Wondering how to play video poker? We’ve got some good news. Getting to grips with this popular online game does not have to be an impossible task.

Many people around the globe enjoy video poker from the comfort of their homes. In fact, most online casinos report that it is one of the top two games played on their platforms, along with the popular player-versus-dealer game of blackjack.

This strategy guide serves as a good introduction on how to play video poker. Read through the information carefully, apply it when you play, and remember to have fun. After all, online gambling is a great way to relax if you participate responsibly, and playing video poker can keep your mind sharp by challenging your mental acuity.

DID YOU KNOW? Poker has been around for quite some time. Early versions of the game have been played since the 1800’s. It is first mentioned in writing in a book called Hoyle’s Games in 1845, when the writer described it as ‘a game that depends more on the luck and energy of the player than his skill’. At this time, it was still believed that it was a game of complete chance and that the likelihood for cheating made ‘more of a rogue’s game’. Today we know better of course!

Understanding How Video Poker Works

Video poker looks like a slot machine, but it does not function like the slot machines you’ve encountered in brick-and-mortar casinos. What’s happening on the screen, and the mechanics behind the scenes actually differ quite a bit. This is especially true when it comes to the selective information that is shared with you, the player, on the screen.

When you play slots in an actual casino, certain prizes are up for grabs based on combinations of certain symbols that appear on the screen when you push play. In this case, there is no way to determine the probability of getting three cherries that may rope in a prize of $50, for example.

The reason for this is simple. Each slot machine functions according to a random number generator. The settings of this generator are pre-determined by the original manufacturer, according to a certain payback percentage.

As such, it’s impossible to know whether the machine you’re playing on has been programmed to show a cherry on a given reel every 10, 20, or 100 spins. By taking this into account and manipulating results probabilities, slot machine manufacturers can closely predict the winnings a given machine is likely to pay out over time.

You’d also be able to do so if you had all the stats, and this is the case when you choose to play video poker.

In video poker, the spinning symbols are swapped out for standard playing cards. You are dealt your hand by way of five stops. These are normally ‘drawn’ from a virtual 52-card deck. However, note that when learning how to play video poker, some online casinos will use 53 cards, choosing to include the joker.

A good online poker player can compare the payouts for a certain hand with the likelihood of being dealt that particular hand since these probabilities are known in the gambling world. It’s a far safer bet than hoping against hope for a rather random combination of symbols, e.g. three lemons or three bunches of grapes.

The Ins & Outs Of How To Play Video Poker

Learning how to play video poker does not have to take long. If you’re a quick study, it’s a simple process. In a brick-and-mortar casino, you would start by inserting your money in the machine, which would then convert the currency into digital credits.

As such, the payoffs of the ‘hands’ you end up playing will be calculated in terms of credits as well. As a player, you are able to decide how many credits you want to wager on each hand you play.

Most seasoned video poker players recommend that users select the maximum wager. In video poker, it will normally be 5 coins to increase the potential return on your investment. For instance, if you were to wager 5 coins and succeed in getting a royal flush, your payoff would be a whopping 800 to 1.

However, had you wagered 4 or 3 coins instead, the hand would only pay out 250 to 1. That’s a rather substantial difference in returns.

Once you’ve selected the size of your wager per hand, it’s time to press the ‘deal’ button. This will trigger the machine to debit your bet amount, and five cards will be dealt. As in conventional poker, you then have the option of choosing which cards to keep and which to return to the deck in favor of replacement cards.

At this point, you are set up for the game and you can put your poker-playing acumen to good use making choices throughout the game.

Getting To Grips With Video Poker Strategy

As a player learning how to play video poker, you can calculate the expected return of the bet if you understand your likelihood of winning or losing. By combining this knowledge with knowing how much you stand to lose, and how much you can potentially win, the groundwork is laid for exceptional strategy.

Here are the calculations you should be making each time before you make a move, explained at the hand of a very simple example where you win 25c every time you guess the outcome of a coin toss correctly; and lose 50c when your guess is wrong.


  1. Multiply the probability of winning by the amount you stand to win. In this case, the sum will be 50 x 25 cents, i.e. 12.5 cents.
  2. Multiply the probability of losing by the amount you stand to lose. In this case, the sum will be 50 x 20 cents, i.e. -25 cents. This number will always be a negative because it expresses how much you stand to lose.
  3. Add these two numbers together to arrive at your overall expectation. In this case, the sum will be 12.5 cents – 25 cents = -12.5 cents.

Now, of course, you won’t lose 25c every time you play, but if you continue to play for a long time the results are likely to conform to this expectation. As you can tell, this is a very bad bet – your expected return is MINUS 50% and seasoned gamblers would never take this bet.

This type of arithmetic can also be applied when weighing your options in terms of a video poker bet.

These days, there are countless video poker strategy charts available online. If you search long enough, you can have a strategy tailored exactly to your liking. This type of chart is based on the game and pay table you input and provides you information to guide your decision-making process at the hand thereof.

A strategy chart provides you with a list of hands, starting with the best possible hand at the top. As a player, you work your way down the list until you find the hands that match your own. When you get to it, you stop and keep the cards that have been listed on the chart.

The hands at the top of the list will obviously be the royal flush, 4 of a kind and a straight flush. You will always hold onto these hands. Because a royal flush is associated with the biggest ultimate payout, players will always shoot for that, even if they have to break up a sure winning hand to do so.

Know How Strategy Varies From One Game To The Next

Payouts vary from one video poker game to the next. As such, strategies likewise vary. It greatly depends on the type of video poker you’re playing.

Jacks or Better

If you’re playing Jacks or Better, strategy is normally fairly straightforward. First, you check to see if you have a royal flush, a straight flush, or 4 of a kind. If you do, you hang on to it and cash in your winnings. If you don’t, check to see if you have four cards to a royal, and try to hit the royal.

If this isn’t the case either, it’s time to move onto so-called ‘made hands’, namely a full house, flush, straight, or 3 of a kind. If you have any of those, hold onto it and cash in your winnings. If not, check to see if you have four cards to a straight, and try to hit the straight. If not, check to see if you have two pairs or a pair of Jacks or better.

Still not the case? Move onto so-called ‘speculative hands’. At this point, the best type of hand you can get is 3 cards to a royal. It’s not a likely hand to get, but that’s your best bet at this point. If you do get 4 to a flush, continue trying to fill the flush. If your hand holds a low pair, try to shoot for 3 of a kind of better.

Bonus Poker

The strategy followed for bonus poker is rather similar to that which is the go-to approach for Jacks or Better. Since there is a bonus payout associated with 4 of a kind hands in Bonus Poker, it’s one of the most popular variants of the game based on its high payout percentage.

There is also another variant, called Bonus Poker Deluxe. This type of game offers a payout for any 4 of a kind hand, but on the flip side, the payouts offered for 2 pairs are lower than you’d normally expect. I.e. where you’d typically get a 2 to 1 payout for 2 pairs, in a Bonus Poker Deluxe game it would be 1 to 1.

Payout tables for Bonus Poker Deluxe vary from one brick-and-mortar and online casino to the next, so make sure to check all the variables before you load your game.

Deuces Wild

If you’re playing Deuces Wild, the focus will naturally lie on the deuces.

If you have four, you will naturally keep it.

3, you’ll keep them as well, in hopes of a royal.

If you have 2, you’ll keep it as well, in hopes of four of a kind or better.

Alternatively, the move is to shoot for a royal or a straight. With only one deuce in the hand, strategy becomes a little more involved.

In this case, you’ll keep going down the list shooting for 4 of a kind or better, 4 to a royal, a full house, 4 to a straight, a flush, straight, 3 of a kind, etc.

Unlike Jacks or Better, payback percentages for Deuces Wild games aren’t very predictable. As such it is best to use a digital tool to determine the payback percentage for each game based on the pay table presented in each individual case.

Joker Poker

Joker Poker shares some similarities with Deuces Wild, but it’s not quite as complicated. There will only ever be a single Joker in the mix, but when it is drawn, the nature of the possible hands are changed up considerably. In this case, your strategy with a Joker in hand will differ vastly from a hand that holds no Joker. This will be discussed in a future article.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to play video poker is actually quite simple if you break it down into easy-to-follow steps. It’s very similar to how most players would approach a game like Blackjack. In both cases, the goal is to play every hand you’re dealt to the best of your ability in order to get the best possible payout in the end.

When it comes right down to it, video game poker is mostly working your way down the list of possible hands, checking what you’ve got, keeping what you need, etc.

Put the strategy tips presented in this article into practice and see how it goes. The more you play, the more seasoned you’ll become. Before you know it, you’ll be teaching other newbies how to play video poker! Just remember to play responsibly and have fun.