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

Staff Writer Tips & Tutorials 1,842

Video poker is another very popular casino game that you can play at any of the countless online casinos around. 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 the game. And let’s not forget the chance to put together wins that could result in some really significant payouts!

It made its first appearance in the 1970s. 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. In other words, this is 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.

That is why we compiled a video poker guide to help you out. 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 revolutionary Draw feature 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, the player had first to insert a coin, pull the lever, and make the drums spin. After the drums stopped, the player had 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 History of the Modern Video Poker Machine

The first authentic video poker machine of the modern age came about much later. It started around 1975 when the Fortune Bell Company started making the first electronic versions of the Bell slot Machines. These were not too popular. Hence the company decided to add the Draw feature to these as well.

The rules of poker applied to the game. The new machine had a screen that displayed players’ cards and a console with three moves – raise, draw, or call. Each player could see his cards and choose which move they want to take using the console.

Things really changed once SIRCOMA (short for Si Redd Coin Machines) officially launched the Draw Poker game in 1979. SIRCOMA is actually the precursor to the renowned company called International Game Technology (IGT).

With this, the popularity of the game skyrocketed. Soon enough, video poker appeared in all popular land-based and online casinos. Moreover, IGT became one of the biggest casino software companies in the world, although its focus shifted to slot machines.

Software Providers and Video Poker Variants Today

Video poker has been incredibly popular among players across the world because of the skill involved and the low house edge. There are different variants of video poker offered by many high-quality software providers.

The games all come with standard features and high-quality graphics and animations. Some of the best video poker providers today include:

  • Microgaming: This is one of the most well-known providers and offers 20 video poker games, 2 of which come with progressive jackpots. Here is a list of Microgaming powered casinos that we handpicked for you.
  • NetEntNetEnt is another leading casino software provider in the global industry. The company offers 5 different video poker games of exceptional quality in single and multiple hands categories. The top games include 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 is Playtech. Playtech offers 13 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. The renowned game producer 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.

Locating Top Video Poker Providers

There is a number of other software providers too offering video poker; the ones listed above are just a sampling.

Top video poker games are available both in download and instant play mode. However, that largely depends on the provider that launched the games. For instance, NetEnt games are all available in no download mode. On the other hand, Microgaming and Playtech offer their games in both download and instant play mode.

Also, most software providers offer video poker for both free play and real-money play. You can find free play video poker games right here on BestCasinos, or you can visit real video poker casinos. But if you are new to the game, we suggest reading through our video poker guide before you start playing for real money.

Video Poker Play and Hand Rankings

Playing video poker for real money is very simple, but it requires a degree of skill as well. If you are willing to dive into the subject more, stick with BestCasinos and our video poker guide where we show you all the nooks of the game.

So, let’s see how to play video poker, shall we?

Video Poker Rules

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.

Once you have deposited funds into your account and chosen a game to play, it’s time to play. The first thing you need to do is place your wager, and you’re all set.

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 the 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 discarded cards.

The new cards together with the kept 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.

Jacks or Better Hands

In this section 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 right video poker strategy will depend primarily on the kind of game you are playing. A strategy is important because it can help boost bankrolls and lower an already low house edge.

In fact, there are games where the house edge stands at over 100%. A good example of that is 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 with different strategies.

  • The simple strategy gives you a payout of 99.46%.
  • An intermediate strategy gives you a payout of 99.52%.
  • The 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 it is important to start off with a video poker guide like this one. Furthermore, beginners will certainly appreciate a few tips on how to go about playing this exciting game. Tips and tricks 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.

1.   Familiarize yourself with the hand rankings and what they pay before you play.

When you play video poker, you get payouts 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 is. As a newcomer, it’s even more difficult to figure out how much you can expect to win. That is why looking up the paytable before playing a game is very important.

2.   Go through the paytable carefully.

Certain providers offer identical games, but paytables differ. Take for instance the game of Double Double Bonus Poker. One variant gives you a payout percentage of above 99%, while another gives you a payout percentage of 97.9%. Knowing how much each game pays can be the difference between winning and winning more.

3.   Learn the basic video poker strategy.

The 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.

4.   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.

5.   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. In this video poker guide for winning, we outlined more 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.

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