How To Play Poker

A Beginner's Guide to Video Poker: Understanding the Basics and Strategies

Man playing on phone

Published: May 9, 2024
Written by Global Poker

Want to learn how to play video poker? You’ve come to the right place, pal. Discover the evolution of video poker from physical machines to online casino games, offering real money thrills with low house edge.

Video poker was first introduced to casinos in the 1970s, and has slowly evolved over the years from large box machines into the virtual online game offered at nearly every online casino in the world. A single-player game based on the poker variant five card draw, video poker boasts one of the lowest house edges at around 3 per cent and has a high level of player input to decide the outcome. Now, let’s dive into the details of how to play video poker. 

Video Poker Rules and How to Play 

Dive into the rules of video poker, where forming the winning hand, betting strategies like max bet, and understanding the house edge are crucial for success in online casino games.

The only goal of video poker is to make the best five-hand possible. However, unlike other forms of poker, winning doesn't require beating other players. Instead, the rank of the poker hand, its position on the pay table and how much is wagered decides the payout. Depending on the game type, there might also be a minimum hand rank that is required to be eligible for a payout. 

How to Play 

Video poker starts with the option to select bet size, usually between 1 to 5 coins. After wagering, five virtual cards are dealt and players can discard 0 to 5 cards and receive new ones. There is no time limit, and no ticking clock to spur decisions on faster. Payouts are based on what hand the player has after the discard phase.

Video Poker Hand Rankings 

Learn about poker hand rankings, from high card to royal flush, essential for winning real money in video poker and maximizing your chances of hitting the jackpot.

Contrary to other poker variants, specific hands are ranked the same regardless of the cards used to make them. All pairs on the pay table receive the same payout, whether a pair of tens or aces. A low straight of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 pays the same as a high straight of 9, 10, jack, queen, king. In standard five card draw or Texas hold 'em, for example, the pair of aces and high straight would of course be ranked higher. 

Unless stated otherwise in the rules, video poker follows the hand ranking system used by Texas hold 'em, stud poker and five card draw. From lowest to highest the cards are ranked 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 , 7, 8 , 9 ,10, jack, queen, king and ace, with a total of ten possible hand combinations. 

High Card: A hand with no pairs or other combinations uses the highest-ranked card. Rarely used in video poker because most games have a minimum hand of ten or jacks. 

A Pair: Two matching cards. Depending on the type of video poker, any pair below tens won't receive a payout. 

Two Pair: Two sets of pairs; the suits don't matter. Some types of video poker can have two pair as the minimum hand to receive a payout. 

Three of a Kind: Three matching cards. Three of a kind can also be the minimum paying hand. 

Straight: Five cards in sequential order; suits don't matter. Ace can be a 1 in a low straight or the last piece in a high straight -10, jack, queen, king, ace.

Flush: Five cards of the same suit - diamonds, hearts, spades or clubs; the order and numbers don't matter. 

Full House: Three matching cards combined with a pair. 

Four of a Kind: Four matching cards. 

Straight Flush: Five cards in sequential order that are also the same suit.

Royal Flush: A royal flush must consist of a 10, jack, queen, king and ace of the same suit and has the highest payout for video poker. In some cases, a substantial bonus is awarded for making a royal flush. 

Popular Video Poker Game Types 

Jacks or Better: As the name suggests, a pair of jacks is the minimum paying hand. Arguably the best for beginners because there are no wild cards or extra rules to worry about. 

Tens or Better: Similar to jacks or better, except the minimum paying hand is a pair of 10s. 

Joker's Wild: A joker can be substituted as another card to help create higher paying hands. Generally the minimum paying hand will be three of a kind. 

Deuces Wild:  Similar to jokers wild, 2s can be substituted for other cards to make higher paying hands. The minimum paying hand is usually three of a kind. 

Three Easy Strategies for Video Poker 

Master strategies like aiming for a win, pausing to think before discarding cards, and capitalizing on promotions to boost your chances of hitting that coveted royal flush.

Just Aim for a Win

Aim to make a low paying hand rather than chasing higher ranked hands and bigger payouts. For example, when you have a pair high enough to receive a payout, draw three cards and aim to make more profitable hands such as three of a kind or a full house. A pair is generally the minimum paying hand for video poker and comes out relatively often so works as a good safety net if you fail to make a higher combination. While it might take a bit of time to build up a big bankroll from the small payouts, it’s better than losing. 

Pause and Think

Video poker has no time limit on decision making, allowing for plenty of time to pause and think about what cards you want to discard and what hand you are trying to make, lowering the odds of making a silly mistake. Take your time and focus on making the best decision in each situation. Aim for quality over quantity; play your hands well rather than blitzing through 20 hands lighting fast. 

Check for Promotions and Bonuses

Most online casinos offer promotions and bonuses. Checking what's available before you play can yield extra rewards and in some cases, even free coins to use in video poker. Enjoy the thrill of winning at video poker and experience the excitement of Las Vegas from the comfort of your own home.