Video Poker Guide for Beginners: History, Tips, and Strategy

Staff Writer Tips & Tutorials 1,473


Video poker is another very popular casino game that you can play at any of the countless online casinos round. The game is popular because it is simple, easy to play, and requires a degree of skill. What makes it even more enticing is the low house edge associated with it and also the chance to put together wins that could result in some really significant payouts. It made its first appearance in the 1970s and once the online casino industry came into existence it was a natural fit into the game portfolio.

As mentioned above, this is a simple game and involves skill, a poker game that plays like a slot. That automatically means that strategy will play a key role in how you fare while playing the game. We will take a look at the different aspects of video poker on this page. Specifically, we will look at a brief history of the game, the different kinds of video poker games available, video poker strategy and basic tips for beginners, and much more.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. A Brief History of Video Poker
  3. Software Providers and Video Poker Variants Today
  4. Video Poker Play and Hand Rankings
  5. Essential Video Poker Strategy
  6. Video Poker Tips for Beginners
  7. Myths Associated with Video Poker
  8. Best Video Poker Variants for Beginners

A Brief History of Video Poker

Like some of the other gambling games, video poker too traces its roots to more than 100 years ago. The Liberty Bell slot machine by Charles Fey towards the end of the 19th century was the first step towards the emergence of the video poker machine. In 1901 Fey added a cool feature to his machine – the Draw feature – that allowed draws made to be held while the second spin was on. In that sense this was the earliest precursor to the video poker machines and the game itself.

So what did the Draw feature do? Basically after the player had inserted a coin and pulled the lever and made the drums spin, after the drums stopped the player was given the chance to hold some of the cards and spin the rest. With that one stroke, a simple game of luck now had an element of strategy added to it; choosing the right cards became very important. The popularity of this version meant Fey was no longer the sole manufacturer of these machines.

The first authentic video poker machine of the modern age came about much later. It started in about 1975 when the Fortune Bell Company started making the first electronic versions of the Bell slot Machines. These were not too popular and the result was the addition of the Draw feature to these as well. The rules of poker applied to the game. Now there was a screen where the player could see his cards and a console that he could use to make his next move – raise, draw, or call.

Things really changed once SIRCOMA (short for Si Redd Coin Machines), the precursor to the renowned company called International Game Technology (IGT), officially made the Draw Poker game in 1979. With this the popularity of the game skyrocketed and now you find video poker in all the popular land-based and also online casinos.

Software Providers and Video Poker Variants Today

Video poker has been incredibly popular among players across the world because of the skill involved and also the low house edge. There are different variants of video poker offered by a number of high quality software providers. The games all come with the standard features and high quality graphics and animations. Some of the top software providers that offer video poker today include:

  • Microgaming: This is one of the most well-known providers and offers 18 video poker games, of which 2 come with progressive jackpots. Here is a list of Microgaming powered casinos that were handpicked by us.
  • NetEnt: NetEnt is another of the leading casino software providers in the world and offers 5 different video poker games of exceptional quality in single and multiple hands including Jacks or Better, Deuces Wild, Classic Deuces Wild, and All American.
  • Playtech: The largest gaming supplier to trade on the Main Market of the London Stock Exchange, Playtech offers 9 exciting variants of video poker, one of which is a progressive jackpot game.
  • Real Time Gaming (RTG): Realtime Gaming is one of the veterans of the casino software industry and offers a fine selection of 16 different video poker variants.
  • Cryptologic (WagerLogic): Another veteran casino software provider, it has a bouquet of 13 exciting video poker variants including a progressive jackpot.

There are of course a number of other software providers too offering video poker; the ones listed above are just a sampling. The games can be available in download or instant play mode, depending on the software provider they are from. NetEnt games are all available in the no download mode, while providers like Microgaming and Playtech offer their video poker games in both download and instant play mode. Also, most software providers offer video poker for both free play and also real money play.

Video Poker Play and Hand Rankings

Playing video poker for real money is very simple, but it requires a degree of skill as well. Once you have deposited funds into your account and chosen a game to play, you place your wager and are now set to get started. The game is usually played with a standard 52-card deck. Games involving the joker will of course have at least one joker in the pack.

You get dealt 5 cards. Once the deal is complete, you need to decide which cards you want to keep and which you want to drop. You tap on a card shown on screen to hold it and once you are done with the action for the 5 cards, the ones that are not held are dropped. Now click the Draw button to draw new cards that will replace the dropped cards.

The new cards together with the held cards form the final combination for the hand. You win if the hand you have is what comprises one of the hands seen traditionally in poker. How do you know that your hand fits one of these? You just take a look at the hand ranking table on the screen. The hand ranking table also lists out the payout for each poker hand. If you are playing multi-hand poker the payout is shown for all the hands.

The standard game of video poker that we consider is Jacks or Better. In this paragraph we list out for you the hand ranking table for Jacks or Better when you play 5 coins:

Hand 1 2 3 4 5
Royal Flush 250 500 750 1000 4000
Straight Flush 50 100 150 200 250
4 of a Kind 25 50 75 100 125
Full House 9 18 27 36 45
Flush 6 12 18 24 30
Straight 4 8 12 16 20
3 of a Kind 3 6 9 12 15
2 Pair 2 4 6 8 10
Jacks or Better 1 2 3 4 5

One thing you may have noticed from the above table; playing max bet can give you a bigger margin for win compared to the others.

Essential Video Poker Strategy

The strategy to adopt while playing video poker will depend primarily on the kind of video poker game you are playing. Strategy is important because it can help lower an already low house edge; in fact there are games where the house edge stands at over 100%; a good example being Full-Pay Deuces Wild – the game has a very low house edge and actually tips it 100.76% for the player to not go out.

Another thing to know: the house advantage will mildly fluctuate depending on the kind of strategy you choose. For instance, a game like 9-6 Jacks or Better could have the house edge differ depending on the strategy you use:

  • Simple strategy gives you a payout of 99.46%.
  • Intermediate strategy gives you a payout of 99.52%.
  • Optimal strategy gives you a payout of 00.54%.

The variance can be higher as well; take for instance the game of 1/7 Double Bonus. The difference is clearly apparent:

  • 10/7 Double Bonus with basic strategy gives you a payout of 100.17%.
  • 9/7/5 Double Bonus with basic strategy gives you a payout of 99.11%.

Video Poker Tips for Beginners

Video poker is a game that involves skill and strategy. That is why for beginners a few tips on how to go about playing this exciting game can work wonders in helping them settle down and play to win. Here are a few tips that beginners can use before playing video poker.

  • Familiarize yourself with the hand rankings and what they pay before you play. When you play video poker you get paid out depending on the hand you are able to put together. Of course it could be difficult to know what the order of the hand rankings are, as a newcomer, and even more difficult to figure out how much you can expect to win. That is why looking up the pay schedule before playing a game is very important. Even more important
  • Go through the pay schedules carefully. There are some machines that offer the same games but the pay schedule is different. Take for instance the game of Double Double Bonus Poker. There is one game that gives you a payout percentage of above 99%, while there is another that gives you a payout percentage of 97.9%. Knowing how much each game pays can be the difference between winning and winning more.
  • Familiarize yourself with basic video poker strategy. Strategy has a huge role to play in determining whether you win or lose when you play video poker. For instance, what strategy would you adopt if you got a hand that contained 2 pairs of close values, with the 5th card also of a very close value? Would you retain both the pairs, or drop one of the pairs and hope to get a better hand? Knowing your strategy would give you invaluable insight as it would tell you which option gave you a higher payout.
  • Always practice. The key to knowing your video poker well is not just reading up on the game or learning the theory by heart. The best option is to practice. The more you practice the more you will be exposed to different situations and that in turn will equip you with the foreknowledge of what action to take when you face the same situation in real money play.
  • Maintain a budget and play affordable stakes. One of the most important tips that anyone can give you when playing video poker is to fix a budget for yourself before a game and stick to it no matter what. That way, anything you win above your budget is a bonus and you will lose only within the limit that you had set yourself. Associated with maintaining a budget is to play affordable stakes, stakes that are on par with your bankroll.

For you that want to dig deeper into the art of playing Video Poker, make sure to read the article that talks about Ways to Win in Video Poker that outlines some crucial tips players need to know.

Myths Associated with Video Poker

There are a number of myths associated with the game of video poker. We list for you a few of the top myths related to this exciting game below.

  • Find a machine that offers a payout of 100% or more and you are guaranteed a win. This is not quite true, because video poker games have another factor that you need to consider: variance. A game that offers a 100% or more payout is great to play, for sure, but it does not guarantee a win always, as the overall payout percentage is arrived at after calculating thousands of hands.
  • If I stayed one more round I would have won that Royal Flush. That is a feeling that is very common, especially when you play for long without winning and walk away and the next player wins his first hand, on the machine you were playing. The numbers are spun out at random, so it is not just the next hand, but the timing and a number of other things that would come into play to determine the winner.
  • There is an ebb and flow – the term used is hot and cold cycles – when it comes to video poker. There is no such thing as a hot and cold cycle. The ebb and flow of the game is not real, because the cards being dealt are at random.
  • Check out the different kinds of video poker games before you play one. There are a large number of video poker variants. The strategy for each of them is different and so are the payouts.

Best Video Poker Variants for Beginners

There are a large number of video poker variants for you to choose from. So what would be good for a beginner? One of the safest games for a beginner to choose is Jacks or Better (link to the game and review). We say safe because this is the most common form of video poker available at online casinos. The game play is standard and quite easy to get through.

In terms of having better chances of winning, a player may be tempted to try out one of the video poker variants that use jokers. The use of a joker changes the dynamic of a game completely. A hand with a pair and a joker automatically becomes a three of a kind, for instance, so the probability of winning may seem that much higher at first glance. However, you must take into account one critical factor – the probability of a joker landing in your hand in the first place given the fact that there are always lesser jokers than other cards in the deck.


Best Casinos team consists of online casino experts dedicated to spreading their knowledge and experience to a wider audience, all in effort to help even the most inexperienced players gain their footing in this exciting industry.