How to Play Video Poker in 2021: An In-Depth Guide

How to play video poker. One of the most exciting games you can find in both live and online casinos is the video poker game. In fact, if you need a game that can keep you busy while you have fun, try video poker.

This game is designed in such a way that you will keep coming back for more, whether you are losing or winning. Of course, with video poker, you win more than you lose.

So, if you have not played this game but you are willing to give it a try, go ahead and do it. You will enjoy every bit of it, trust me.

Sometimes, what discourages people from playing games is that they don’t know how to go about it.

If you belong to this group, you don’t have to worry any longer because this guide will give you all you need to know to be able to play video poker.

Here, you will discover the meaning of video poker, the basic rules for playing the game, and the steps you will take to play them.

You will also find out some tips on how to play the game and the things you have to bear in mind as you prepare to play.

As mentioned earlier, the game of video poker is easy to play and win. All you need to do is follow the explanations and recommendations of this guide to find your footing.

Nevertheless, this guide will not make you a professional video poker player, so you still have more works to do to develop that skill.

What is Video Poker?

Video poker is a 5-card draw electronic poker. Like slots, the game is played on machines and operated by gaming software.

You can only play this game through their machines or at online casinos. This may be one of the reasons the game is also referred to ask poker slots.

Video poker is a 5-card game because five cards are drawn on each hand and the outcome of the game depends on those cards.

If you draw cards that match any of the payout hands presented on the game’s paytable, you will win. If not, you will lose.

There are many versions of video poker games but the most popular of them all is the one known as Jack or Better. Apart from being the commonest video poker game, you will see out there, “Jack or Better” sets the standard for other video poker games to run.

This is to say that the other video poker games follow the basic rules set by “Jack or Better”. As a result, the winning hands of the video poker game that will be described in this guide belong to the “Jack or Better” paytable.

Reasons to Play Video Poker

It is only natural to find out the reasons you should play a game. Apart from using it to stay busy and have fun at the same time, playing games can also help you to be creative, improve your cognitive ability, as well as earn a little money.

Of course, some people hit jackpots now and then to earn a lot of money from games but you shouldn’t play games primarily to make money. This is to that you should play games to have fun, stay busy, develop skills, and make money.

But then, why should you play video poker games? Why should you leave all the other games played at the casino for video poker? Since it is played on a machine, why not opt for slots instead of video poker? What’s so special about video poker?

If you are asking yourself any of these questions, it’s ok. No one is saying you should not play the other games, but you need to have a feel of video poker.

ALSO READ: Top 18 Legitimate Online Casinos USA Review

In case you are contemplating playing the game, here are some reasons why you should:

1.         You don’t have to become a pro to play video poker. This is the truth many guides will hide from you.

Video poker may look ‘professional’ to you as a beginner but all you need to play the game is the knowledge of its rules and some strategies. You will understand more about this soon. As for the rules and strategies, they will be discussed here too.

2.         You can’t be cheated. Many players avoid playing games because they worry about being cheated. This may be more worrisome considering that you are just a newbie in the game.

But here’s the good news: no one can cheat you on video poker. The reason is that you are playing against the casino/computer and not other players.

Apart from that, the machine has been programmed to play the game in a particular way and it will tell you when you win.

So, unless the casino fixed the machine not to pay players, which is not possible, you will win and lose appropriately.

3.         With video poker, you will not have to worry about other players. You are only playing against the computer, so to say.

You won’t have to worry about a large crowd of onlookers or a table filled with rowdy or silent players. It’s just you and the computer.

Besides, since you are still a newbie here, you won’t be worried someone will patronise you or give you an embarrassing look if you make a mistake. But you can still get help from the casino lobby.

4.         The computer will direct you on what to do. Right there on the screen, you will see all the information you need about the game. The pay table will help you to know what your payouts will be and the hands that will earn you those credits.

You will also get prompts to deal or bet. If you win, the machine will tell you that too. So, you may as well just read this guide and try out your first game today.

5.         You can wager low. You know, the good thing about this game is that you can place odds in cents. You can also bet from one to five credits or coins, depending on how much you want to spend.

If you plan that a credit will be $0.25, for instance, wagering two credits (or ‘coins’ in some machines) means that you are betting $0.50 per hand.

Nevertheless, you need to find out the minimum and maximum amount each coin is worth in a machine before settling to use it.

6.         The payouts are great. In video poker, you have a lot of options that can make you win. In fact, many of the machines give 97.29% to 99.54% returns. So you can imagine playing a game you are almost sure you will win more than you lose.

7.         The game is loaded with excitement. Of course, every casino game is exciting but not all of them are as thrilling as video poker. The way the game is played fills you with expectations as you await the result.

If it turns out good, you will be happy. If it turns out not so good, you will desire to deal again. But the good thing here is, the game pays more than it takes. Nevertheless, just as many players do, you should aim for the jackpot.

Things to Understand about this Game

Now that you have decided to play (or are you still contemplating?), here are some notable things to bear in mind about the game and how to play it:

a.         Video poker is, to a large extent, a game of chance. In as much as you can do your best to win by applying certain strategies, the outcome of the game still depends on luck. Many video poker “experts” have lost a lot of games even though they used the strategies they proffered.

Nevertheless, those strategies can increase your chances of winning but they will not make you win all the time. You still need lots and lots of luck to play this game and win.

b.         The outcomes of the game are determined by the machine. Every video poker machine, be it the ones in live casinos or in online casinos, contains a Random Number Generator (RNG), which generates millions of numbers and number combinations within seconds.

The number generated by the software the moment you draw cards by pressing the ‘Deal’ button determines the cards that will be dealt. This is why the video poker game depends on luck and, of course, strategies.

c.         You need to set a budget before playing this game. Remember video poker is a game that can keep you excited and busy for a long time. That means you will spend a lot of money to play it if you are not careful; and you don’t want to lose a lot of money, do you. So, set your budget and stick to it.

One more thing, keep your credit card far away from you as you play this game. That way, you won’t be tempted to spend more than your budget.

d.         Remember video poker is a casino game, meaning it’s a form of gambling. This is to say that you will win some hands and lose the others; you don’t win all the time.

For this, you have to prepare your mind to lose. As you can see later, in this game, the decisions you make can cause you to win or lose. But, you don’t have to feel bad when you lose, do you? So, prepare your mind before playing this game so you can endure any loss.

e.         Remember to consult the paytable before you choose a machine. That way, you will go for the machine that has a higher payout percentage.

f.          You stand a better chance to win big if you bet the maximum odds. This means that instead of betting a coin/credit or two, you should bet five.

If you press the “Bet Max” button, you will stand a chance to make more money if you win. But that means you will also bet more. So, the ball is in your court.

Nevertheless, if you are there to just have fun, you don’t have to bet max so you can stretch your budget farther enough.

g.         Have fun. This can never be overemphasised. Even if you are playing to make money, try to have fun too.

What’s the Objective of Video Poker Game?

The objective of video poker is simple – draw a hand that will give you the best win. Note that there are up to seven or more payout matches in every video poker game (some are up to nine).

These payouts are ranked based on how rare the combinations of the cards are. The rarer the combination of the card is, the higher its payout will be.

Hence, your intention should be to draw hands that will match the rarest combination that will pay the highest prize.

To achieve any of these paying hands, you have to decide the dealt cards that may give you the desired result and the one(s) that won’t. As a result, you have to guess the card to discard and the one to hold.

You will see the “Hold” and the “Deal” or “Draw” buttons on the screen. Any card you don’t “hold” will be discarded automatically and replaced by another one when you press the “Deal” or “Draw” button.

If your decision to hold (that is to keep a card) or discard cards yields a good hand, you will win. If it doesn’t, you should try again.

Note that you only bet once in this game and play several hands until your credit is exhausted. This is why you should bet low so you don’t exhaust your budget earlier than you planned.

What Do the Cards Mean?

Video poker is a card game. It uses the usual 52-deck cards you know. But, unlike other card games, the way those cards are used here is different.

In this section, you will find out how the cards are ranked in video poker so you will know what to expect, based on the payouts of the game’s paytable.

Description of the Cards

            For the benefit of those that don’t understand the meaning of the drawings, letters, and numbers on the cards, this sub-section is for you. It will describe the cards so you can identify them easily when next you see them.

a.         As mentioned before, a deck of cards contains 52 cards.

b.         The cards in a deck are divided into four different groups, known as ‘suits’. These suits are Diamonds, Spades, Clubs, and Hearts. Each suit has its symbol and colour code.

For instance, the Clubs have a three-petal flower-like symbol that is coloured black while Diamonds are represented with red diamond-shaped symbols.

The suit a card belongs to, as you will later find out, plays a major role in the game of video poker but it is not in all cases. But you need to know the cards very well so you can identify each suit when a card shows up.

c.         The 52 cards in each deck are equally distributed in the four suits. This means that each suit has 13 cards. The cards in each suit have different values, starting from the low to the high.

d.         The components of each suit are three face cards (the King, Queen, and Jack, they are also known as court cards), an Ace, and nine number cards (numbered from 2 to 10).

The values of the number cards are indicated by the Arabic numerals and the number of suit symbols imprinted on them.

Note that symbols that count in this case are those imprinted on the middle of the card.

Those under the Arabic numerals at the top right and bottom left-hand side of the cards do not count.

e.         The card that has just a symbol of its suit imprinted at the middle and the letter ‘A’ written where the Arabic numeral is supposed to be is the Ace.

You may also notice that the Ace of Spades has a slightly different symbol, though it is still the spade symbol. The King has the image of a king and the letter ‘K’ imprinted.

The Queen has the image of a queen and the letter ‘Q’, while Jack has the image of a young prince and the letter ‘J’. Note that the symbols of the suits these cards belong to are imprinted to help you differentiate them.

f.          There is no joker in the standard video poker game. However, the paytable will tell you if there is.

Ranking the Cards

The ranks of the cards are only important because you need to tell what each card means when it shows up.

The paytable will let you know which combination of cards will make you win but the total value of the combination does not determine the outcome of the game.

What it means is that, unlike in Blackjack, where you have to sum up the values of the cards, video poker does not calculate the values.

However, when cards of a particular rank are expected to combine to give a particular outcome, you need to know which cards to look out for.

In video poker, cards are ranked as high or low. The face cards (that is the King, Queen, and Jack) and the Ace are high cards. Actually, card ranking starts from Ace and ends with Ace.

Ordinarily, it is supposed to start from Ace and end with two (that is, Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 – from high to low), but Ace can be a high number card (11) as well as a low number card (1).

You will understand all these in the section that discussed the hands that payout in the most popular video poker variant: Jack or Better.

Video Poker Paytable and its Components

Understanding the Paytable and its Components

When you look for a video poker machine in a live casino or one of its gaming software in an online casino, you need to go through the paytable to have all the information you need concerning the game.

You will find the paytable displayed on the screen of the machine. If it is not there, you will see a button telling you to press it and view the table.

A video poker paytable is where the machine displays the winning hands and their prizes.

There, you will see a table with six columns that show you the hands, on one column, and their payouts, on the remaining five columns.

If you scrutinise this table more, you will notice the differences in the figures contained in the columns, including the ones written for each hand.

If you go up the columns, you see that each of them gives the rates of payout for a hand according to the number of activated credits.

You are free to bet one to five credits (five credits are usually the maximum bet) so that any winning hand you draw will be calculated based on the number of credits you activated.

For instance, if you activate five credits and land a Royal Flush, your payout may be 4000:1, depending on what the paytable indicated.

Now you can understand why players are encouraged to bet the maximum odds. The reason is simply to make them win big if they land a good hand.

Another thing you must have noticed on the paytable is the names of the different hands. On the paytable for Jack or Better video poker variant, you may notice about seven to nine winning hands listed against their payouts.

The usual hands are “Jack or Better”, “Two Pair”, “Three of a Kind”, “Straight”, “Flush”, “Full House”, “Four of a Kind”, “Straight Flush”, and “Royal Flush”. These hands are mentioned from the least paying to the highest paying hand. The lesser the probability of drawing a hand is, the higher its payout.

This means that the possibility of landing the “Royal Flush” is low and so its payout is high. The Royal Flush can be regarded as the jackpot of video poker.

What Are the Different Winning Hands?

Considering that Jack or Better is the commonest video poker variant out there and the one the other variants based their rules on, the winning hands that will be discussed here are from the Jack or Better paytable.

Remember to check the paytable of the video poker machine or gaming software you want to play before settling down to enjoy the game. If you are not impressed with the hands and their payouts, you can try another machine or software.

The hands here will be presented from the least to the highest paying. The payouts will be given according to what is usually obtainable.

Note that all the video poker machines may not give you the same payouts even if the game is the Jack or Better variant.

a. Jack or Better: This occurs when your hand has a pair of Aces, Kings, Queens, or Jacks while the remaining three cards can be of any rank or suit.

The payout here is an even number, that is, 1 to 1. For instance, if you wager $0.25 per credit and you activated four credits, that is $1, you will win $1.

b. Two Pairs: This is achieved if you land two different pairs, whereby each pair contains cards of the same rank but different suits. For instance, if a hand contains 4 of Diamonds, Ace of Spade, Queen of Clubs, 4 of Hearts, and Queen of Spades, you have landed a “Two Pair”. On this hand, 4 of Diamonds and 4 of Hearts have the same rank, so they are a pair.

Further, the Queen of Hearts and Queen of Clubs are also a pair because they share the same rank. So, you have landed these two pairs: 4 of Diamonds/4 of Hearts, and Queen of Hearts/Queen of Clubs. Here, the payout is 2 to 1.

c. Three of a Kind: This is where a hand lands three cards that belong to the same rank but different suits. For instance, if the outcome of your draw contains 2 of Spades, 2 of Hearts, and 2 of Clubs, you have landed a “Three of a Kind” because the three cards share the same rank.

The payout here is usually 3 to 1. That is, you will receive three times the value of your wager. Remember, the more credits you activate the more money you win.

d. Straight: This is where the five cards in the hand are in sequence, irrespective of their suits. For instance, you land a “straight” if the cards in the draw are 4 of Diamonds, 5 of Hearts, 6 of Diamonds, 7 of Clubs, and 8 of Spades.

What matters here is that the suits are not the same and the numbers can be arranged in sequence without any of them missing. The payout here is usually 4 to 1.

e. Flush: When five of the cards in the hand are from the same suit, you are said to have landed a “flush”. Note that they don’t have to be in sequence. The most important thing here is that they are in the same suit.

For instance, if the cards are 2 of Spades, 4 of Spades, 5 of Spade, Queen of Spades, and Ace of Spades, you just landed yourself a Flush. The payout, in this case, is 6 to 1, in most cases.

f. Full House: This occurs when you land a ‘pair’ and a ‘three of a kind’. For instance, if the outcome is 2 of Spades, 6 of Clubs, 6 of Diamonds, 2 of Clubs, and 6 of Hearts, you just won the Full House prize.

Note that 2 of Spades and 2 of Clubs form a pair, while 6 of Diamonds, 6 of Clubs, and 6 of Hearts make up the ‘three of a kind’. In most Jack or Better video poker machines or gaming software, this hand pays 9 to 1.

g. Four of a Kind: Just as in the case of ‘three of a kind’, ‘four of a kind’ occurs when you land four cards that are of the same rank but from different suits.

For instance, if you land a hand that contains Ace of Diamonds, Ace of Spades, Ace of Clubs, and Ace of Hearts, you will win a prize because you landed a winning hand.

The aces are of the same rank even though they are from different suits. The payout here is usually 25 to 1.

h. Straight Flush: In this case, the cards formed a ‘straight’ and a ‘flush’ at the same time. This means their rank must be sequential and all the cards must come from the same suit.

For instance, if the five cards you drew read 2 of Diamonds, 3 of Diamonds, 4 of Diamonds, 5 of Diamonds, and 6 of Diamonds, you have won the Straight Flush prize. This is among the rarest hands to achieve. Hence, the payout is 50 to 1.

i. Royal Flush: This is the rarest of all the hands to land. It is achieved if you land the face cards (King, Queen, and Jack), the Ace, and a ten of the same suit. For instance, if the five cards are Ace of Hearts, King of Hearts, Queen of Hearts, Jack of Hearts, and 10 of Hearts, you just won the video poker jackpot. In this case, the payout is 250 to 1.

However, there is a usual bonus for those that activated the five maximum credits when they landed this bonus. If the 5 credits were active, the payout here will be 800 to 1.

Steps to Playing Video Poker

As you must have noticed by now, video poker is not a difficult game to play. All you have to do is hold some cards, discard some, and then replace the discarded card(s). But, let’s look at the steps you have to take to play this game.

Step 1: Find a Casino

That’s the first thing you have to do after reading this guide. You can also find a good online video poker game that will allow you to practice the game and develop strategies that will enable you to win more than you lose. Remember to check the paytable to be sure the game has provisions for more returns.

Step 2: Deposit Money

If you are going to a live casino, you have to visit its accounts section to make this deposit. You will be issued a ticket or a special coin (if they still exist) to play the game.

You should ask the staff at the reception for directions on how to go about these. I’m sure they will be glad to help.

If you are playing in an online casino and your credit is low, deposit money into your account. If you are playing an online video poker game, including the free ones, be sure to deposit enough credits that will allow you to play.

Step 3: Choose a Machine

After ensuring you have enough credits to play, you have to select the machine or game to play. Remember to consult the paytable before making your choice.

Step 4: Place Odds

This is the time to place bets, choose the number of credits you will activate, and decide the value of each credit. For instance, if you want to activate five credits but you want to bet $1 per hand, you will have to divide $1 into five to go round.

So, the amount of bet per credit will be $0.20. Remember, it is better to bet low and activate many credits than to bet high and use just a credit.

However, if activating all the credits will reduce your playtime, depending on the amount you budgeted for the play, activate a few credits.

Activating the number of credits you want to play is simple to do. You will see two buttons on the screen of the video poker machine, which are labelled “Bet One” and “Bet Max”.

If you want to activate all five credits, press the “Bet Max” button.

But, if you want to activate less than the maximum credits, press the “Bet One” button until you get the desired amount.

Step 5: Deal

This is where you hit the “Deal” or “Draw” button to receive the first set of five cards. Note that this is not the deal that will determine the outcome of the game.

Step 6: Hold and Discard Cards

After scrutinizing the first set of cards the computer sent to you, you will hold some by selecting the cards and pressing the “Hold” button on the screen.

The cards you do not hold will automatically be discarded when you hit the “Deal” button again. If you don’t hold any cards, the computer will assume you want to discard all of them.

This stage of the game is where your strategies come to play. A few tips on how to develop these strategies will be relayed shortly.

Step 7: Re-Deal

            This is where you hit the “Deal” button again to discard and replace cards.

Step 8: Payouts

If your second deal lands on any of the winning hands, you will receive a payout. The computer will tell you whether you won or not and also show you how many credits you have won so far. Remember, don’t be too hard on yourself; it’s just a game.

Step 9: Deal Again

Of course, what you did earlier was just one out of the many deals you will make. You can play the game as long as your credit lasts. But remember to pull out of the machine to take a break. Note that you won’t bet again after the first one.

Step 10: Have Fun

            I couldn’t resist this. Well, have fun as you win and lose the game.

Strategies for Playing Video Poker

Many video poker experts have been giving tips on what you have to do and what you don’t have to do in order to win more games than you lose. Well, here are my tips for you:

a.         Download an online video poker game and have firsthand knowledge of how the game rolls. If you can, go for the free online games, they will help you to learn the game very well so you can play without losing a lot of money.

The reason for practising more is that you will be exposed to different video poker scenarios and their possible outcomes.

With such information, you will be able to guess the outcome of every hand when playing with real money.

b.         Watch as other play the game. There are a lot of videos on how to play video poker on YouTube. You can see them so you can sharpen your strategies and skills in the game.

c.         Don’t be in a hurry to hold and discard cards. Do some calculations about the cards you have before replacing them.

The machine allows you to decide your outcome but it can only happen if you hold the right cards.

However, remember the random number generator is the one that determines which cards will turn up next.

d.         If you are playing Jack or Better and your initial deal lands a low pair (that is from 10 and lower) or four cards to flush, hold the concerned cards and re-deal. These may not work all the time but they are worth the try.

e.         Find a strategy chart for the video poker game variant you want to play. Consult these charts before and while playing the game. They will help you to make good decisions. Remember, they are no guarantees that you will win.

f.          Never forget to go through the paytable before playing.


Video poker is an exciting game to play and you don’t have to be an expert to do that. However, you should spend some time practising the game with free online gaming software before playing for real money.

You should also find the strategy chart for the variant of the game you want to play so you can consult it from time to time until you become good in the game.

Nevertheless, remember the game is a form of gambling, which means you will lose some and win the others. Hence, prepare yourself to lose money.

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The best way to do this is to make a budget and stick to it. But, never budget the amount you can’t afford to lose.

Remember there is no guarantee you will win back your money, so don’t bet heavily. Finally, try to have fun as you play.

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