Video Poker

Note. Gambling can be dangerously addictive. You can find information and advice on our Responsible Gambling page.

Introduction

Video Poker is so called because the player plays against a machine which displays the player's cards on a screen. The player places a stake and is dealt five cards from a standard 52-card pack. The player has one opportunity to discard any number of unwanted cards, and is dealt an equal number of replacement cards from the deck. If the player then has a sufficiently good poker hand, the dealer than pays the player according to a fixed scale of odds according to the type of hand. "Sufficiently good" often means a pair of Jacks or better - if the player's final hand is worse than this, the stake is lost to the dealer.

Video Poker is one of the most popular and widely available games in the offline casino market and translated easily to the online setting. It combines aspects of a table card game – using playing cards and offering the player strategy based decisions – with slots games – allowing the player to play by themselves at a computerized terminal without interacting with dealers or other players. Alongside these factors the high volatility that comes with offering big jackpot prizes is appealing to many players. Video Poker games typically offer a top win that is substantially higher than games like Blackjack or Roulette, but smaller and more frequently occurring than the top payouts in most slots games.

Although in practice Video Poker is always played as a digital game using a screen display, in theory the same game could be played with real cards dealt by a human banker instead of a machine. It should be noted that whether offered at a terminal in a casino or offered at web based casino, a Video Poker game should always accurately reflect the probabilities of occurrence if the cards were dealt from a physical deck. In any well regulated jurisdiction, Video Poker is covered by the rules that apply to any digital game that represents a ‘real’ device.

As the name would suggest, Video Poker is a poker based game that has its roots in 5 card draw, but unlike 5 card draw or other casino based poker games there is no competing hand the player needs to beat. Instead the objective is simply to get a hand type shown in the paytable. The normal Video Poker game will deal the player 5 cards, allow the player to select cards to keep and cards to replace and then pay out if the player receives a final hand that is shown on the game paytable.

The most common type of Video Poker game offered – Jacks or Better – is played with a single standard deck of 52 cards, however Video Poker is one of the most frequently varied games on the market today with literally hundreds of different varieties and it’s far from uncommon to find games that add in an additional one or two jokers, change one of the ranks to play as wild (that rank of card can be considered any card for the purposes of making a hand) or even additional unique cards that fulfil other roles.

Coin Wagering System

Most Video Poker games use a coin system, allowing a different number of coins to be played depending on the player’s betting preference. Coins are defined by the game settings and vary in value to allow the player to play at a stake they are comfortable with. The player selects both the coin size and the number of coins they wish to stake on a particular game. For instance, if you select a $5 coin size and decide to play 5 coins your total bet will be $5x5 = $25.

Most commonly the maximum number of coins you can wager on a hand of Video Poker is 5. Playing less than the maximum number of coins generally results in a less favourable paytable being offered for the player. As a rule playing between 1 and 4 coins usually returns a lower win on the rare high paying hands (Quads, Straight Flush, Royal Flush). Only when playing the full five coins are the top payouts accessible.

Basic Game Variants

It is beyond the scope of this article to try and discuss all available Video Poker here, but we will provide some information on the commonly available Video Poker variants:

Jacks or Better

Jacks or Better is the most basic Video Poker game to be found on the market. It is played with a single standard deck of cards. It derives its name from the lowest hand that qualifies for a payout, that being a pair of Jacks. Any standard 5-card poker hand of a pair of Jacks or better will result in a win for the player.

Deuces Wild

Deuces Wild takes the standard Jacks or Better format, using a standard 52 card deck, but uses the Deuce of each suit (2 pip) as a Wild card. A Wild card is a card that can represent any other card in the deck. It is always considered to be the best possible card for the player, though it cannot substitute for two different cards at the same time. This means that you will only ever be paid for the best hand you can make with your cards, not for any other possible hands. This rule is standard for all Video Poker games. The inclusion of a Wild card makes it significantly more likely that the player will receive a winning hand. This is counterbalanced by an increase in the minimum hand required to receive a payout and a reduced payout for high paying hands that involves a Deuce.

Joker Poker

Joker Poker combines aspects of Jacks or Better and Deuces Wild. Instead of replacing one of the card ranks with Wild cards, an additional card – the Joker – is added to the deck and serves as a Wild card. The paytable is modified to require a higher qualifying hand to win than Jacks or Better, though lower than Deuces Wild, and a reduced payout for a Royal Flush that involves the Joker.

Almost all other basic Video Poker variants are modifications of one of these core games.

Multi-hand games

Many Video Poker games, both on and offline, now offer multi-hand variants. In this format the player starts with a single five card hand and as usual is asked to select which cards they want to hold and which to discard.

Keeping the held card constant, the machine will then perform multiple deals to replace the discarded cards. For example in a 10-hand game, the machine will deal 10 times to replace the discarded cards.

Multi-hand variants increase the bet per round because the player's bet is placed on all the deals, but decrease the variance of the game overall because typically the player will be lucky with some of the deals and unlucky with others.

Advanced Game Versions

In more recent years some game variations have been introduced that fundamentally change the basic game. These take standard games like Jacks Or Better or Deuces Wild and add further features and benefits. Some Examples follow.

MultiStrike – Each round of MultiStrike Video Poker can consist of up to four hands. You play the first standard hand for the Video Poker game variant you are playing. If you win you can play a second hand with all wins doubled. If you win the second hand you can play a third hand with all wins multiplied by 4. If you win the third hand you can play the final hand with all wins multiplied by 8.

Quick Quads – The player has the option to play a 6th coin. When they do so if they receive a 3 of a Kind as their final hand and the ranks of the other two cards sum to match the rank of the 3 of a Kind the hand is paid as 4 of a Kind. For example if the player’s final hand was 5c, 5d, 5s, 3s, 2d as the 3s and 2d sum to 5 the hand would be paid as a 4 of a Kind.

Super Times Pay – The player has the option to play a 6th coin. When they do so randomly selected game rounds will have a 2×, 3×, 4×, 5×, 8× or 10× multiplier applied to any win.

UltimateX – The player can play a 10 coin wager. If they chose to place this wager and receive a winning hand, the following game will receive a multiplier applied to any wins. The multiplier that will be applied to the following game ranges from 2× to 12×: it is determined by the winning hand received and is defined in the paytable.

House Edge

When played correctly Video Poker often offers one of the lowest House Edges to be found in a casino. However, it should be understood that the correct strategy required to achieve this low House Edge is often complex and varies widely between games. Small errors in play can quickly result in significant deviation from the optimum figure.

It would not be possible to comprehensively cover the strategy for even one Video Poker game in an article of this nature, but here are some tools that can assist with this.

Paytables

Players should be aware that seemingly small changes in the paytable of a game can result in big increases to the House Edge.  To give an example we’ll look at three common Jacks or Better paytables:

  9/6 9/5 8/6
Royal Flush 4000 4000 4000
Straight Flush 250 250 250
4oaK 125 125 125
Full House 45 45 40
Flush 30 25 30
Straight 20 20 20
3oaK 15 15 15
2 Pairs 10 10 10
Jacks or Better 5 5 5
House Edge 0.46% 1.55% 1.61%

The ratios at the top are used to name these paytables and refer to the payouts for a Full House and a Flush as a multiple of the stake. From the above it can be seen that even a seemingly small reduction in the payouts for these hands more than trebles the House edge.

Variance

Players should be aware that Video Poker is a high variance game in comparison to other casino table and card games. This means that long losing periods are likely to be experienced in between rare large wins. This can make Video Poker an emotionally taxing game to play.

Double Up Feature

Many Video Poker games with include a ‘Double-Up’ or ‘Gamble’ feature at the end of any winning round. This feature can function in a variety of ways but the most common Double-Up feature allows the player to wager the won balance on whether the next card drawn will be Red or Black, with the card being drawn from a fresh deck. When this is the case the Double-Up feature is a ‘fair bet’: there is no House Edge.

Other formats for this feature include Heads or Tails on a coin, or a Quadruple-Up for correctly selecting the suit of the next card. Others offer a High/Low type game where the dealer draws a card and the player then tries to draw a card that is higher than the dealer's.

It should be noted when playing online that the Double-Up feature is almost universally disallowed when playing with bonuses.