How to Play Video Poker And Win (Seriously, Win!)

by MaxPower

In the fourth instalment of R4NT’s realistic look at casino gambling where we have debunked myths and told truths about blackjack, roulette and baccarat we take a look at the intricacies of video poker. Some may ask why R4NT is covering these games even considering neither one of the writers of the features are big gamblers. Personally, I think it comes from the fact that while many people gamble, few people gamble well. You know how it is, a guy’s (or gal’s) weekend in Vegas, a trip to the charity casino at a fund raising event or a visit to a local casino, most people gamble occasionally, me included. First time I came across video poker I sat down, plunked $10 bucks in and proceeded to lose half over a period of about 15 minutes. Not too bad, I have been mauled in much larger stakes games than that, but once I did a little digging I found out that it didn’t need to be that way. You can go to a casino and make your cash last on video poker, have some serious upside, and if you’re playing in Vegas you can get some pretty decent comps (free food, discounted or free rooms) as well as getting free drinks while playing. Not too bad of deal if you pick the right game.

Video poker is an odd beast. There are dozens of variations of the game which you can play for anywhere from 1 cent to $25 per round and the variations impact your payoff substantially. Just by picking the right machine you can drastically improve your chances of a payoff, even to the extent where the game has a net positive outcome in the long term. As a way of history, video poker was introduced to casinos at the same time as video blackjack. It was expected that video blackjack would be the big draw as you’d be able to play for lower stakes. Vegas casinos now have $5 per hand minimums in “off” times and at least $10 per hand minimums “on peak” and you need to play $25 per hand to get rated for comps at al1, while video blackjack is available for $0.25/hand And that remains true, Beauty spoke in her blackjack article about how she enjoys not having to interact with the other players, many of whom are tough on amateur players. However, the big problem with video blackjack is it pays even money on blackjack which hurts your odds and there isn’t a chance for that “big jackpot”. You can play video blackjack for a few hours in Vegas and lose your bankroll a couple times and double your money a couple times, but you are missing that chance to put in a quarter and hit that “$500-jackpot-yeah-baby-yeah” feeling. Video poker is wildly more popular than video blackjack mainly because you can hit that royal flush which generally pays off at something like 800 – 1. So you put in a dollar, get a royal and bam you’re buying yourself something from the Gucci store outside the casino. That, coupled with the fact that there are a few remaining “full pay” machines in Vegas which get you close to positive (99%) or positive (100%+) odds versus the house. No other casino game offers those kinds of odds except blackjack when you’re counting cards, something not everyone can do.

So here in a few easy steps is how to play video poker. Please note – in all of the following examples I am using the strategy and payoffs for “Jacks or Better” (JoB) video poker. There are dozens of variations which you can check out at and the strategies for said games at

1. Pick the right machine.

This can’t be overstressed, look at the pay table before you start playing. A full pay JoB machine will have an expected return in the long run of 99.46% played with a simple strategy (strategy will follow below). It is important to understand, this means you will get 99.46% of your money back if you play for about 10,000 hands. During that time you may be up 100% or even 1000% or you may lose your entire bankroll as your payoff can vary greatly in the short run, but your machines is guaranteed to have those odds in the long run. A full pay JoB machine will have a pay table that looks like this:

Royal Flush 800
Straight Flush 50
4 of a Kind 25
Full House 9
Flush 6
Straight 4
3 of a Kind 3
2 Pair 2
Pair 1
Nothing 0

This is typically called a 9/6 JoB machine. If you see a 8/5 JoB machine your payoff goes from 99.46% to 98.39%.

2. Play with a strategy.

The percentage payoffs mentioned above will happen if you play with a specific strategy. The advanced strategy is very complex and has over 30 rules and will yield an extra 0.09% pay over the long-run. I prefer to use the simple strategy detailed below, which only penalizes you the 0.09%. Try to memorize this strategy. To use this strategy (from, created from a mathematical pay table) draw your hand and then start at the top and go down the list until you see something in your hand that you have.

  1. Four of a kind, straight flush, royal flush
  2. 4 to a royal flush
  3. Three of a kind, straight, flush, full house
  4. 4 to a straight flush
  5. Two pair
  6. High pair
  7. 3 to a royal flush
  8. 4 to a flush
  9. Low pair
  10. 4 to an outside straight
  11. 2 suited high cards
  12. 3 to a straight flush
  13. 2 unsuited high cards (if more than 2 pick the lowest 2)
  14. Suited 10/J, 10/Q, or 10/K
  15. One high card
  16. Discard everything

For example, if you hit “draw” and then see you have two jacks you’d go down the list to #6 “High Pair” and stop there. If you had two fives, you’d go down the list to #9 “Low Pair”. A low pair is anything up to Jacks, high pair is Jacks / Aces. Never hold 4 to an inside straight or 3 to an unsuited straight because there is nothing wild in a JoB game and your chances are better to keep moving down the list.

3. Do not believe the myths.

As with most forms of gambling, people believe there are video poker myths. Machines do NOT get “hot” or “cold” and they are never “due” for a hit. You have the same percentage chance to get a royal flush on each draw. And that chance is 0.0026%. You could theoretically hit 2 royal flushes in a row, just like you could hit nothing for 20 turns in a row. In the long run the machine will correct to its payout, but in the short run, things can vary substantially. The machines work by continuously shuffling 52 cards 24 hours a day 7 days a week, when you hit “draw” the machine displays the top 5 cards on the deck, while continually shuffling the other 47 cards. When you discard/hold your cards it pulls the next cards off the top of the deck. Therefore, every trial is random and unrelated to the previous draw.

There are a number of different variants to video poker including “Bonus Poker”, “Double Bonus Poker”, “Double Double Bonus Poker”, “Deuces Wild” etc, all of which have their own pay tables, percentage returns and strategies. Do a bit of searching for a game you like to play, learn the accompanying strategy and then when you’re in a casino look for the “full pay” machines and sit back and have a fair chance at actually winning some coin. For the non-gambler gambler, video poker is a great game.

  • How to Play Video Poker And Win (Seriously, Win!)
  • by MaxPower
  • Published on August 29th, 2006
Edwin Silberstang's book:
"The Winner's Guide to Casino Gambling

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