With the move online, video poker has taken on a new lease of life, being introduced to an international audience. Like its table-based counterpart, video poker relies on the ranking of hands to separate the winners from the losers. But while the game themes are similar, there are significant differences with video poker that require further examination.

How The Game Works

There are several widely played variations of video poker online. While these usually have some individual or unique rules that separate them from other variations of the game, the general principles are usually the same.

The game starts with players dealt five cards, in the format of five card draw poker. Unlike regular poker games, where you compete with other players to make a winning hand, video poker sees you competing against the paytable. Rather than requiring a hand that beats other players, you simply need to create a hand that ranks on the paytable, where you’ll be in line for a payout in respect of the value of your hand. You can usually expect a payout from a pair of tens or a pair of jacks or better, although this will depend on the individual game rules.

Once players are dealt their cards, they are given a chance to hold or scrap and replace one, all or none of the cards in their hand. Once these are replaced, the player’s hand becomes the final hand for that round, and payouts are calculated automatically on the strength of any qualifying hand.

Players can choose to bet a number of fixed units per hand, ranging from 1 to 5 credits of varying amounts. In general, it’s recommended that you play with the full stake possible on any video poker machine or game – this pays out an extra dividend for a Royal Flush, which skews the house edge into positive territory for the player, so by playing at the maximum stake, you give yourself the best chance of winning long-term. In that sense, it’s better to play for max stakes on a lower credit machine, than for smaller stakes on a bigger money machine – this way, the odds are stacked more firmly in your favour.

Payouts in Video Poker

Payouts in video poker are determined by the paytable, which is linked from the main game in most cases. As we mentioned earlier, there’s an extra payment available for a Royal Flush when you’re playing at the maximum bet, which can translate into a 4000x return in some versions. The paytable will indicate the lowest ranking hand that will be paid, up to a Royal Flush, plus all the equivalent payouts for different ranking hands along the way.

Note that in some versions, such as Deuces Wild, four of a kind 2s are ranked more highly than would normally be the case, so deliver a bigger payout – up to 1000x, versus the standard 25x for any other four of a kind. It’s essential to know the paytable of the game variation you’re playing, so you can make judgements about the best and optimal strategy for maximising your returns.

Video Poker Strategy

Strategy does come into the equation, especially if you’re looking to minimise the house edge and give yourself a fighting chance of playing profitably long term. Firstly, there’s the betting side of the equation, which should firmly be at the maximum stakes allowed by your machine or your bankroll. But when it comes to the cards themselves, it’s important to make the right calls about which to hold, and which to ditch.

Special variation rules excepted, you want to hold on to cards higher than a Jack, or lower pairs which could lead to a three of a kind or more. Single low cards are worth discarding, unless they are capable of forming a straight from the replacement cards. Essentially, you don’t want to be left with a pair lower than a qualifying pair, while at the same time it’s worth holding on to higher value single cards if these can form a pair or some other paying combination. It’s worth reading further about basic video poker strategy to brush up on your skills before you play, as well as checking any specific rules to the variation you’re playing – these can have a big impact on the optimal strategy for your game.

Video poker is a must-play for anyone who enjoys poker or slot machines. In many ways, it feels like a cross between the two, given the fixed returns and the limited player interaction. However, the key distinction between video poker and slots lies in the strategic element of the game, in choosing which cards to hold and which to discard. By becoming familiar with basic strategy, it’s possible to play for consistent wins in video poker, whether you’re playing at a console in Las Vegas, or online from the comforts of home.