Video poker is a solitary game, one often chosen by players who want to play alone instead of at a poker table and who want a more classic version of the game. It is based on five-card draw, which is not spread in most poker rooms today.
The games are randomly dealt, and they do have the lowest house advantage of any video or electronic slot games in a land-based or online casino. And players can choose to use basic rules and strategies or play based on gut feelings and intuition without affecting the hands of other players, as would happen in a live game.
The very first poker machine was developed in 1891 by Sittman and Pitt, a company in New York. Each of the five reels displayed images of ten playing cards, it operated like a slot machine. A player inserted a coin, pulled the lever, and each reel stopped on a playing card to create a five-card hand.
Meanwhile, Charles Fey was in California developing slot machines. By 1901, he had improved on the original poker machine by allowing players to hold some of the cards and only spin the reels that they wanted to change. This brought the game closer to real five-card draw poker. Sittman and Pitt also created a similar machine with a draw feature.
Machines were popular in saloons and gambling establishments, sometimes even liquor stores, around the United States, but it wasn’t until casinos became more prevalent in the 1970s that the machines began to improve. Dale Electronics offer the Poker-Matic for casinos, and Bally’s considered naming their machines “video poker” but executives disliked the idea. The employee with that idea formed his own company, Si Redd’s Coin Machines, and mass-produced video poker machines for casinos. That company became IGT.
Online video poker is much like the machines found in brick-and-mortar casinos around the world.
The first and most complicated decision, however, is to choose the game variation. There are many of them, but some of the most basic versions are:
- Jacks or Better: minimum payouts start at a pair of jacks
- Joker’s Wild: joker cards serve as wilds
- Deuces Wild: twos (deuces) serve as wilds, payouts start at three-of-a-kind
- Bonus Poker: four-of-a-kinds offer higher payouts
- Double Bonus Poker: four aces offer higher payouts
- Double Double Bonus Poker: several four-of-a-kind combinations offer high payouts
- Multi-Strike Poker: four-line game with increasing payouts on each line
- Spin Poker: three lines play as slot payouts with multiple paylines
- Super Times Pay: random multipliers increase payouts
After choosing the game, the next step is to simply select the amount to play per coin and then the number of coins. Click the deal button, and five cards appear.
Click on the cards to hold, if any, and the draw or deal button will replace those cards. The final hand is displayed, and the game will inform as to any payouts.
Some games offer a “double or nothing” option with a winning hand, allowing that the player to let the entirety of the winnings ride on the next hand. This is a fun variant but not advised if playing on a limited bankroll.
Players with a bit of experience take a look at the payouts of the games before choosing one to play. There are two ways that the games may show their statistics. One is with a percentage. For example, if a machine claims a return of 99% on a game, that means the average payouts equal $99 for every $100 placed in bets. The higher percentage, the better the game.
The second way it might be presented is with a fraction, such as 9:6 or 9/6. This indicates that a full house pays 9-to-1 on the bet, and a flush pays 6-to-1. An 8:5 machine pays 8-to-1 for the full house and 5-to-1 for the flush.
There is also some basic strategy that players can follow to increase their odds of hitting a winning hand. For example, only hold four cards to a flush but hold three cards to a royal flush. Hold four cards to an open-ended straight but only three to a straight flush.
Most video poker enthusiasts will also tell players to always play the maximum number of coins possible, as it is the only way to receive the best payouts the machine has to offer. New players should also play slow and focus on making solid decisions instead of playing more hands. Fast play can result in mistakes that can end up being costly.
Every game has its own strategies. For example, players should hold some cards in Jacks or Better that wouldn’t be held in a Deuces Wild game.
Once a favorite game is chosen, however, there are strategies to memorize. For Jacks of Better games, examine the dealt hand and hold cards in the following order. The first ones are obvious but the latter ones should make more sense over time.
- Four of a kind, straight flush, royal flush
- Four to a royal flush
- Full house, flush, straight, three of a kind
- Four to a straight flush
- Two pair
- Pair of jacks or better
- Three to a royal flush
- Four to a flush
- Pair lower than jacks
- Four to an outside straight
- Two suited high cards
- Three to a straight flush
- Two unsuited high cards
- Suited jack and ten, queen and ten, or king and ten
- One high card
- Keep nothing
In a Deuces Wild game, however, a player should never discard a deuce. The number of deuces dictate all decisions. If a player receives four deuces, discard the other card in the hopes of a fifth deuce. If the player sees three deuces, he or she should only hold a wild royal flush or five-of-a-kind; otherwise, hold
the deuces and draw two cards. If there are two deuces, there are a number of hands to keep before deciding to draw three cards; players should keep four cards to a wild royal flush or the wild royal flush, four cards to a straight flush or a straight flush, and four or five of a kind.