Learning How To Play Video Poker

Video poker is what you get when you mix the flashy graphics of a slot machine with five-card draw poker. Our how-to-play video poker guide walks you through the differences between itself and regular poker, explain how to play via a sample hand and how different types of video poker for real money may change the game’s objective.

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How to Play Video Poker: Difference Between Regular & Video

The main objective in real money video poker is to build the best hand possible based on your on-screen selections. You only have to worry about your hand. You can’t lose to other players or experience a bad beat.

When you set up to play a regular poker cash game or tournament, there are X-number of participants situated around a table. Each player is dealt two cards face down and then everybody works with five community cards that are face up on the table. The objective of these in-person poker matches is not only to build the best five-card hand, but also for one person to beat everybody at the table by building the best hand or by bluffing and forcing the competition to fold (quit) before you do. This isn’t the case in video poker.

The main objective in video poker is to build the best hand possible based on your on-screen selections. You only have to worry about your hand. You can’t lose to other players or experience a bad beat. The video poker machine is powered by and generate each hand via random number generator (RNG) software where each outcome is truly random. Again, it’s very similar to a slot machine mixed with a dash of five-card draw poker. This is why it’s a great game for those learning poker basics and how the strongest poker hands rank. Speaking of which here is the video poker best-hand hierarchy:

Hand Definition
Royal Flush five cards of the same suit, ranked Ace-through-10 (ex: Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10 of Hearts)
Straight Flush five cards of the same suit and consecutively ranked (ex: Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight of Diamonds)
Four of a Kind four cards of the same rank (ex: four 9’s)
Full House three cards of the same rank and two more cards of the same rank (ex: Three 8’s, Two 5’s)
Flush any five cards of the same suit (ex: Queen, Jack, Seven, Four, Two of Hearts)
Straight any five cards consecutively ranked (ex: 4 of Clubs, 5 of Diamonds, 6 of Diamonds, 7 of Hearts, 8 of Spades)
Three of a Kind three cards of the same rank (ex: three 5’s)
Two Pair two cards of the same rank and two more cards of the same rank (ex: Two Queens, Two Kings)
Jacks or Better two cards of the same rank so long as they are Jacks, Queens, Kings or Aces (you can’t win with a pair of 5’s)

How to Play Video Poker: Example Poker Hands

Before you begin to play any video poker variation, you’ll want to be sure to review the paytable. This is an on-screen infobox that explains how much you can win if you build a specific hand. Some games pay out more the more you risk on any given hand, sometimes referred to as MAX bet, and you’ll notice in the paytable columns that potential winnings can vary. For example, if you risked one credit and hit a Royal Flush, you’d win X-amount of dollars. However, if you risked MAX bet credits and hit a Royal Flush, you’d win X-amount multiplied by whatever the paytable indicates the reward is for that MAX wager. Your chance to win is slim, but the payout is huge.

Now, let’s start playing video poker.

how to play video poker

Stage 1 – Decide Bet Size

Before the video poker machine spits out your first five cards, you must make an initial bet. You can bet one credit, multiple credits or MAX credits, which are typically five-or-more. The value of each credit depends on the video poker game you’re playing. It could be a penny, $5 or more per play.

So, for this example, we’ll hammer the MAX bet button and risk five credits. We hit the DEAL or DRAW button and receive our five cards.

Stage 2 – Receive & Review Five Cards

Using what you know about the strength of various poker hands (from the table above), you’ll review the five cards and decide which ones to keep (if any) and which ones to discard.

Stage 3 – Keep Cards You Like

If you want to keep any of the cards, you’ll click the HOLD button located beneath each card. If you don’t want to keep any cards, don’t click any of the hold buttons and you’ll be dealt five fresh cards. Remember, in most video poker cases, Jacks or better strategy is the best base as players gets paid for matching a pair of Jacks or better. So, if you receive a bunch of unmatched numbered cards, best practice is to toss them all back.

Stage 4 – Draw New Cards

You’ll click the DRAW hand again. The cards you held will remain and the video poker software will give you the new ones as requested.

Stage 5 – Hand Ends & Payment

After you receive your new cards, the hand ends and the system automatically evaluates the strength of your hand. If you’re a winner a motion graphic will flash on screen and the line of the winning hand will be highlighted in the paytable. Once your winning are credited to your account, a new hand begins.

How to Play Video Poker: Game Variations and Objectives

Depending on your preferred online casino, the number of unique video poker game variations. In most cases, a popular site will feature a dozen or more options and explain how to play video poker Jacks or Better or a simple strategy for each.

As you can see in the video poker options below, the type of game you choose can be impacted by something as simple strategy like “what’s the worst possible hand I can get that pays out?” to “I can earn extra bonus credits simply by building a specific five card hand.” It’s in those latter situations where you may go out the way to string together four 7’s over a straight flush because of these bonuses. In the case of Deuces Wild, the world is your oyster when sitting on a pair of two’s before the second draw. If you drew a pair of two’s in Jacks or Better, you might not hold them.

how to play video poker

Play Jacks or Better

If we conducted an online poll, this version of video poker would be the most popular and the best game for beginners. To win, you five card hand must feature a pair of Jacks or better. You can’t win with a pair of 10’s or worse.

Deuces Wild

This game allows the deuce or 2 of diamonds, hearts, clubs or spades to replace ANY of your five cards to build the best hand. Thus, if you finish with an Ace, 2 of Hearts, 2 of Diamonds, Queen, Queen, you’ve actually hit four Queens and are about to earn a huge payout.

Bonus Poker

Similar to Jacks or Better, this game rewards you more if you hit four of a kind. The value varies based on which four cards you hit and this is why it’s so important to study and understand each game’s paytable before placing your bets.

Bonus Poker Deluxe

All four-of-a-kind poker hands pay the same rate in this version of video poker.


How To Play Video Poker FAQs