Home > Casino Games > Video Poker

Video Poker Guide

With expected returns on some games going over 100%, video poker is the most player friendly casino games going.


    With royal flush payouts ranging from 250x your bet to over 4000x, the ubiquitous combination of skill and luck has never been more apparent, albeit the game is weighted towards the skilful player.

    The object of the game is simple; to create the highest possible poker hand by holding and burning (discarding) the cards you are given. After you’ve had the opportunity to do this, the game pays out based on your hand.

    The key to a good video poker game is the paytable; examine it carefully before you even think about playing. The information contained in it is critical to your play. To find out what to look for in a paytable, head to our video poker strategy section.

    Some other points to consider include:

    • There are lots of variations of video poker; Jacks or Better is generally accepted as the standard form.
    • The paytable shows you all you need to know about what the best games are (9/6 games are preferable).
    • Some casinos have over 55 different games. Multi-hand variations are popular and offer more excitement.
    • Betting limits range greatly from 25p up to £5 and more. Be sure to check the default setting before you start in case it’s a little out of your budget.

    The Basic Rules of Video Poker

    • A standard 52 deck of playing cards is used. In games like Jokers Wild and Joker Poker, jokers are also used.
    • The player makes a bet, then the game will deal five random cards from the 52 deck face up.
    • The player then selects what cards, if any, they wish to hold.
    • Cards that are not held are discarded.
    • The game then deals a new set of cards from the same 52 deck to replace the cards that weren’t held by the player.
    • The five cards the player has are then referenced against the game’s paytable and any matches are paid accordingly.

    Online Video Poker

    It is an unfortunate generalisation when playing video poker in an online casino that the game is nowhere near as advantageous for the player as it is in a real casino. However, there can be cases where the paytables are altered to favour the house.

    Even though a version of the popular variation Jacks or Better may appear to offer full pay (that is 9/6 for the full house and flush), the paytable may be weaker than you think. If other premium hands such as four of a kind and straight flush have lower payouts, then this reduces the overall return significantly.

    So significantly in fact, that even in some of the most popular versions of video poker, which offer pay-backs very close to one hundred per cent in most real casinos, online versions can dip into the low nineties if there’s enough paytable manipulation.

    That’s why you have to be wary, even if an online casino advertises a game as 9/6 Jacks or Better. If you’re serious about having a good chance of winning when playing video poker, we advise that you shop around very carefully when selecting a game to play. To find out more about selecting a video poker variation, head to our How to Play Video Poker page.

    Gain an Advantage over the Casino

    It’s a misconception that all casino games are weighted in the favour of the casino. When it comes to video poker, by playing the right game, taking advantage of bonuses or promotions and implementing optimal strategy you can actually create a theoretical return of more than 100%.

    However, this is much easier than done. First off you have to select a game which has a generous paytable, which requires you to do your homework. Then you need to hunt down a video poker bonus or promotion which allows you to fulfil wagering requirements by playing this variation of video poker – believe us this is harder than it sounds.

    Finally, there’s the small matter of applying an optimal strategy that will take you over the top. There are optimal strategies for just about every single video poker variation and for some there are even two. While they can be a pain to follow, strategies such as the Full-Pay Deuces Wild optimal strategy give you a theoretical return of 100.80% making them well worth using.

    To find out more about the different video poker strategies that can be used online, check out our Video Poker Strategy page.

    Video Poker Pointers

    • Jacks or Better, Deuces Wild, Bonus Poker and Pick ‘Em Poker are the classics and still the best in our option
    • Understanding a video poker paytable is key, if you don’t see one, don’t play it
    • There are hundreds of variations of video poker. Each is slightly different, so be sure to understand the differences before you play
    • Played well, video poker is the most rewarding of all casino games bar none
    • Unlike slots a clear head is required at all times to play the game well

    In God Technology we Trust

    It took some time for technology to have an impact on casino gambling. But better late than never, in the 1970s along with the now popular video games came video poker.

    It first appeared after Dale Electronics introduced the legendary Poker-Matic video poker game which was the first ever casino game to be controlled by electronic circuit boards. The rise of video poker was then further helped by the creation of the first video slot in 1975. Initially, trust was an issue as players thought the machines were rigged because they couldn’t actually see what was going on. However, over time people’s faith in machines has increased.

    1979 saw the introduction of Draw Poker which became much more popular than previous video poker games. Draw Poker was made by SIRCOMA, now called IGT, and was the first video casino game which players trusted. There’s no doubt that Draw Poker helped IGT to become one of the biggest casino game manufactures in the world.

    The 1990s witnessed rapid improvements in the quality of video poker games as well as a huge increase in the number of games available. This was largely thanks to the emergence of the internet, chip and screen technology.

    Not only did this make it easier for video poker players to access their favourite games but it also meant that graphics improved considerably. You may have even played an early ‘arcade-style’ version of video poker in your local pub.

    Ever since online casinos began to offer video poker, the game has continued to flourish with new versions being created on a near monthly basis.

    You may recognise video poker machines from the pub or high street bookmakers.

    How to Play Video Poker

    Understanding the basic concept of video poker is pretty simple – all you are doing is trying to create the best five card poker hand possible.

    As the game play is so strictly governed, there aren’t many other rules as such to follow. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you can dive straight in and start playing like a pro.

    Different payouts, multi-hand versions, gamble features and even jackpots mean that there is some homework to be done when choosing the right video poker game.

    Basics of playing video poker

    • The basic aim of the game is to create the best poker hand possible
    • Standard poker hand rankings determine payouts
    • Each version of video poker varies and it is advisable to look at the paytable before playing a new version, the paytable details what monetary payout you can expect for each hand
    • In some games after a win, you’re given the opportunity to double your wins by choosing one of four cards to beat the dealer’s

    Step by Step Guide on Game Play

    • Select your bet and remember that if you’re playing a multi-hand game this bet will be multiplied by the number of hands.
    • Click deal and you will be presented with your first set of five cards.
    • Hold or leave as many of them as you like in order to create what you think could be a winning hand.
    • Click deal and the held cards will remain while those that weren’t held will be replaced by new ones.
    • Payouts will be handed out automatically.
    • If you have won, many video poker games offer you a gamble feature such as high or low (2:1) or select a suit (4:1).

    Selecting a Video Poker Game

    Video poker comes in many forms with many different names (some more imaginative than others). Below we’ve listed the most common forms of video poker but here are a few more things to look out for:

    • 10 Play, 50 Line, 100 Play etcetera refers to the number of hands you can play.
    • Figures like 9/6, 8/5, 6/5 refer to the payouts for a full house and a flush. Obviously higher figures are better with 9/6 paying out at around 99.5%.
    • When ‘joker’ or ‘deuces’ is in the title it usually means that the cards referred to are wild in that game.
    • When ‘or better’ is in the title that means that you receive a payout for a pair of those cards and any better hand.
    • While multi-hand games may look like they provide more wins, they have lower expected returns.

    Most Popular Video Poker Games

    Jacks or Better

    • Just a pair of jacks, queens, kings or aces is enough to win a payout.
    • The most common form of video poker with expected returns around 99.5%.
    • Similar versions are 10s or Better where a pair of 10s also provides a payout.

    Joker Poker

    • Same as a standard game of video poker with the addition of a joker card that is wild to create extra wins.
    • Expected returns are around 98.6%.
    • Deuces Wild and Aces Wild are similar but corresponding cards are wild.
    • Double Joker versions have two joker cards and lower expected returns of 98.1%.

    Bonus Poker

  1. Similar to a standard game with extra wins given for revealing specific hands which are detailed in the paytable.
  2. Expected returns are just above 99%.
  3. Double bonus versions double your bonus or give you more bonus opportunities.
  4. Microgaming’s Bonus Poker Deluxe is an example that provides a high payout for 4 of a kind.
  5. A Basic Video Poker Game

    The generic game is based on ordinary draw poker where the player receives 5 cards and selects to hold any number of them and re-draw the rest. The aim is to achieve the best possible poker hand.

    The key to understanding how each version works is to scrutinise the payout table before taking the plunge. Each version of video poker demands a different strategy and prospective players would be well advised to play for fun/for free before trying a new variation.

    The option to play multiple hands multiplies the base bet for any particular game, so the amount you bet per hand will only be a fraction of your total bet. For example, if a player has selected to play a 50p video poker game with five different hands, the total bet for that particular game would be £2.50

    Knowing how much you’ll receive for certain hands is a crucial factor of video poker and more often than not the paytable should be on view on the game’s main screen. Just for your general knowledge below is a table showing the typical ranking system for poker hands.

    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.

    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    Poker Hand
    A straight flush!

    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.

    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

    Jacks or Better Video Poker Strategy

    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
    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 Example

    Joker Poker Video Poker Strategy

    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
    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

    Bonus Poker Video Poker Strategy

    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 
    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

    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.

    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
    Royal Flush 
    250 250 250 250
    Straight Flush 50 50 50 50
    4 of a Kind 25 80 25 25
    Full House 9 8 8 6
    Flush 6 6 5 5
    Straight 4 4 4 4
    3 of a Kind 3 3 3 3
    Two Pair 2 1 2 2
    Jacks or Better 1 1 1 1
    Payout 99.50% 98.50%

    Video Poker Jackpots

    Progressive jackpots haven’t always been associated with video poker games but they actually fit very nicely.

    Not content with having a gamble feature, software developers took the idea a stage further and added progressive jackpots, often with massive payouts which have increased the thrill of playing ten-fold.

    In progressive jackpot versions of the game when a player has one of the highest ranking hands (such as a royal flush), the progressive is triggered instead of simply having say a 4000x payout. Of course the odds of a royal flush are astronomical but hey, ‘you got to be in it to win it’.

    You could easily be excused for thinking that progressive jackpot video poker games are so rarely triggered that in reality they don’t really exist; don’t worry, they certainly do, you just have to know where to look for the very best ones.

    The reason being jackpot video poker games don’t fall under the ‘does what it says on the tin’ category. You won’t find any online casino games called ‘Jackpot Video Poker’. Instead, the progressive jackpot is built into other variations of video poker, almost as a side bet. But don’t worry, as always we’ve done the leg work for you and here’s your indispensible guide to where to find the biggest and best video poker Jackpots.

    There’s a progessive jackpot you say?

    • Progressive jackpots provide an opportunity to win huge jackpots, much more than the maximum payout on a royal flush
    • To be in with the chance of winning a video poker progressive jackpot you’ll need to bet the maximum number of coins to qualify
    • Most progressive jackpots are built into standard variations of video poker, similar to a side bet in say blackjack
    • SupaJax, Mega Jacks and Super Jackpots rank top among the video poker jackpot games

    Jackpot Video Poker Games


    Supajax Video Poker

    SupaJax is a clear highlight of the Microgaming video poker range. It’s based on a basic game of Jacks or Better but includes a jackpot that can be won when all five coins are bet.

    The SupaJax card is added to the deck and when this card is drawn along with four other jacks then you win the progressive jackpot. SupaJax usually holds one of the biggest video poker jackpots that can be found online and can increase to more than £50,000.

    Working out an exact payout percentage for SupaJax is a little tricky but it’s fairly safe to assume that it will be lower than most Microgaming video poker games that usually weigh in with 99.1% – 99.9% returns. However, we find that people who are most interested in progressive jackpot video poker games are willing to make the sacrifice in search of that big payout.

    Mega Jacks

    MegaJacks Video Poker

    Playtech’s take on jackpot video poker follows a more standard format. To win the jackpot for yourself you have to bet the maximum number of coins and draw a royal flush.

    As well as the progressive jackpot you have the chance to win more by doubling your winnings – although sensibly (from the casino’s point of view) this feature isn’t available after you’ve won the jackpot itself.

    The game has a 9/6 paytable which makes it a good game to play even without the progressive jackpot bet. However, once the jackpot increases to more than £1,000, playing the progressive bet becomes a better bet than not doing so.

    Super Jackpot

    Super Jackpot Video Poker

    The Super Jackpot games created by Cryptologic are so popular they even come in multiple forms. There are 25p games as well as £1 games allowing players to find a version to suit their wallet.

    Super Jackpots games follow the general rules of Atlantic City poker and have similar payouts. The jackpot is won by drawing a royal flush after having bet the maximum number of coins. A nice feature is that the jackpot is seeded so you’re guaranteed a win of at least £1,250. So even if the jackpot has just been won you’ll still receive a big payout.

    The breakeven point (where a progressive bet becomes a financially sensible one) is at £9,426. But even if it’s less, that’s unlikely to put you off if you’re in search of a big video poker payout.