When stepping through the doors of a land-based casino or visiting one on the Internet, the vast majority of players tend to go straight to the slot games. But experienced gamblers know that there are other games which offer almost the same simplicity and entertainment while providing much better payouts at the same time. The games in question are the different variations of video poker and they combine in a wonderful way the best aspects of slots and traditional poker.
Video poker is known to be a much simpler version of its table counterpart. It is not as stressful and does not require reading the faces and signals of your opponents around the table. This is a game played solo against a computer and yet, it involves decision making and understanding the rules of the game. It is, in fact, the opportunity to decide which cards to hold and which to replace that makes the game so appealing to casino players. They no longer rely on luck alone to win but they can employ a strategy in order to succeed and beat the house.
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Video poker machines can be found in most brick-and-mortar casinos around the world. But they are equally widespread in online casinos, as well, where you can play for fun and even better, for real money. Real money video poker is a fantastic alternative to classic casino games such as blackjack or craps – it is fun and challenging, it is simplified compared to poker, and it comes with the promise of solid payouts. Additionally, the game is an ideal option for novice poker players as it will guide them through the basics without the risk of losing large amounts of money.
Video poker is one of the very few casino games, along with blackjack and poker, where players have the opportunity to improve significantly their winning chances and actually gain an edge over the casino. For this to happen, however, they need to have a good understanding of how the game is played. Knowing the basic rules is essential although, in this game, it is possible to collect winnings if relying solely on luck. But for a long-term success, players should make themselves familiar with all the ins and outs of video poker.
This is an automated, RNG-based game which derives from 5-card draw poker, considered to be one of the simplest versions of table poker. In its most basic form, video poker is played with a standard deck of 52 cards and it follows the rules of traditional draw poker. The RNG, or Random Number Generator, is a complex piece of software, which guarantees the random results of every round or draw in video poker. For this reason, it is often called “the brain” of games such as video poker, slots, and basically, all virtual casino games. Before betting any real money, players should know that exactly 2,598,960 hands can be dealt in a single draw. While this may sound too much to grasp, a huge portion of these hands is actually duplicate, so learning how to play them all is not as difficult as it may appear.
In order to start a game, the player needs to place a bet and click on the Deal/Draw button. The computer draws 5 cards and the player has a choice to either hold them (by clicking on the card) or discard them. After selecting the Deal/Draw button once more, the player receives the new cards that take the place of the discarded ones. The computer then determines whether a winning combination is formed and if so, it rewards the player with a payout corresponding to the strength of the hand.
Additional Basic RulesThe strength of winning hands, or the specific combinations of cards that bring a payout, is clearly displayed in the pay table of the game you play. This is the pay chart or schedule where all winning card combinations are ranked, alongside their corresponding payouts. The hand ranking follows the standard hand ranking in poker and if you are at least vaguely familiar with the classic game, you should have little trouble understanding video poker. One important moment is that the cards in a winning hand do not need to appear in any particular order on the screen.
The highest ranking hand in video poker is called Royal Flush and it is formed by an Ace, a King, a Queen, a Jack, and a Ten of the same suit. In a regular game, it pays out 250 times the size of your bet. Indeed, it is a huge winning, but note that is the rarest hand you can get. The second strongest hand is Straight Flush, which is a combination of 5 consecutive cards of the same suit, thus, you can safely consider the Royal Flush simply the strongest Straight Flush. The payout for it is 50 times the size of the bet in most games. The next hand in the ranking is Four of a Kind, or simply 4 cards of the same value, or for instance, 4 Kings or 4 Sevens. It pays out 25 times your bet and is followed by Full House – a combination of Three of a Kind and a Pair. The payout is typically 9 times the bet and an example for this hand is 3 Fives and 2 Tens.
The next best possible hand in the game is called Flush, which means 5 non-consecutive cards of the same suit such as a Two, an Eight, a Five, a Queen, and a Ten of hearts. The payout for this hand is usually 6 times the size of your bet. Next in the ranking comes Three of a Kind, which pays out 3 times the bet. It is followed by Two Pair – for instance, 2 Nines and 2 Queens, and if you get it, your winning will be twice the bet. And the lowest winning hand in video poker which pays out evenly is a Pair of Jacks or other higher cards. It is also known as Jacks or Better, hence, the name of the simplest and probably most popular variation of video poker.
Jacks or Better was the first to appear several decades ago, but it was later modified to create more advanced variations with slightly different hand rankings and payouts. Today, there are over a hundred video poker variations and each comes with its own specific pay table. The introduction of Wild Cards formed popular games such as Deuces Wild, where the Twos are wilds, or Joker’s Wild, where a single Joker is added to the deck and it acts as a wild card.
Choosing Where to Play Real Money Video Poker
There are hundreds of online casinos which offer different variations of video poker. Most casino game developers create their own versions and as a result, players today have a really great choice of video poker games. Before you pick a casino and a particular game, there are several things you should consider carefully. The first thing is, of course, to find a safe, reliable and fair online casino which is legitimate and fully certified. Since you are planning to play real money games, you will also want a casino that allows payments in your preferred currency and payment method. The withdrawal times and the fast responding customer support are also very important. Note that most online casinos have a 24-72 hour pending period in which players are able to cancel their withdrawals.
There are many other factors that will help you decide where to play video poker for real money. Certainly, the visual appeal and the design of the casino site will also shape your opinion, but it would be better to focus on the payouts and the different bonuses offered by the gambling operator.
Players who are trying video poker for the first time should avoid playing just any game they see and stick to the video poker versions with the highest payouts. They are easy to find because all the information you need is in the pay table of a game.
Another aspect of online casinos all players should take into consideration is the bonuses. Almost all web-based gambling providers offer newly registered players bonuses, designed to boost their play budget and help them explore more games.
Payout Additional TipsOne way to tell if a video poker version is good or not is to look at the payouts for Full House and Flush. If they are 9 and 6 times the size of the bet, then this is most likely to be a full-pay game. However, there are more exceptions to this rule than you can imagine, so checking the return percentages whenever possible is essential.
Many casinos post the expected return or Return to Player (RTP) percentages of the games they offer. On average, video poker has a return ranging from 97% to around 100%, with some games offering even higher paybacks. This means that if you bet $100 on a game with RTP of 98%, you may expect to receive $98 back in the form of winnings. However, this will not happen in a single round or even after 100 rounds. These percentages are used to express the average return of a certain game after an indefinite number of plays. So, the longer you play a video poker game with a higher average return, the more likely it is to eventually end up winning. These payback percentages can also be achieved only if you make no or minimum mistakes while playing. Each video poker variation should be played with the correct strategy.
Choosing a casino with high average payout rates is essential, whether you play video poker or slots. If the operator has not made these percentages public, you can simply try the different variations for free before you place any real money bets. Some players believe that the hit frequency and the RTP during free play mode are different than those during real money play. However, this is a huge misconception and you can actually test how good or bad a game is in terms of payback when you play with demo credits. The reason for this is one – the RNG cannot determine whether you bet real or demo credits.
Bonus Additional TipsSome casinos have no-deposit bonuses which do not require you make a deposit into the casino, while others will give you a bonus only after topping up your balance for the first time. Often, no-deposit bonuses are either free spins on certain slot games or free cash of up to $20. And in most cases, the bonus money need to be wagered on slots as slots are, indeed, the most popular type of casino games.
However, you will want a bonus which does not have such a limitation. First-deposit bonuses may be very useful in this case. Of course, at some casinos, you will be required to place bets only on slots in order to meet the wagering requirements, but there are many exceptions, as well. A wagering requirement is a term used by casinos to express the number of times you need to wager the amount of the bonus before you can withdraw anything. For example, if you receive a bonus of $20 with a 30 times wagering requirement, you will need to place bets worth at least $600.
Before registering at an online casino, players should always look at its bonuses and compare them with the promotions offered at other sites. The basic principle to follow is searching for bigger welcome bonuses with lower wagering requirements. Video poker players should also make sure that not only slot games but video poker, as well, will contribute 100% towards the wagering. A great alternative is to simply find a gambling site that offers a wager-free bonus for new players. It is not a simple task, however, as almost all casinos require wagering.
Video Poker Strategy
Video poker gives players the opportunity to change the odds of the game. But in order to win in the long term, they need to employ certain strategies, depending on the specific variation of the game they choose to play. For instance, in Tens or Better, you can win with a hand as low as a pair of Tens, while in Joker’s Wild, thanks to the wild Joker, you can get a Five of a Kind – for example, 4 Kings and a Joker. Not only the payouts for the different hands will be different, but also the strategy behind every decision you make while playing. Still, there are several basic principles that are valid for any version of video poker.
Among the first lessons every player learns about video poker is to hold on to the automatic wins from the initial draw. While this may sound too obvious to ignore, many novices would make the mistake to discard a pair of Jacks, hoping they could get a Royal Flush or any other winning combination. Well, the likelihood of getting a Royal Flush is much smaller than getting a Jacks or Better, which, in case, is a guaranteed win.
There are, of course, instances when breaking a winning hand is actually the right move. For example, when you have a Flush or a Straight, you can discard one card for the chance of getting a Royal Flush. If you have a 9, a Jack, a Queen, a King, and an Ace of spades, you should discard the 9 for the possibility to get a 10 of spades. You will still have a chance for a Flush (with any other spades) or for a Straight (with any other 10). And there is also the chance for hitting a pair of Jacks or Better if you are dealt any other high card.
Additional Video Poker Strategy TipsAnother case when breaking a winning hand is when you have a Jacks or Better, but you have the chance for hitting a Straight Flush or a Royal Flush when discarding one of the cards in the pair. This is an acceptable risk because the Jacks or Better hand pays evenly and you will not win anything if you keep it – you will win your initial bet. Going for a the higher paying combinations is the right choice because you have a chance for a great winning.
One of the most important principles when playing video poker is understanding the difference between an open and inside Straights. If you have four cards to a Straight where the missing card is in the middle, this is an inside Straight – for instance, a Five, a Six, an Eight, and a Nine. An open Straight is when you have a Six, a Seven, and Eight, and a Nine. In the first case, you can complete the Straight only with a Seven. In the second one, however, you can win by getting either a Five or a Ten, which means there are twice as many cards available to complete the combination. So keeping the inside Straight is a mistake unless three of the cards are high.
If you have a pair (of Fives, for example) and a face card (such as a Jack), which is not part of the pair, you should keep the pair and discard the high card. This is another common mistake many inexperienced players make, a mistake that, according to experts, reduces their chances of winning by 5%. Some experienced players, on the other hand, claim that keeping a low-value pair is a mistake. This depends on whether you want to play the optimal strategy or you are less experienced and would prefer a simpler one. In most cases, keeping the pair is the better option.
These are just some of the many essentials of video poker strategy. But let us also lay out the basic strategy for the full-pay Jacks or Better game. Once players learn it, they can move on to more complex variations and the right strategies for them. Obviously, when dealt a Royal Flush, players should keep all the cards and wait for the pay out. Other instances when they have to keep all cards are when being dealt a Straight Flush or a Full House. They should also hold their four cards in a Four of a Kind while in Three of a Kind, to keep the matching cards and discard the other two that are not part of the combination. When they have Two Pair, they need to hold the four cards and discard the fifth one for a chance of getting a Full House.
When the hand consists of four cards to a Royal Flush or a Straight Flush, you should keep the four cards and discard the fifth one. A pair of high cards, or a Jacks or Better, should also be kept in all instances. Next in terms of importance is when you have three cards to a Royal Flush and then, four to a Flush – you keep the cards that can form winning combinations and discard all the rest. These cards are followed by a lower pair, four to an open Straight, two high cards of the same suit, three cards to a Straight Flush, and two unsuited high cards. Also, you can keep suited combinations between a Ten and a Jack, a Ten and a Queen, and a Ten and a King. You should also keep any high card from the initial draw and discard all the lower cards when there is no chance of forming a winning combination with them.
Video poker was introduced in casino floors in the 1970’s and gained popularity in the following decade. However, the game is much older and the first fruit machines were actually based on the automated poker machines. It all started in 1891 when Sittman and Pitt Company invented the first poker machine which had 5 reels, or drums, as they were called at the time. There were 10 playing cards on each drum and the player started the game by inserting a coin and pulling the lever. Then, in 1898, San Fransisco-based mechanic Charles Fey created a poker machine that would pay out 20 coins for a Royal Flush. It was called the “Card Bell” and was followed by the “Skill Draw” machine in 1901, which had one really important feature – players had the option to hold one or more of the cards in the draw. There was a second spin which gave a better chance at hitting a winning combination. A this was the first 5-card draw poker machine.
Interestingly, the first automated poker games were not played with all 52 cards of a standard deck. Players thought all cards were in the game but the machines had 5 reels of 10 cards each, which meant that only 50 cards could be included. In fact, the Ten of spades and the Jack of hearts were usually missing. As a result, the odds of hitting a Royal Flush were halved but only the manufacturers of the machines were aware of that.
Additional History TipsThe first video poker machine was introduced in 1970 by an American company called Dale Electronics and a few years later, the rights to video poker were acquired by the businessman Si Redd. Redd distributed jukeboxes and slot machines for Bally Manufacturing but the company was not interested in his video poker ideas. He then founded Sircoma (short for Si Redd’s Coin Machines), later known as International Game Technology or IGT and introduced the Draw Poker game in 1979. By the next decade, Redd’s video poker games were widely spread across Las Vegas casinos.
Of course, by modern standards these games were rather primitive – they were played on large consoles with television screens and resembled slot machines. The odds were usually lower than the odds provided by online video poker games today and the house edge was calculated manually by recording the results of hundreds and thousands of plays. In modern games, the edge is calculated and adjusted easily by game developers with the help of the so-called PAR sheets. These are charts displaying the odds of forming any particular hand, as well as the payouts for the different hands, etc. Some expert players are able to calculate the expected return of a video poker game by looking at its pay table and comparing the odds with the payouts.
What Is a Full-Pay Video Poker Game?
Full-pay video poker games are the ones that give the best payouts, while the house edge can be non-existent. A full-pay Jacks or Better is a game where the payouts for Full House and Flush are respectively 9 and 6 times the size of the bet. Players should always stick to full-pay versions of the games because they will have a greater chance of winning in the long term.
How Are the Hands in Video Poker Dealt?
Each card dealt by the computer in a video poker hand is determined by the Random Number Generator. Some players believe that the computer “shuffles” the cards but there is no actual shuffling – the RNG picks a random number associated with a particular card and this is how the card appears on the screen. Because of the nature of the RNG, no casino or game developer can “fix” the game, manipulate or even predict the results. Each hand you are dealt depends solely on luck and you can be certain that video poker is a truly fair game.
How Can I Play Video Poker for Real Money?
There are two ways to play real money video poker – in land-based or in online casinos. If you play online, the first thing you need to do is make sure you know the rules of the game. Then, you need to make a deposit. Most casinos accept payments in various currencies and work with different payment methods such as credit cards, wire transfers, online banking, and digital wallets. You should look for a casino where you can deposit and withdraw using your most preferred banking method.
Doesn’t the House Have the Advantage in Video Poker?
Typically, casinos always have the advantage and in most casino games, the odds are against the player. In video poker, the house edge ranges from 5% to a negative number, i.e. in some variations of the game, the player has the advantage. However, following a perfect strategy is essential, so before starting to play for real money, players should try playing for free. There are also different video poker strategies that can be found in useful guides or even online.