Video poker was first introduced by casinos in the 1980s. What started as a simple electronic version of draw poker grew into a unique class of casino game with different variations and styles. It has become a popular form of gambling in casinos across the United States.
How to Play
The instructions on how to play are very simple. Video poker is similar to playing five-card draw poker. After inserting between 1 and 5 credits, the machine will deal you five cards. You will then have a chance to improve your hand by deciding which cards you wish to keep. When you are satisfied, you would then press the draw button and the machine will replace the cards you did not hold with new cards. If the final hand results in a winner, the machine will award you credits based on the value of the poker hand and its pay table.
There are three main categories of video poker games you will come across at a casino. Most of them fall in the category of no wild cards. In most cases, you must have at least a pair of jacks in order to win anything. The second category is deuces wild, which has a minimum requirement of at least three of a kind to win. The third category is jokers wild. Most jokers wild games require at least a pair of kings to win, though some of them may require a pair of aces or two pair.
Unlike slot machines, video poker is a game of skill. The strategy you use to hold your cards will have an effect on the outcome of the hand. Now what is the best strategy in video poker? Fortunately, learning video poker strategy is somewhat similar to learning blackjack strategy because, based on a machine’s given pay table, there is always one best way to play any five card hand. When you are dealt a hand, there are 32 different ways that you can play that hand. The best strategy is to hold the cards that result in the highest expected value.
The best way to learn the proper strategy in any video poker game is to purchase software that allows you to practice the game for fun on the computer. When you practice, the software will notify you if you make a mistake. I use the software Video Poker for Winners when I practice video poker. You can also find strategy cards on the internet that you can take with you to the casino.
If you are a beginner, you have a choice on which video game to practice first. I recommend a game that does not have any wild cards, as they are easy to learn. Start out playing “Jacks or Better” as it has a very easy strategy. Once you are close to mastering it, you can branch out into other variations of “Jacks or Better,” such as “Bonus Poker.”
Best Video Poker Games
Not all video poker games are equal. Casinos will scatter games with high pay tables with lower ones. You should always look for machines containing the highest returns. For example, a “9/6 Jacks or Better” machine is called as such because the game pays you 9 credits for each 1 credit wagered on a full house and 6 credits on a flush. An example of a “9/6 Jacks or Better” machine is shown below.
Also, notice how the payoffs for each hand are proportional to each additional credit wagered, with the exception of the royal flush. Because the royal flush pays much more on a five credit wager, you should always bet the maximum credits per hand when playing video poker. The payback percentage of a “9/6 Jacks or Better” machine when wagering max credits and playing perfect strategy is 99.54%. This is one of the best video poker games you can find at a casino. Unfortunately, there are games with lower payback percentages. An “8/5 Jacks or Better” game is becoming more common. Here is the pay table shown below.
The payback percentage for “8/5 Jacks or Better” machine is 97.30%, much lower than 99.54%. Even when playing perfectly, you are better off playing Baccarat, which has a higher theoretical return for the player.
I am now going to provide a list of the best video poker games available today and what the theoretical payback is for each game, assuming optimal play. Not all of these will be available at your local casino. A great way to find out what the returns are at your favorite casino and where the location of each machine is would be to check the website vpfree2.com, which is a site I like to visit before my casino trips.
- Full Pay Deuces Wild (100.76%)
- Full Pay Joker Poker (100.65%)
- 10/7 Double Bonus (100.17%)
- Full Pay Loose Deuces Wild (100.15%)
- 10/6 Double Double Bonus (100.07%)
- 9/5 Triple Bonus Plus (99.80%)
- Not So Ugly Deuces Wild (99.73%)
- 9/6 Bonus Poker Deluxe (99.64%)
- 9/6 Jacks or Better (99.54%)
- 8/5 Bonus Poker (99.17%)
- 9/7 Double Bonus (99.11%)
- 9/6 Double Double Bonus (98.98%)
Notice that there are video poker games that exist that pay out more than 100%. These are incredibly rare to find, but what it means is that, assuming you have the correct strategy figured out, you can actually gain an edge over the casino playing these video poker machines! These 100%+ games can only be found in the U.S. state of Nevada; most of them are in the Las Vegas Valley, just outside the strip. Again, vpfree2 can locate these games for you.
Here is the pay table for Full Pay Deuces Wild:
I hope the information above has got your interest in video poker. If you are still uncertain, I will be adding videos to YouTube explaining each game and playing through some practice sessions. I wish you good luck and many royal flushes on your next casino visit!