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Beginner's Ultimate Guide to Winning at Video Poker

Video poker is one of the most popular games at the top online casinos. With a low house edge, a reasonable chance to beat the machine, and fun game-play, video poker eventually hooks just about everyone that plays it. In fact, video poker is so user-friendly that any beginning player can enjoy it.


Video Poker Rules

Game play is simple.Video Poker

  1. You put one to five coins in the machine.
  2. You are dealt five cards.
  3. You discard 0 to 5 cards to make the best poker hand you can.
  4. The machine deals you replacements for your discards.
  5. The player is paid for the final value of the poker hand using the payout schedule for the machine.

You must, of course, know your poker hands.

Video Poker Machines

There are dozens of variations of video poker. The most popular are some version of Jacks or Better. Consult our article on all the variations of video poker. Beginners should start with Double Bonus Jacks or Better. It has the simplest payout table while still having a high payout percentage.

Find the Video Poker Machine with the Best Payout

Not all video poker machines are created equal. Some offer good payouts all the way down, some offer giant bonuses but skimp on the payouts for lower-value hands, and some skimp on medium hands.

Unlike typical slot machines, video poker payouts are listed right on the front of the machine, so you don’t have to guess what they are. If you’re a beginner, don’t work too hard at this; simply check the payouts for a full house, flush, and straight. All else being equal, pick the machine with the highest payouts you can find for these three hands.

There are actually games named for these differences:

  • A 9/6 Jacks or Better machine pays out 9 to 1 on a full house and 6 to 1 on a straight.
  • An 8/5 machine pays out 8 to 1 on full house and 5 to 1 on a flush.
  • A 10/7 machine pays out 10 to 1 on full house and 7 to 1 on a flush.

Obviously, the higher these numbers, the better the overall payout percentage.

Play a Low-Volatility Video Poker Machine

What is volatility? It’s the difference between the payout percentages posted on the machine and the actual individual payout percentages.

  • For a low-volatility machine, you can expect your payout percentage to be close to the posted payout percentage if you play smart. Low-volatility machines pay more often, but pay smaller amounts of money.
  • For a high-volatility machine, you can expect a payout very different from the posted one. You will lose everything much of the time. The up side is the opportunity to win a large amount of money, but this is rare.

As a general rule, the more and bigger jackpots a machine offers, the higher its volatility. Jacks-or-better double bonus machines are the ideal volatility for the beginner.

Always Bet the Maximum Number of Coins

Consider this the unbreakable rule of video poker:  always bet the maximum number of coins. Double bonuses for the royal flush are only available for the maximum five-coin bet. If you choose to bet fewer coins, the payout percentage drops dramatically. Choose a machine that allows you to make your bet limit with five coins.

Use a Simple Hand-by-Hand Strategy

Don’t use your gut when playing video poker. Use a set of rules. Remember, casinos make money from bad play. The posted payout percentage is for the good players. Bad play can easily demolish that to 2%.

The following provides the best beginner’s strategy for playing video poker. It is optimized for the maximum bet on a Double Bonus 9/6 Jacks or Better game. While it doesn’t perfectly apply to other machines, it will get you close to that machine’s payout percentage.

Initial HandWhat to do
Royal FlushWXYZNStand pat
Straight FlushdefghStand pat
Four of a KindkkFKKStand pat
Full HousebbbGGStand pat
FlushbildhStand pat
StraightdEftHStand pat
4 cards to a royal flushJKLdADiscard the other card to make the royal flush
4 cards to a straight flushtcvwxDiscard the other card to make the straight flush
Three of a kinddddJrDiscard the other two cards to make three of a kind, full house, or four of a kind
Two PaireeJVVDiscard the other card to make two pair or a full house
High pairxXduNDiscard the other three cards to make a high pair, two pair, three of a kind, full house, or four of a kind
Four cards of the same suitVSdWNDiscard the other card to make the flush
Low paircXChwDiscard the other three cards to make two pair, three of a kind, full house, or four of a kind
Four unsuited cards to an outside straightdrgHcDiscard the other card to make the straight
3 cards to a royal flushWcYZhDiscard the other two cards to make high pair, two pair, three of a kind, straight, straight flush, or royal flush
Two high cards of the same suitXDfeNDiscard the other three cards to make a high pair, two pair, three of a kind, full house, four of a kind, straight, flush, straight flush, or royal flush
3 cards to a straight flushWcYZhDiscard the other two cards to make the straight flush
2 high cards of different suitscXRyFDiscard the other three cards to make a high pair, two pair, three of a kind, straight, or four of a kind—if there are more 3 unsuited high cards, keep the 2 lowest high cards
Same suit 10/J, 10/Q, 10/K, 10/AWFYwfDiscard the other three cards to make a high pair, two pair, three of a kind, full house, four of a kind, flush, straight, or royal flush
One jack or better cardWycEhDiscard four cards to make the high pair or better
All other handssIqbWDiscard five cards to make any winning hand


This is a hierarchical list. If you have more than one poker hand, you choose the strategy for the highest-ranked hand in the list. For instance, suppose you have the following hand:


With a hand like JKLYA, you're at a crossroads between securing a high pair (which sits lower on the strategic hierarchy at position 11) and the compelling chance of completing a royal flush, ranked much higher at 7. The strategic move? Prioritize the royal flush by letting go of the queen of hearts. The allure of a royal flush isn't just in its rarity; its payout is a game-changing 800 times your stake for a max bet of five coins. With odds of hitting it at 1 in 46, this move far outstrips the more conservative 2:1 payout of sticking with a high pair.

The essence of a successful video poker strategy lies in its consistent application across every hand you play. Deviating from this discipline is a common pitfall for beginners, often resulting in unnecessary losses.

A pro tip for honing your video poker skills: leverage the free versions of various video poker games available online. This risk-free environment is perfect for testing and refining your strategies, ensuring you're well-prepared for the real-money action.

Your Ultimate Guide to Mastering Video Poker: FAQs Unveiled

What is a Video Poker?

Video poker is a widely enjoyed casino game that fuses aspects of poker and slot machines. In this game, players receive five cards and can discard any number to create the most substantial possible poker hand. Payouts are determined by the value of the final hand and the machine's designated payout structure.

How Do You Play Video Poker?

  1. Insert one to five coins into the machine.
  2. You'll receive five cards.
  3. Decide which cards to keep and which to discard to form the best poker hand.
  4. The machine replaces your discards.
  5. Payouts are made based on the value of your hand and the machine's payout schedule.

What Are Some Popular Video Poker Variations?

The most popular variant is "Jacks or Better," but there are many others, such as "Double Bonus Jacks or Better." Beginners are advised to start with "Double Bonus Jacks or Better" due to its straightforward payout table and high payout percentage.

How Do You Choose a Video Poker Machine?

Payouts vary among different video poker machines. It's crucial to compare the payouts for a whole house, flush and straight. A machine that pays 9 to 1 on an entire house and 6 to 1 on a flush, known as a 9/6 machine, is preferable for its higher payout percentage.

What is the Importance of Betting the Maximum Number of Coins?

Always bet the maximum number of coins because the highest bonuses, especially for a royal flush, are only available with a maximum bet. Betting fewer coins significantly reduces the payout percentage.

What is a Video Poker Strategy?

A sound strategy is essential for success in video poker. Beginners should follow a basic strategy optimized for the specific type of video poker they are playing. For example, a plan for "Double Bonus 9/6 Jacks or Better" involves a set of rules dictating which cards to hold or discard based on the initial hand dealt.

Can You Provide a Sample Video Poker Strategy?

Yes, an essential strategy for "Double Bonus 9/6 Jacks or Better" might include:

  • Always hold a royal flush, straight flush, four-of-a-kind, whole house, three-of-a-kind, or two-pair.
  • When you have a quartet of cards to a royal flush, discard the fifth card to Enhance your odds of hitting the royal flush.
  • Discard two cards when holding three to aim for a whole house or four of a kind.
  • When holding two high cards of the same suit, discard the other three to aim for a royal flush or other high-value hands.

This strategy is hierarchical; prioritize higher-ranked hands on the list when deciding which approach to apply.

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