Video Poker Strategy

Video poker is one of the few games where the player return can be higher than 100%, essentially giving the player an advantage over the casino.

In order to gain this advantage, there are four things that need to be considered.

  1. Game Selection

    Selecting a game with a high payout percentage is one of the more obvious factors. Although it’s not always clear what the exact payout percentage of a game is, playing a variation that you know to have high payout percentages and consulting the paytable can suffice.

  2. Bonuses and Promotions

    Although video poker specific bonuses are hard to find, most welcome bonuses and deposit bonuses allow for video poker to contribute to wagering requirements (usually around 10% – 20%). Freeing up some bonus money while playing video poker can tip the scales even further in your favour. You can add an extra advantage by playing on a good reward or VIP program where your wagering will return cash.

  3. Playing Strategy and Skill

    House edge can be reduced even further than it already is just by implementing a basic strategy. Some variations even allow for an optimal strategy where the house edge is reduced further or the player advantage is increased. The strategy for each variation depends on the format of the game and the paytable.

  4. Game Volatility

    As with slots, video poker is also a volatile game and a mathematical one at heart. You’ll go through stages where the game will pay out then slow up and so on. The key to long term success at video poker is skill, strategy and knowing your card hand rankings.

Before picking a strategy, consider these points

  • The gamble feature could become your best friend and can result in much bigger returns
  • A good bonus and reward points from the casino should form part of your strategy and helps claw back the house edge into your favour
  • Short term, an unskilled player may get lucky, but long term, strategy gets you the best returns
  • Know your card hand rankings before you even start to play; it’s your bread and butter

Basic Video Poker Tips

  • Always play the maximum number of coins/credits. Otherwise called max bet. The payout per hand is always larger when playing the maximum number of coins.
  • Don’t ever hold a kicker. For example, if you have two pairs then never hold the extra card, it could turn your hand into a full house and you’ll be the one kicking yourself.
  • Stick to your strategy. Don’t think you’re cleverer than the strategy; any deviation from it will reduce your chances of winning.
  • Keep your strategy to hand. Unless you’re Rain Man, it’s very unlikely you’ll remember the right holds to make in every situation.

As video poker strategy differs for each variation of the game and there are more variations than you could shake a stick at, it would be near-impossible to list a strategy for each and every one of them. So, instead we’ve opted to show you the basic strategies for some of the most popular video poker variations.

Seeing as we went into detail on three variations in the How to Play Video Poker guide, it made sense to stick with the same three here. So, below are basic strategy guides for Jacks or Better, Joker Poker and Bonus Poker.

Jacks or Better Video Poker Strategy

Jacks or Better Screenshot

When it comes to Jacks or Better, things are kept pretty simple – well, as simple as they can be seeing as there are 19,933,230,517,200 different card combinations!

With a probability of receiving a hand with a pair of jacks or better (which usually pays out at 1:1) being 0.2 (so 1 in 5), there’s quite a good chance that you can win with most hands. In fact, the likelihood of having a winning hand is just under 1 in 2 at 0.45. Below is a table which shows you how many cards you should draw (not hold) after your first set of five cards.

Hand dealt How many cards to draw
Royal Flush 0
Straight Flush 0
4 of a Kind 0
Full House 0
Flush 0
Straight 0
3 of a Kind 2
Two Pair 1
Pair of J, Q, K, or A 3
Pair of 2 – 10 3
J-A, Q-A, or K-A (suited) 3
J-Q-K (mixed suits) 2
10-J, 10-Q, 10-K (suited) 3
1 or 2 High Cards 3-4
Mixed Low Cards 5

Joker Poker Video Poker Strategy

Joker Poker Example

With the added bonus of a joker card which acts as a wild, Joker Poker continues to be popular. Although it sounds pretty good, the expected return of 98.6% at Playtech casinos isn’t actually the best that you can get. Finding a Joker Poker game with the right paytable can provide an expected return exceeding 100%.

Of all the payouts available in Joker Poker, kings or better and 2 pairs payout the least with 1:1 payouts. The probability of revealing a hand with either of these rankings is around 0.25 meaning that you have a 1 in 4 chance of winning at 1:1. The table below describes the number of cards that you should draw when faced with the hands listed below.

Hand dealt How many cards to draw
Royal Flush or 5 of a Kind 0
Straight Flush 0
4 of a Kind 1
Full House 0
Flush 0
Straight 0
3 of a Kind 2
Two Pair 1
Pair of K or A 3
Joker 4
1 or 2 High Cards 3-4
Mixed Low Cards 5
Any Other 5

Bonus Poker Video Poker Strategy

Bonus Poker Video Poker

Bonus Poker provides players with the chance to win a larger than usual payout for a predetermined hand. Payout percentages of this type of variation are usually around 99.1% to 99.3%.

Combine this payout percentage with a staggering 8,748,891,222,348 different winning combinations and you can start to feel pretty good about your prospects of winning when playing Bonus Poker.

Hand dealt How many cards to draw
Royal Flush 0
Straight Flush 0
4 of a Kind 0
Full House 0
Flush 0
Straight 0
3 of a Kind 2
Two Pair 1
Pair of J, Q, K, or A 3
Pair 2 thru 10 1
Bonus Card 1
1 or 2 High Cards 3-4
Mixed Low Cards 5
Any Other 5

Picking a Paytable

With all the variations of video poker around, it’s easy to overlook the paytable. However, as we have mentioned time and time again, the paytable is one of the most important things to study when considering video poker strategy. The structure of the payouts influences the expected return of a given video poker game and hence its profitability.

Below we have a sample of four possible paytables which all pay out 1:1 on Jacks or better and 250:1 on a royal flush. However, small variations of payouts on other hands can lead to a difference in the theoretical payout percentage of almost five per cent. The paytables are named after the amount paid out for a full house and a flush. So, in the first column a full house pays 9x your bet and a flush pays 6x your bet so that paytable is called 9/6.

Hand Dealt 9/6 Paytable 8/6 Paytable 8/5 Paytable 6/5 Paytable
Payout 99.50% 98.50% 97.30% 95.00%
Royal Flush 250 250 250 250
Straight Flush 50 50 50 50
Four of a Kind 25 80 25 25
Full House 9 8 8 6
Flush 6 6 5 5
Straight 4 4 4 4
Three of a Kind 3 3 3 3
Two Pair 2 1 2 2
Jacks or Better 1 1 1 1

Jackpot Tip: Having higher numbers in the payout title usually means that the paytable has a larger overall payout percentage. However, while payouts for the full house and flush are high, others can be altered to lower the overall percentage so check out the entire paytable before selecting a game.