Online video poker was introduced to casinos in the 1970s as a single-player equivalent to table poker. At the time, it was a bit of a technological marvel and quickly became popular. Today, the game is still played widely for its simple rules, low house edge and the possibility of big wins. Our step-by-step guide will steer you through the rules and variants of video poker so you can get the most out of this exciting casino game.
With all the various games in a casino, why should you consider playing video poker? In order to get the most out of the game, you must spend time to learn and practice the proper video poker playing strategy for the particular version (or versions) of the game you want to play. Let’s take a look at some of the main advantages of (and therefore reasons to play) video poker.
The Jacks or Better category is named for the lowest paying winning hand – a pair of jacks or better. Each game in the Jacks or Better category has a pay table with all the same winning hands as the original Si Redd produced game. They are the royal flush, straight flush, four of a kind, full house, flush, straight, three of a kind, two pairs, and a high pair of jacks or better. The games also all play similar to the table game of draw poker, that is, five cards are dealt, the player can discard any or all of them and the discards are replaced with new cards.
As you learned in chapter one, this game and others that followed were developed to satisfy the gambling public’s quest for larger jackpots. Jacks or Better has only the royal flush as a true jackpot. In that game any four of a kind pays enough for you to play 25 additional hands so they are not really jackpots, although it really helps out. Bonus Poker on the other hand pays 80 for one for four aces. On a quarter machine this amounts to $100 with five credits played. While this is not a huge jackpot, it is enough to make you feel like you have won something substantial and you may even decide to stop playing at that point with what you consider a nice win for the session. Also, where the royal flush happens only once every 40,000 hands or so, four aces will occur roughly once every 5,100 hands, which is eight times as often. Playing at a rate of 500 hands per hour, the Bonus Poker player will get four aces once every 10 hours of play, on average.
But video poker adds something slot machines don't have -- an element of skill. Players have decisions to make that affect the outcome. And because cards are required to be dealt from a randomly shuffled 52-card deck -- or 53 cards, in the case of Joker's Wild machines -- the possible combinations are known, the frequency of the combinations can be calculated, and an optimal playing strategy can be devised. In fact, when Missouri riverboats opened under a law that forbade games of chance, casinos were allowed to offer video poker, as a game of skill, even though slots, as games of chance, had to wait until voters changed the law.
Use a strategy list. A strategy list is like a cheat sheet, that has all of the different ways you can win in a poker game in a list ranked from best hands to worse hands. Using a cheat sheet will help you determine which cards to keep and which cards to exchange for new cards. For example, if you have the opportunity to go for a straight with an outside straight, or you have the opportunity to go for three to four of a kind with a pair, a low pair is ranked higher on the list so that is what you should choose.
Since video poker is a game of strategy, it definitely pays to get some practice in before you start playing for real by trying free online video poker. This isn’t possible in a brick-and-mortar casino, but online casinos give you the chance to play for free for as long as you want. This lets learn how to play video poker without putting any of your money at risk.
Video Poker play is relatively straight forward. The play of the game has similarities to other casino games, but it is definitely more complex than playing slot machines. To properly play a slot machine, you simply bet an appropriate amount to maximize your return from the game and either pull the handle or hit a spin button. There is nothing else to so. While it may be true that some slot machines have a button to immediately stop the spinning and go to the final result, pressing this button does not change the outcome; it only helps you lose your money a bit faster.
The don'ts are mainly related to making sure you do not end up losing more than you can afford when playing. If you have lost your daily budget it is important to call it quits for the day. Chasing your losses is a bad idea as it can lead to even more losses. You should also avoid drinking too many alcoholic beverages as this can lead to making strategy mistakes and bad decisions.
You can travel throughout the country. In fact you can travel throughout the world and chances are excellent you will find video poker games in any casino you decide to visit. Most video poker games look very similar, which makes sense since most video poker games play the same way. But do all video poker games work the same under their similar exteriors? Find out more in this section of the Ultimate Video Poker Guide.
A straight is a hand with consecutive ranks, like 9? 7? 10? 8? 6?. Notice again that the cards don't have to appear in order. The order of face cards, from lowest to highest, is Jack, Queen, King, Ace, which we abbreviate J, Q, K, A. An ace can also count as 1, to complete a straight where the other cards are 2, 3, 4, and 5. But it can't count as both a low and a high card, e.g., Q K A 2 3.
You'll sometimes find video poker games online that aren't really video poker games, too. One notorious example was from Slotland Casino. They no longer off it, but they used to have multiple video poker games and even a blackjack game which tied into their linked progressive jackpot. Since the game was just a slot machine game that looked like a video poker game, it was deceptive.
Online gambling is largely unregulated in the U.S. That means the casinos serving U.S. players generally don't answer to anyone. If you have a problem with a casino (like they won't pay you), then you're usually out of luck. I can't count how many players have written to ask me for help because they didn't get paid by some other casino. (Not that I helped them—if a dodgy casino won't pay you then you're on your own.)
By now you have all the knowledge you need in order to begin your successful journey playing video poker. You know about how the pay table gives you important information about the characteristics of each game. You understand the importance of having an adequate bankroll and how to determine the proper size of that bankroll. You understand what a strategy chart is and how the video poker strategy is developed in order to allow you, the video poker player, to extract everything that you can from the casinos. You know how to use a strategy chart in order to obtain those results.
In the early 1970s, when video poker was introduced and was still struggling for acceptance, the machines were usually referred to as "poker slots." And video poker has a lot in common with slot machines. They are easy to use, requiring no interaction with a dealer or with other players. Card combinations, like slot reels, are governed by a random-number generator.
Right after learning the proper strategy, the most important thing about playing video poker is to choose a machine with a good paytable! Here are some pictures I just took in the same casino, same style game, same denomination. The only thing that's different is the paytables. The first one pays 9 & 6 for the full house and flush respectively, and the second one pays only 8 & 5 for those hands.
Money insert/return slots: Cash-insert, voucher and club-card slots are positioned around the screen area of the machine. When you finish playing, the machine will return your balance in the form of a voucher. This slot is at the top left. Insert your player's club card in its slot before you start playing so you can earn reward points. Make sure that the card has been accepted.