or a royal flush. You may want to stick to the smallest wager that gets you 4,000 credits for a royal when you start playing.
You will probably find a wide variety of different video poker games, and each will have a slightly different strategy. So consider reading specific strategies for other video poker games. Some machines like Double Double and Aces and Faces offer larger payoffs for poker hands like four aces or four deuces. They too have different strategies to try and save your bankroll while you wait for a big payoff.
While you are getting your feet wet, stay away from multiple-hand games like Triple Play or multi-play-level games where you bet 18 credits per spin. That takes a larger bankroll, and any mistakes you make will get multiplied by however many hands you are playing!
You should also know that once you become proficient at video poker, you’ll notice that hands are flying by at tremendous speed. You might even play more than 300 hands per hour. That works great when you are getting comp points, but again, it’s tough on your bankroll.
So, take your time, follow the easy strategy listed here, and enjoy yourself. When you are ready to learn other forms of video poker – some that have almost no house edge when played perfectly – check out the links below to other great games.