Video Poker is a casino game derived from 5 card draw poker. All Video Poker games are casino backed games, meaning that unlike traditional pokers games where players compete against each other whilst the house simply facilitates the game, Video Poker is banked by the casino, meaning that the player competes against the house.
Offline, Video Poker is played on electronic consoles similar to slots machines. The vast majority of Video Poker games are played with a standard deck of 52 cards (with the occasional addition of 1 or 2 Joker cards) and present players with a screen and a series of buttons. Once the player has placed their bet they will be dealt 5 cards. The player then has the option to hold or discard any or all of the cards, the cards held are then retained whilst the cards discarded are replaced with new cards. The subsequent hand is then compared to the paytable for the game. Different Video Poker games offer pays for differing hand combinations and even within the same game different casinos may offer different payouts for the same hand.
Video Poker games operate on a coin system, usually but not always between 1 and 5 coins bet per round. Typically when the player bets between 1 and 4 coins the payouts move up proportionally, i.e. the payouts for all hands at 4 coins are 4 times larger than the payouts for 1 coin (there are exceptions to this rule), while the payouts for 5 coins generally involves a substantially inflated payoff for any Royal Flush hand. The inflated payoff that is usually associated with the Royal Flush hand means that it’s almost always in the best interests of the player to play the maximum allowed number of coins.
Some of the more common hands to appear on Video Poker paytables are detailed below;
* Royal Flush – The Ace, King, Queen, Jack and Ten cards all of the same suit. On some games additional payouts will be made for Royal Flushes in certain suits or Sequential Royal Flushes, a Royal Flush in either ascending or descending numerical order.
* Straight Flush – five numerically adjacent cards of the same suit (Example – 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 of Diamonds).
* 5 of a Kind – only available in a game that uses Wild cards (usually either one rank of cards or the additional Joker cards, the Wild card can count for whatever card most benefits the player. 5 of a Kind hands involve using one or more Wild cards to create a hand with 5 cards of matching rank (Example – in a game where 2s are Wild, 4 of Clubs, Diamonds and Spades and the 2 of Hearts and Diamonds would be considered 5 4s).
* Wild Royal Flush – A Royal Flush where one or more of the cards is replaced by a Wild card.
* 4 of a Kind – four cards of matching rank (Example - 7 of Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds and Spades). This hand type often has conditional requirements to qualify for different payouts. For instance many games offering different payouts for certain ranks of cards or for 4 or a Kind with a certain rank of Kicker (the last card that is not of matching rank).
* Full House – three cards of the same rank and two cards of a different but matching rank (Example – 8 of Hearts, Clubs and Diamonds and Jack of Spades and Hearts).
* Flush – five cards of the same suit (Example – Ace, 8, 5, 2 and Queen of Spades).
* Straight – five numerically adjacent cards ignoring suit (Example – 7 of Spades, 8 of Spades, 9 of Clubs, 10 of Diamonds and Jack of Diamonds).
* 3 of a Kind – three cards of the same rank with 2 unmatched cards (Example – 9 of Spades, Clubs and Hearts with any two other cards that are not the 9 of Diamonds or a matching pair).
* Two Pairs – two sets of two cards of matching rank with one unmatched card (Example – 4 of Clubs and Hearts, 8 Clubs and Spades and a fifth unmatched card).
* Pair - two cards of matching rank with three unmatched card (Example – 6 of Clubs and Hearts and any three other cards that are not the six of Spades or Diamonds and are not of matching rank).
Many Video Poker games, both online and offline, are now offered in a multi-hand format. The player selects the desired number of hands – usually 1, 3, 5, 10, 25, 50 or 100 hands, though not all variations will be available at all casinos and there are some less common hand totals available at certain casinos – and the desired number of coins. So if the player was playing a 10 hand game with 5 coins selected they would bet a total of 50 coins. A single hand is dealt then the player selects the cards they wish to hold. These cards are held for all of the played hands and each hand is re-dealt separately.
Many Video Poker games, in the event of the player receiving a winning hand will offer a ‘Double-Up’ option. If accepted this offers the player the chance to risk their winnings on whether the next card will be Red or Black. This is one of the few games offered in any casino that is a ‘fair’ game, meaning that the house has no edge when the player uses the Double-Up feature. Of course, the player has no edge using this feature either; it simply increases the variance of the game.
Variations on this game are available, with some Double-Up features using a coin and others allowing a ‘Quadruple-Up’ if the player correctly guesses the suit of the next card.
Many games will allow you to continue doubling up repeatedly, though due to the use of this feature by advantage players to rapidly increase their balance when playing with bonuses, most online casinos either restrict the use of this feature while playing with a Video Poker bonus or put a cap on the amount that can be won using the Double-Up feature. The better casinos softwares will enforce this restriction automatically within the game software(the game simply won’t allow the player to double further than the allowed amount), but many online casino softwares do not do this, so players should be careful when reviewing the terms and conditions of any bonus they choose to accept.
The optimal strategy for different Video Poker games varies dramatically depending on the game selected. The differing paytables dramatically change the way the player should handle different hands.
One general rule that is applicable to almost all Video Poker games we are aware of is that the player should always bet the maximum number of coins on every hand. Playing with less than maximum coins generally results in a far poorer return for the player.
Below we’ve included a tool that will analyse the correct play for any given hand with any given paytable. The calculator will return the mathematically correct cards to hold for each hand (the play that will cause the player to lose the least over the long run).
If you’ve encountered a game that cannot be recreated by modifying the paytables of one of the existing games within the tool, drop us an email at [email protected] and we’ll do our best to add the functionality for you.
Learning the optimal strategy for any Video Poker game is a challenging endeavour that will unquestionably require a substantial time investment. Below we’ve included a tool to help you learn the specific game you’re looking to learn. Select the game and modify the paytable as required and you’ll be presented with random hands one at a time. You can set our strategy trainer to show you the optimal strategy before your play the hand, after you play the hand or never if you’re just looking to have some fun playing for free. As your session progresses you’ll also be shown the percentage of hands that you’ve played correctly.
While Video Poker games often offer the player one of the lowest House Edge options to be found in any casino, the player has to be wary as seemingly small alterations to a paytable can make substantial difference to the potential return for the player. Amongst major online software providers we’ve encountered games with House Edges ranging from 0.06-6.26% when playing the full number of coins and up to 9.27% when playing less than optimal numbers of coins. Comparatively this last figure is worse for the player than most available online slots games.
It should also be noted that compared to many other card games on offer in casinos, Video Poker usually has a very high variance. This is caused by a large proportion of the return of the game being tied up in one or two rare hands (usually a Royal Flush and occasionally some other hand like 4 Aces) and means that the player can experience very long losing spells before hitting that jackpot hand. This means that compared to the likes of Blackjack, with comparative bet sizes, the player needs to be more deeply financed to survive the swings while playing Video Poker. It should also be considered that the swings within different Video Poker games can vary substantially. The general rule is the rarer the top payoff in the game the more likely that the player will sustain substantial losses before the big payoff occurs. Accordingly games with progressive jackpots are normally a risky enterprise though this is true across most casino games not just Video Poker games.
Below you'll find a calculator tool that will allow you to analyses any Video Poker paytable to establish the achievable House Edge when playing optimum strategy:
The paytables can be edited to allow for any variations you may encounter. You will find both a ‘Default’ and ‘Optimal’ house edge. The Default House Edge gives the house edge if you play the games standard strategy despite a changed paytable while the Optimal House Edge gives the house edge if the player optimizes the strategy to suit the paytable.
For convenience we will include a table of the common Video Poker games found online including their House Edge at various software providers.
Some notes on the table below;
- We’ve included both the 5 coin House Edge and the House Edge when playing 1-4 coins. Usually the House Edge for 1-4 coins are the same and as such only one figure is listed. However where they differ you’ll find four figures running from 1 coin on the left to 4 coins on the right.
- Where a progressive jackpot game is available we’ve included the range of possible House Edges. This is based on the lowest and highest progressive jackpots we’re aware of recently and should give a good idea of the possibilities.
- Where a negative House Edge is listed (usually with higher jackpots on progressive games) this indicates that the player has an edge over the house where the correct strategy is used.
- RealTime Gaming software is widely believed to have 3 possible paytable settings for each game. As such games can vary from casino to casino. There are relatively few RealTime Gaming casinos that we’d advise players to engage with – the vast majority are disreputable and have frequent player issues. Alongside this there were several casino groups where we could not access the games due to restrictions on UK players. As such we’ve chosen to select the various groups that we do consider reputable and provide information specific to these groups in a separate table.
- All the figures in both tables are based on the assumption of a strategy optimized to the specific paytable. If the generic strategy for the game is applied there will be a resultant increase in House Edge.
* We do NOT recommend playing with any SkillOnNet casinos due to software fairness issues that were previously detected on their Video Poker games. The House Edge figures are only accurate if the game operates fairly.
Offline a variety of differing techniques have been used to gain the edge over the game of Video Poker.
When Video Poker first rose in popularity and availability, many casinos were offering games that gave the skilled player an advantage over the house through use of the correct strategy for the game. The casinos could afford to do this because the number of players skilled enough to know the correct strategies for the games was low and where the correct strategy was not applied, as was the case with the vast majority of the playing population, the casino still had the edge overall.
As the correct playing strategies became more widely known and more players started to play well these opportunities became rarer and rarer. Today, while there are still a few games available with a player edge, these tend to be on low denomination machines that ensure substantial money cannot be made playing them.
The deterioration of positive paytables did not stop smart players from making money playing Video Poker. The use of promotions offered by casinos can often allow the player to make even a game where the house has the edge into a positive expectation venture. By using slots clubs (casino programs that return cash or credit to the player for every wager they make), coupons and even random prize draws where the player earns tickets in the draw by playing the smart player can win overall playing various Video Poker games. To do this successfully requires an understanding of the exact (or very close to exact) value of a promotion to the player.
Other approaches, including targeting progressive jackpots that have passed the breakeven point, tournament play and watching gaming for game glitches/payout errors can create a positive situation for the player, but caution is to be advised as many of these opportunities are rare and if found require substantial capital to play safely.
To learn more about playing winning Video Poker we recommend reading the books of Bob Dancer and Jean Scott. Both these individuals are highly respected within their field and have extensive experience playing winning Video Poker.
There are several methods of legitimately gaining an advantage over the online Video Poker games. By and large these involve the use of promotions, bonuses and comp point systems as the vast majority of games have a built in house edge. There are some games that offer the player the opportunity to gain an advantage over the house through use of the correct playing strategy alone. These games are rare but can be found by the diligent player. When looking for this type of opportunity it’s normally a good idea to look at games that carry a progressive jackpot.
It should be noted that online advantage play is not specific to Video Poker and in recent years the wagering requirements for player’s choosing to play Video Poker games has inflated to the point that Video Poker is now often a sub-optimal choice for the player. For more information on beating online casinos see BeatingBonuses.com.
Interesting Video Poker Stories
According to several reports, the former Mayor of San Diego, Maureen O’Connor, lost over a billion dollars playing Video Poker between 2000 and 2009, including $2 million dollars that belonged to a charity foundation set up by her deceased husband.
Supposedly she was ahead by over a billion dollars at one point but lost it all back and tens of millions more.
Given that a billion is one thousand million it seems highly unlikely that these reports are in any way accurate. Even progressive jackpots are rarely more than a few million at any one time, so to win a thousand million seems extremely improbable. More likely is that either press exaggeration has accounted for this figure, or the billion dollars is a reference to O’Connor’s turnover (total wagers) rather than the amount lost.