Holding cards based on what you feel is correct or holding based on the flow of the cards are both technically strategies. But the video poker game manufacturers set up pay tables based on the math of the game so the casinos will be sure to make a profit from them. Therefore in order for you to make the most of your video poker playing experience, you need to use a strategy that is based on the same math.
As you have learned in the first chapter, one of the main reasons for the popularity of video poker is it usually has a considerably higher payback than slot machines. In fact some games return more than 100 percent for a skilled player. Regardless of which video poker game you play, achieving the long term return percentage is dependent on getting your fair share of royal flushes. By a royal flush I mean the royal flush that really counts – the natural royal flush that is formed without the aid of a wild card. These generally pay 4,000 credits for a five-credit bet or 800 for 1.
Not all video poker games are created equal, and it pays to do a little looking around. If you have several online casinos where you like to play, take the time to check pay tables before you start wagering. Those who play in brick-and-mortar casinos should do the same – I’ve often found higher and lower pay tables on the same game in different areas of one casino.
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.

Video poker follows the same hand ranking rules as regular poker with Royal Flush being the highest hand. It is also important to note that in video poker, it is the hand that matters regardless of the value of the cards forming it. For example, a pair of Aces will pay the same as a pair of Jacks and a Straight from 9 to K will pay the same as a straight from 2 to 6. Here is the poker hand ranking in a descending order:
If you choose the machine on the right, you'll lose your money six times faster!  And your chances of winning will be far less.  If the reason isn't obvious then consider this:  If the player is getting back 99.54% and 97.29%, that means the casino is keeping 0.46% and 2.71%.  The casino profit on the second machine is 2.71 ÷ 0.46 = 5.9 times higher. 

After studying this payout and odds table, it is notable that there is an inequality between the odds and the payouts of some hands despite the fact a Full House is more likely to happen than a straight or a flush, but pays more than these two hands. It is clear from the pay table that hands that are not likely going to happen pay more while hands that are more likely to happen pay less. Despite this, the game is in the favor of the player, which is why it can be only found online or at big land-based casinos. You are surely not going to find them in bars or other small gambling venues.
The strategy below is the Wizard's simplified strategy for Jacks or Better.  You give up just a tiny part of the return (99.46% instead of 99.54%) and in exchange you get a strategy that's much, much easier to learn and remember than the perfect strategy.  The 0.08% penalty costs you only $0.60 per hour of play on average, assuming a quarter machine played at 600 hands per hour.
There are several different ways to develop a video poker playing strategy. It could be tailored to favor hitting royal flushes. A strategy developed in this way could be useful in video poker tournaments where the participant has a limited amount of time to get a high score in order to win. This type of strategy would see a greater number of royal flushes. It would however also see a smaller return to the player because smaller winning hands would be sacrificed in favor of holding for a royal flush.
Think about how normal video poker play goes. After depositing your initial amount, you start playing hand after hand. Most often you lose your bet. The next most frequent occurrence is to simply get your bet returned by hitting a high pair (or sometimes two pairs) that returns 1 for 1. You will also hit other higher paying but less frequent hands. In each case, however, unless you hit a royal flush or other very high paying hand such as four aces with a kicker, the amount you win is not enough to cash out and be considered a good win for the day. Instead, all of these lesser wins are really just extra money that allows you to play a few more hands in order to try to win the jackpot sized hand(s).
The fourth part, finding a liberal pay table, requires some combination of online research and good old walking. A great site for identifying the loose video poker at every casino in Las Vegas, and most of the country, is vpfree2.com. However, any video poker player worth his weight in quarters can identify a loose pay table on sight. Let's take Jacks or Better, for example. All the pays except the flush and full house are usually the same. In any video poker game, it is usually the middle hands that vary. The following table shows what the expected return of the game is for common Jacks or Better pay tables, assuming optimal player strategy.
One advantage that video poker has over regular slot machines is that you can determine the return of the game by reading the pay table on the front of the machine. Most video poker games use the combinations of hands that can be made from a standard 52 card deck. I say most because there are some Joker Poker Games that use one or two Jokers added to the 52 card deck. One popular variation of the game is Deuces Wild which uses a 52 card deck but the deuces are wild cards. With a set number of combinations that can be made from the cards used in the game, the payout can be calculated by how much the machine pays for each winning combination.
Of course, you don’t actually have to memorize the strategies in order to play video poker reasonably well. Even if you want to play optimally, you can use visual aids whilst playing online. This is much simpler than trying to play from memory. However, as you play a particular machine more and more, you’ll find yourself relying on these ‘cheat sheets’ less and less. Instead, you’ll begin to notice that you have a better handle on the strategies needed to win on each different type of different video poker game.
WinPoker more than met my expectations. Unless you are already near perfect at video poker, it will surely improve your game. You can adjust the pay table to match that of any machine you frequently play. The system has the look and feel of the casino game, with the edition that - in training mode - it will warn you if you are making a mistake, and at your discretion pop up a table showing the odds outcomes of your choice, the preferred choice, and other options. (You can either correct your original choice, or leave it unchanged to see how you would have fared without help.) At the end of your session, it will grade your overall performance, and show how many coins your mistakes cost you. WinPoker works as a game, of course, but it will also improve your play. My play has improved from about 90% accuracy when I started to about 98% now. (There are still some subtle distinctions (ranked here as "minor errors"), which I still don't grasp, but the dreaded "major error" message almost never appears now, unless I am playing tired.) I can attest that my sharpened skills have translated into better returns at the casino.
We think video poker games are far superior to slot machines for various reasons. The most important of these reasons is the better odds that are offered. The best slot machine in a casino probably only has a 94% or a 95% payback percentage. Most video poker games start with that kind of payback percentage, and a huge percentage of these games offer better payouts than that.

The popularity of these machines increased until they were an absolute must in any land-based casino. Now, almost every single casino on the Vegas Strip offers its players a number of video slot machines. In the 1990s, with the huge breakthrough in technology, video poker games started to offer better gaming quality and more variations of the game were introduced.

Use a player card, and know the benefits of doing so. Casinos reward points for every penny bet in any machine, and those points can be redeemed for free play or comps. Free play rebates usually run from 0.1% to 0.33%. There are lots of other benefits for using a player card, like discretionary comps, free play mailers, drawings, and tournaments. If you don't use a card, there will be no evidence trail that you played, so you'll never get any of the freebies. This advice goes for any form of gambling. Finally, contrary to popular myth, the machines don't pay worse if you put in a card. The odds are the same whether you use a player card or not.
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.

In both video poker machines and online video poker, as well as regular online poker, there are two kinds of random shuffle to deal cards. The first is a “continuous shuffle” which means that the virtual deck is being shuffled constantly throughout the hand, dealing the next card when required. A pre-determined shuffle works just like shuffling a real deck of cards; the virtual deck is shuffled and the cards are dealt off in the order they land in. Different video poker machines and games will utilise different shuffles, but both are completely fair and random.
Here's where our strategy list comes in.  Notice that a low pair is #9, while four to an outside straight is #10.  The low pair is higher on the list, so we hold the pair.  In fact, you almost always hold pairs in Jacks or Better.  We'll discuss exceptions below, but in general, always lunge for a pair, and then do a quick check to see if you have anything better, since you probably won't.
You may have heard the adage that the "house always has the advantage." Video poker is an exception to that rule. If you look for the most liberal pay tables, and play them properly, you can have a thin advantage. Some pay tables, which are slightly in the machine's favor, can return over 100%, if you factor in incentives such as cash back, free play, mailers, and other comps.
The fourth part, finding a liberal pay table, requires some combination of online research and good old walking. A great site for identifying the loose video poker at every casino in Las Vegas, and most of the country, is vpfree2.com. However, any video poker player worth his weight in quarters can identify a loose pay table on sight. Let's take Jacks or Better, for example. All the pays except the flush and full house are usually the same. In any video poker game, it is usually the middle hands that vary. The following table shows what the expected return of the game is for common Jacks or Better pay tables, assuming optimal player strategy.
In this chapter you learned how video poker strategy charts are created. The process is very computationally intense. By using the math of video poker to create a strategy that maximizes the return of every hand, the resultant strategy will have the highest return possible. You also learned that while there may be scores of lines in a strategy chart, the charts are straightforward to use. In order to properly use a strategy chart the video poker player must know the relative amount paid for each different hand. They must also know how to determine whether a straight or straight flush is a fully open or an inside hand. Having learned how to use a video poker strategy chart, you are ready to learn how to practice playing video poker in order to learn how to play without having to check a strategy chart for each hand. You will learn how to do this in chapter 7.
Take 9-6 Double Double Bonus Poker, which returns 98.98 percent with its own special strategy. If you use 9-6 Jacks or Better strategy, the average return is 98.44 percent. For 9-6 Bonus Poker Deluxe, specialize strategy brings 99.64 percent, and JB strategy brings 99.61, while 8-5 Bonus Poker has the same strategy as 9-6 JB and returns 99.16 percent.

The game that you should learn first is Jacks or Better. Most of the other games are variations of this one. Although space does not allow me to give you the complete strategy in this article, you can find free strategy charts at The Wizard of Odds for Jacks or Better, Deuces Wild, Double Bonus Poker, and more. Sites like Video Poker Trainer allow you to practice playing online and will correct you when you deviate from the optimal strategy.


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.
Double Jackpot Poker is similar to Double Double Bonus Poker because there is a kicker included in the pay table. Four aces with a king, queen or jack pays 800 for 1. Four kings, queens or jacks with an ace, king, queen, or jack pays 400 for 1. A hand with two pairs pays 2 for 1. The full-pay (8/5 meaning a full house pays 8 for 1 and a flush pays 5 for 1) version is the only one to be covered in this guide. It returns 99.63 percent with perfect play and has a variance of 22.4.
The minimum hand you need to win is a pair of Jacks. So in this hand we'll hold the Jack, hoping that we'll draw another Jack. We hold the Jack by tapping the picture of the Jack on the screen, or pressing the button for it on the console.  Then we'll tap the DRAW button to get four new cards, hoping that one of them is a Jack to match the Jack we held.

Do not draw to a four-card inside straight -- one in which the missing card is in the middle rather than on either end -- unless it includes at least three high cards. A four-card open straight is one that has space open at either end to complete the hand; for example, a hand of 4-5-6-7 can use either a 3 at one end or an 8 at the other to complete the straight. An inside straight has space in the middle that must be filled to complete the hand; 4-6-7-8 needs a 5 to become a straight. Open straights give the player a better chance, with twice as many cards available to fill the straight.

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But that is where the similarity with random slot machine play ends. The video poker player has total control over the initial five cards that have been dealt. It is his or her choice what to do with those five cards. The decisions about whether to keep all of them, discard all of them, or anything in between is totally theirs. It is actually totally yours. After all, you are the one reading and learning from this guide.
6. Avoid this common three-card strategy – Some players keep three cards in an attempt to draw a straight or a flush. This is a losing proposition and should be avoided. Even if you hit a straight or a flush, you’ll have lost too much with this play to make it profitable. Practice Basic Strategy to have a shot at winning. Three cards to a straight flush, however, is a different proposition and should be played as outlined in the list in No. 2.
If you would like to give it a try, we have plenty of options to recommend. If you sign up at one of our highly-rated online casinos in your country, you’ll find a plethora of options, all of which you can try for free today. Give a few free video poker games a try, see which machines you like best, and then decide whether or not you’d like to play for real money once you feel ready!
Think about how normal video poker play goes. After depositing your initial amount, you start playing hand after hand. Most often you lose your bet. The next most frequent occurrence is to simply get your bet returned by hitting a high pair (or sometimes two pairs) that returns 1 for 1. You will also hit other higher paying but less frequent hands. In each case, however, unless you hit a royal flush or other very high paying hand such as four aces with a kicker, the amount you win is not enough to cash out and be considered a good win for the day. Instead, all of these lesser wins are really just extra money that allows you to play a few more hands in order to try to win the jackpot sized hand(s).
A kicker is simply a card from a certain set of cards. For Double Double Bonus, four aces pays 160 for 1. However, four aces with a kicker of a 2, 3 or 4 pays a whopping 400 for 1. This is two and one half times what is paid for four aces without a kicker. Getting four aces with a kicker pays half as much as a royal and it occurs two and a half times as often. Four 2’s, 3’s, or 4’s pay 80 for 1. Four 2’s, 3’s, or 4’s with a kicker of an ace, 2, 3, or 4 pays double that or 160 for 1.
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All possible resulting hands and pays for a hold of just the ace of hearts must be calculated. The same must then be done for a save of just the 3 of spades, the 4 of hearts, the 5 of clubs, and the king of diamonds. Then the same must be done for each possible hold of two cards. Then the same is done for holds of three cards. The same is done for holds of four cards. Finally the return for a hold of all five cards is calculated. The returns are then compared in order to select the best possible hold (in terms of money returned). The results for each of the over two and a half million possible hands are summarized in order to develop the strategy.
Slot machines are extremely popular. One of the reasons for their popularity is that they are easy to play. The only skill that is necessary is to be able to insert money into the game and press a button or pull a lever to start play. That is it. From that point on, everything that happens depends on luck. The results of slot machine spins are based totally on randomness. The instant the slot player presses the spin button the result of that spin is locked in. Whether it is (most likely) a loser, a small winner, a moderate winner, or a jackpot winner has already been decided. Slot players can do nothing to change the odds either for or against them.
Just as in the quick version, a few hands are never broken up. Obviously, if you're fortunate enough to be dealt a royal flush, you hold all five cards and wait for your payoff. (On payoffs this large, the machine will flash "Jackpot!" or "Winner!" In these cases the winnings will be paid by an attendant rather than by the machine. Do not put more coins in the machine or attempt to play another hand before you are paid for the royal flush.)
That's a pretty lengthy list for a beginner, but it can be shortened considerably by taking all those three card straight flushes -- open, inside, double inside, with high cards, without high cards -- and lumping them together just below four high cards. That'll cost you a few tenths of a percent, but when you're comfortable with the rest of the strategy, you can start breaking down the categories for more expert play.
The process of listing hands with an ever lower average return continues until the average return for the hand is less than the average return for a totally new hand. The word “Redraw” or words to that effect are placed at this point in the strategy chart. This means you will get a higher return by totally replacing your hand than by trying to make something of it. The strategy chart is now complete.
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While sometimes it may look tempting to draw to a straight or just try your luck with 5 entirely new cards, the answer is almost always to keep the low pair. The general exception to this rule is when you have 4 cards to a flush, straight flush, or a royal straight flush. In these cases you always want to draw to the flush or straight flush because your odds of getting at least the flush are very good and the payout is so much higher. If you can remember this one single strategy, you will be in better shape than many players.

Of course, you don’t actually have to memorize the strategies in order to play video poker reasonably well. Even if you want to play optimally, you can use visual aids whilst playing online. This is much simpler than trying to play from memory. However, as you play a particular machine more and more, you’ll find yourself relying on these ‘cheat sheets’ less and less. Instead, you’ll begin to notice that you have a better handle on the strategies needed to win on each different type of different video poker game.
But that is where the similarity with random slot machine play ends. The video poker player has total control over the initial five cards that have been dealt. It is his or her choice what to do with those five cards. The decisions about whether to keep all of them, discard all of them, or anything in between is totally theirs. It is actually totally yours. After all, you are the one reading and learning from this guide.
The strategy charts for all non-wild card games are organized the same way. The hand with the highest average return goes at the top of the strategy chart. For most video poker pay tables that hand is the royal flush. It is followed by lower paying hands and partial hands in order of decreasing return. Keep in mind that partial hands that are not winners themselves will at times be included above hands that are winners because they have an average return (for all possible outcomes) that is higher than a dealt winning hand. For example, in most games four cards of a royal flush is listed above a full house because of the possibility of that hand turning into a royal flush. However, that is not the only hand that can be made from a hand with four cards of a royal flush. There is also the possibility that the hand could become a straight flush, a flush, or a straight with the proper cards being drawn. See the examples below. 

Video Poker is based on the game of draw poker and has virtually the same rules except that you are not playing against any other players. The machine deals five cards on the screen. The player then has the option of drawing up to five new cards. (In some instances you may not want to draw any new cards) You keep the cards you want to keep by pushing the “hold” button that corresponds to the card on the screen. When you have made your choice you hit the “deal” button and the cards you discarded will be replaced by new cards. Your win or loss is determined by the outcome after of your final hand after you hit the draw button. How much you win is based on the pay table that is posted on the front of the machine.
Elsewhere on this site I show you how to figure your average loss for an hour of play.  In summary, you multiply the house edge by the bet size by the number of rounds per hour.  On a 9/6 quarter Jacks or Better machine with proper strategy, that would be 0.5% x $1.25 (remember we're playing 5 coins at a time) x 400 hands per hour = $2.50 per hour.  Not bad.  Except that the formula doesn't work for video poker in the short term.  That's because you'll hit the royal only once every 66 hours on average, and while you're waiting for the royal, the return on the game isn't ~99.5%, it's ~97.5%.  So you're more likely to lose 2.5% in the short term rather than 0.5%.  So we can expect our hourly loss to be closer to $6.25/hour than $1.25/hour while we're waiting for the royal.  Still, $6.25/hour is pretty cheap.  On a slot machine your loss would be closer to $40 an hour.  So you can see why I'm so eager to switch you from slots to VP.

Press “deal” to start gambling. If you’re playing “Jacks or Better” the machine will deal you five cards from a deck of 52 cards. However, other kinds of poker games such as “Deuces Wild” and “Joker Poker” have jokers in the deck.[7] This could lower your chances of getting the cards you want. Therefore, most people prefer to play “Jacks or Better.”


An inside straight is a would-be straight with a hole in the middle. 9? 2? 10? 8? 6? is an inside straight because only a 7 will turn it into a straight.  The distinction between outside straights and inside straights is important because in Jacks or Better we will never try to turn an inside straight into a straight.  It's too hard, since we have only one chance of completing the straight.
As you learned in section 6.2, the arrangement of a video poker strategy chart is different. The list contains the card(s) to hold in the first five card hand that you are dealt. The top line contains the cards to hold that give the highest average return. Each line below that has the cards to hold that will produce the next highest average return. This continues until the player is better off discarding the entire first hand rather than holding anything at all.
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