For some casual gamers, many casino games, like blackjack or craps, are too intimidating. So, instead of sitting down at the table, they pony up at the nearest slot machine. For those who enjoy video slots, but wish they had more control of the outcome, online video poker is the next best thing. Our top video poker tips guide will touch on the most important things new players need to know before sitting down in front of online poker machines.
Before you start playing or real money, you must learn the basics. Unlike regular poker where the goal is to build the best five-card hand to beat the players around you, to play video poker is a man versus machine matchup. All you have to do is build a winning five-card hand. No other players can beat you and you can’t suffer a bad beat on the last card.
Here’s how a hand of online video poker breaks down:
One of the best features of video poker is nearly every online casino offers a FREE version. New players or those unfamiliar with basic poker rules must use this to their advantage. During these free sessions, new video poker players should focus on two key takeaways:
Video poker hand rankings are similar to regular poker, but not exactly the same. In most instances, winning hands bottom out at 10’s-or-pair of Jacks-or-better whereas you can win a regular poker hand with a pair of 2’s or, in some cases, high cards. A solo Ace of Diamonds will not get you a win.
|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)|
|One Pair||two cards of the same rank (ex: Two Aces)|
|High Card||five unmatched cards (ex: no pairs, high card wins)|
Before you start playing real money video poker, you must study the paytables and paylines for each game as the payouts do vary. A paytable is an infographic box that spells out which poker hands pay what based on your initial bet. For example, a one-credit wager that hit a Royal Flush may pay 100 credits, while a five-credit wager could pay 10x that or more. Also, certain games may payout bonuses for specific hands. So, four Jacks in one game could be worth more than in another. An example of this can be found in Bovada’s Deuces Wild where if you draw four 2’s the payout is higher than if you hit drew four deuces when you play Jacks-or-Better. By preparing, studying and memorizing these paytables and unique paylines, you’ll be able to take full advantage of optimal strategy.
Fun fact: online casinos will do whatever they can to earn your business. This includes tossing generous bonuses at new players and those interested in their vast array of casino games. Video poker players must take full advantage of first deposit welcome bonuses, reload bonuses and loyalty programs. If you find an online casino and slate of games you really like, stick with it as these loyalty programs offer incentives such as cash back and free spins. It literally pays to stay loyal at online casinos. Don’t leave money on the table if you’re going to be playing regardless.
When deciding on a video poker strategy, the MAX bet option is ideal if you can afford it. As we touched on earlier, by risking MAX bet each time, your odds of a larger payout when you hit are amplified. This approach only makes sense, however, if you can afford to inherit the associated risk. If you’re a new player with a limited budget, be careful when embracing the MAX bet button and, perhaps, wait until you’ve earned some profit before risking those credits. Because return to player percentages (aka chances of winning, which we’ll touch on later) are so high, a moderate-to-large bankroll benefits from hammering the MAX bet button more times than not.
Back in high school, it wasn’t uncommon for students to lean on the Cliffs’ Notes of the novel they were currently reading. For those unfamiliar, Cliffs’ Notes were an abridged version of a book that hit on the key notes of popular literature. It was a cheat sheet of sorts for those students who didn’t grasp the concepts or were too lazy to read. Casino games like video poker also offer Cliffs Notes in the form of strategy charts. New players can lean on the chart below as a basic strategy to decide which cards to hold or discard.
|Initial 5-Card Hand||# of Cards to Hold||# of Cards to Discard|
|Four of a Kind||5||0|
|Four to a Royal Flush||4||1|
|Three of a Kind||3||2|
|Four to a Straight Flush||4||1|
|Three to a Royal Flush||3||2|
|Four to a Flush||4||1|
|Four to a Straight||4||1|
|Three to a Straight Flush||3||2|
|Two to a Royal Flush||2||3|
|Two High Cards||2||3|
|One High Card||1||4|
RTP, or chances of winning, average between 96-98 percent with several over 100 percent thus leaving the machines’ house edge less than zero percent and the average house edge 2-4 percent.
New casino game players often hear about the house always winning, but fail to study and learn the house edge of each game. In games like blackjack and roulette, that edge is highlighted, but in video slot machines and video poker, the return to player rate or RTP is promoted. Video poker RTP average between 96-98 percent with several over 100 percent thus leaving the machines’ house edge less than zero percent and the average house edge 2-4 percent.
The last tip could arguably be the most important in the long run. When starting off, be sure to set a budget and wager within your means. The online casino gaming experience is only enjoyable when you stick to a budget. If you don’t and start risking monies you don’t have, emotion takes over and the last thing an experienced bettor wants to do is bet via emotion instead of sound reason and strategy. Stick within the budge and you’ll enjoy the experience for years to come.