Beginner Tips & Strategies for Video Poker

by Tim | May 28, 2021

Beginner Tips & Strategies for Video Poker

Beginners might not know this, but video poker is about more than simply chasing good hands and hoping that luck pulls you through. Video poker actually requires a lot more skill than most other online and mobile casino games. So, if you’re a newbie trying to get started or improve your video poker game, you’re in the right place to learn.

Video poker (also referred to as “poker slots”) is a fixed-odds poker game played against a machine, and is based on the simple rules and mechanics of a standard five-card draw poker game. 

To develop the necessary skills to start racking up some wins at video poker, you’ll need to go over a few basic tips, and also learn about some strategies that can help you early on. The more you play and learn, the more advanced the tips and strategies you can apply to your gameplay. 

For now, though, let’s focus on some of the basics, to get our new players through the early stages of learning the game. Intermediate and advanced players can read along, too – it’s always a good idea to refresh yourself on the basics if you hope to keep improving your game.


Know the game you’re playing

While there are quite a few variants of online video poker, they are all based on the easy-to-understand mechanics of five-card draw poker. The variation that you’re playing is going to determine a lot about how you play the game, but the rules will be the same, no matter what version you play. 

Some of the more popular variants include jacks or better, tens or better, joker’s wild, deuces wild, and bonus poker. There’s nothing wrong with taking the time to read the rules to get a firm grasp on how your chosen variant is played, because not being aware of the slight differences between each variant can be the cause of some disappointing losses down the line. 

Once you’re up to speed on the rules for your chosen variant, let’s get into the early stages of some basic video poker strategy.


Bet the maximum number of coins

A digital render of four aces on a laptop screen with playing cards and casino chips.

Video poker casino games allow you to wager up to five coins per hand, with your potential payout scaling up with each extra coin you wager. If you want the best chances to get big wins in a game of online video poker, then you’ll want to be wagering the maximum whenever you can (providing you can afford it, of course). 

Here’s a quick look at the scaling of the payouts, and why you should be betting the maximum amount of coins each hand:

  • 1-coin bet pays out 250 coins on a royal flush
  • 2-coin bet pays out 500 coins on a royal flush
  • 3-coin bet pays out 750 coins on a royal flush
  • 4-coin bet pays out 1,000 coins on a royal flush
  • 5-coin bet pays out 4,000 coins on a royal flush

You only have to look at the disproportionate jump in the payout value from four to five coins to see why you might want to bet the maximum whenever you’re able to do so. That being said, let’s talk about when it’s best to ignore this advice. 


Know when it’s ok to not bet the max coins

This is more for intermediate and advanced players, so we won’t go into too much detail here, but as you gain experience in playing online video poker casino games, you’ll realise that it’s not always necessary to bet the max coin value. 

The main thing to remember is that you will only draw to a royal flush on pretty rare occasions – about one in 40,000 hands, if your luck runs on average. This means that while playing a vast majority of your hands, you won’t need to worry about securing those extra 3,000 coins on a max coin bet. 

It’s still recommended that you play the maximum coin value whenever you can, but just know that it’s not the end of the world if you want to have a few casual games betting one to four coins each time. With that in mind, it’s also a good idea to keep tabs on your spending during your video poker sessions – the key is to always do so responsibly and to know when to call it quits. 


Understanding how pay tables change the game

Video poker machine buttons showing options to place a bet and to bet the maximum.

To a beginner, every video poker game might look pretty much the same, but there are in fact slight differences in how the pay tables affect the payouts, and the house edge as a result. 

For example, if you’re playing a game of jacks or better (JoB), then the pay tables might look like this:

  • 9/6 JoB = 99.54% payback
  • 9/5 JoB = 98.45% payback
  • 8/6 JoB = 98.39% payback
  • 8/5 JoB = 97.30% payback

The numbers in front indicate what the game will pay for a full house and a flush respectively. So in our first example, 9/6 JoB, you would receive 9 coins for a full house and 6 for a flush; and in the second, you’d receive 9 points for a full house and 5 coins for a flush. The 1-coin difference might not seem like a big deal, but flushes occur frequently enough to have a whole 1.09% difference in the payout of the game.

This might seem a bit complicated to new players at first, but the more you play and learn, the more these small details in pay tables will matter when trying to improve your game. 


Find the best video poker games

Whether you love to play video poker, or other table game favourites like online blackjack or online roulette, your strategies and plans can all go out of the window if you’re not picking the right games. 

Here is a list of some of the most popular online video poker casino game variants:

  • Full Pay Joker Wild
  • Full Pay Deuces Wild
  • 10/7/5 Double Bonus (the third number refers to the payout for a straight)
  • 10/6 Double Double Bonus
  • All Aces
  • Split Way Royal
  • Aces & Eights

There are plenty more fun and popular video poker games available, but for beginners it’s a good idea to stick to the ones with the best house edge, and therefore the greatest chance to minimize losses while you’re learning the intricacies of video poker strategy. 


A few beginner dos and don’ts of video poker

While everything we’ve mentioned up to this point might take some time to learn, or to properly get to grips with, what we can do in the meantime is equip you with a short list of dos and don’ts that will keep you on the right track to improving your skills, while you brush up on the finer details of video poker strategy. 

So, here’s your cheat sheet of video poker tips and tricks:

  • Do:
    • Play the maximum coin size.
    • Look for the best pay tables.
    • Play when you’re well rested and in a good mood.
    • Keep learning new strategies and developing your skills.
    • Be sensible with your bankroll and don’t get caught chasing losses.
  • Don’t
    • Play longer than you can afford to.
    • Play games that are too expensive for your bankroll to last a while.
    • Play just any video poker casino game without consulting the pay table first.
    • Play when you’re “on tilt” (things aren’t going your way or you’re heading into a sustained losing streak) – just take a break and come back to it refreshed.
    • Think that you can win without putting in the work to learn strategies.
    • Obsess about chasing royal flushes – play sensibly and try to minimise losses.

Hand hierarchy

By this we mean the order of poker hands in terms of what beats what. It’s always good for beginners to have this on hand, so to speak, so starting from the best possible hand, we have:

  • Royal flush
  • Straight flush
  • Four of a kind
  • Full house
  • Flush
  • Straight
  • Three of a kind
  • Two pairs
  • Jacks or better

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