Video Poker Guide

Dale Electronics, Si Redd, and Microgaming. What do they have in common? Combined, they launched the online video poker revolution.

Introduction

Poker ChipsBoth Dale Electronics and Si Redd made their contributions back in the 1970s so they weren’t thinking about any websites nor had they even heard the term at that time.

They did, however, transform the game of poker into an automated casino game, and Microgaming then took video poker online for the masses.

We won’t get into an in depth history lesson for you as we know you just want to know how to play and how to win, but it is interesting to find out where things started to here’s just a bit of the video poker story.

Whereas slot machines were first introduced in the 1880s albeit in a quite primitive form, video poker didn’t make its first appearance until 1970. Then called Poker-Matic, Dale Electronics produced these first video poker machines for Las Vegas casinos. After a two-year run, the concept just didn’t catch on as hoped and they were slowly removed from the gambling floor.

Even though Poker-Matic machines were technically the first video poker games, Si Redd is usually the name you hear when anyone discusses the origin of these new machines.

Si Redd was a distributor for Bally’s Gaming and, in the mid-70s pitched his concept for a machine that he labeled as Video Poker. Naturally, with his ties to Bally’s, he presented this invention to his employer, but they took a pass. Bally’s wanted to stay with the proven slot machine concept and not take a leap into unchartered territory.

Redd, armed with the patent in hand, made a deal with the Fortune Coin Company in Reno and together they formed Si Redd’s Coin Machines (aka SIRCOMA) to mass produce these new gambling innovations.

The first machine hit the casinos in 1979 and interest slowly grew, so by 1981 video poker evolved into a popular in-house game. The success of the original machines prompted Si Redd to take the company public and change its name to International Game Technology, or IGT, as most people know it today.

IGT is still a large provider of gaming machines although it has a lot more video poker competition these days with competitors who want in on the game.

That concludes the Dale Electronics and Si Redd portion of our lesson today, but what about Microgaming?

When Did a Deck of Cards Become a Virtual Obsession?

We’ll need to fast forward a little over a decade from where we left off to add Microgaming to the equation. Microgaming, an Isle of Man award winning company, is one of today’s prominent suppliers of online gaming software with over 850 unique casino games and 350 mobile play games.

But, in 1994, Microgaming launched the world’s first online casino opening a new door to video poker players around the globe.

Although slots are much more prevalent in online casinos, video poker players are devoted to their game of choice. Most of the current i-gaming sites have at least a small section of video poker games from which to select, and some have an impressive number of the latest and greatest in video poker game varieties.

Online slots may be more popular, but video poker odds are much better. Video poker provides for some of the best overall odds when compared to most forms of gambling. That’s why you’ll see that online casinos typically reduce the percentage of bonus rollover contribution on video poker games as opposed to slots. It can be as vast of a difference as you’ll find stipulations like 100% slot participation vs. only 10% video poker.

I Want In. How Do I Play?

Video SlotsWe’re not sure about you, but we’ve been in casinos and watched some of those dedicated slot players or newbies to casino gambling in general walk over to a video poker machine looking like deer in the headlights. They start pressing buttons and reading game payouts, and you just know that they have no idea what to do next.

If they do continue and put some money in the machine, they typically are dealt one hand that they study for quite awhile and then immediately decide to cash out and move on to another game.

Video poker may have some similarities to slot games, but video poker players need to have some knowledge of the game of poker. It’s necessary for the enjoyment of the game as well as for players to have any success. We would even take it a step further and say that a player should have a comfort level with different poker variations like wild card games. The strategy is different depending on the game, so a basic understanding is essential.

If you’ve never played poker before, let alone video poker, we’re here to help as it is an entertaining game that you can attempt to master, and it never hurts to learn something new.

When SIRCOMA’s first video game was produced, it started out as a basic game where players needed at least two pairs to win the hand. It evolved quickly into the most popular game, then and now, Jacks or Better. Jacks or Better is exactly as the name implies. The player needs a pair of Jacks or higher to get paid. This game gives players a better chance to win so playing time is longer and, for some, the longer the playing time, the more fun to be had.

We’ll use Jacks or Better as the referenced game in our mini poker tutorial but just keep in mind that different games will have other winning hands and payout potential.

Let’s start with the winning hands as these are the outcomes to strive for to ensure that you are paid and not giving money to the house.

From lowest winning hand to the highest that is always the Royal Flush or Sequential Royal Flush.

Rank = same card such as 4s or Queens

Suit = Heart, Diamond, Spade, or Club

Pair of Jacks or Better – “or better” = pair of Queens, Kings, or Aces

Two Pair – two cards of one rank such as 4’s and two cards of another such as 5’s

Three of a Kind – three cards of the same rank, such as three 9’s

Straight – five cards of sequential rank but not in the same suit – such as 7, 8, 9, 10, and Jack

Flush – five cards all in the same suit – all diamonds, all hearts, all spades, or all clubs

Full House – three cards of one rank and two cards of another – such as three 5’s and two 8’s

Four of a Kind – all four cards in one rank – such as four Kings or four 7’s

Straight Flush – five cards of sequential rank and in the same suit – it combines a straight and a flush for a hand like 6, 7, 8, 9, and ten all in hearts

Royal Flush – the ultimate straight flush with the highest cards; 10, Jack, Queen, King, and Ace all in the same suit. The Royal Flush is the highest paying hand and the one that all poker players strive to receive.

To give you an idea of the progression of payment as the hands increase, here’s the best scenario pay table for a Jacks or Better game with a five-coin maximum bet played. It’s on a 9/6 machine, which we’ll explain more about shortly, but 9/6 = the pay on full house (9)/flush (6)

Jacks or Better – 5
Two pair – 10
Three of a kind – 15
Straight – 20
Flush – 30
Full House – 45
Four of a Kind – 125
Straight Flush – 250
Royal Flush – 4000

If you were playing poker against a dealer or other players, the player holding the highest hand is the winner. So, putting up Player A with a flush against Player B with a straight, results in Player A’s win, as a flush beats a straight.

In Video Poker, you’re just playing for the highest hand on your own. Your final result then equates directly to your payout. So, if you get two pairs, you are paid for that win. No other hand affects the outcome.

You know the hands, and you know the payouts. But, you still need to know how to play right?

Let’s start at the beginning. You either walk up to your Jacks or Better machine or access it from your online casino.

Some games offer different denominations so make sure you know exactly how much you’re playing, and remember that most video poker games have a one credit bet but the maximum of five credits pays more for Royal Flushes.

Once you’re funded with your play cash and you have the correct game and the right denomination all set, it’s time to play.

Click “Deal”

Five cards are dealt to you – all face-up.

From these five cards, you’re going to decide if you want to keep all of them, some of them, or none of them by clicking the buttons that correspond to the cards you want to keep (or hold).

If you’re dealt any type of winning hand, you’ll usually want to keep those cards (although there are strategy exceptions that vary per scenario).

For example, in Jacks or Better, if you have a pair of Queens, hold on to them, as you’re now working with a winning hand and try to better that hand.

If your deal results in no winning hand at all, here are a few options to consider, as your next objective is to hold any cards that get you close to a winning outcome.

You were dealt five entirely different cards in different suits, but one of the cards is a King, you will want to hold on to that high card as a pair of Kings gets you your money back. So, hold on to a face card or an Ace (that is a high card), and hope for a second of the same to come out.

The deal is four hearts and one spade. You’ll hold the hearts anticipating that a fifth heart comes out on the redraw resulting in a flush.

The five cards appear as Ace of Hearts, Ace of Clubs, Queen of Hearts, Ten of Hearts and King of Hearts. So, you have a pair of Aces, but you have four cards to a Royal Flush that provides the absolute top payout. You throw away the Ace of Clubs and keep your fingers crossed, envisioning the Jack of Hearts to be in your immediate future.

Once you hold the cards you want to keep, click the deal/draw button once again, and the cards that you opted to throw away are now replaced by new cards.

There’s nothing more for you to do for that hand. The machine automatically calculates your payout if you have one coming to you. You can then decide to play another hand or cash out.

There are numerous books and online resources for poker playing strategy. If you’re not comfortable with just general guidelines on game play, you can get detailed information on the best playing strategy to implement for every single poker hand you could be dealt.

If you want just to jump in and play, though, it’s a good idea to know the order of hands such as a flush beats a straight and a full house beats a three of a kind. You want to strive for the top payouts in every situation, but you also want to play smart. It’s not always a good thing to just play for the Royal, as some people prefer. Sometimes, the combined smaller wins can add up to some good profit as well.

It does take practice to get more comfortable with the various hands and to know when to try for something and when to be conservative, so many online casinos allow for practice play. You can hone your skills before you ever risk any cold hard cash.

Variations

First came “Poker” then “Jacks or Better,” then game manufacturers started adding all kinds of variations on the one-handed video poker game such as Deuces Wild, Jokers Wild, Double Bonus, and Double Double Bonus. Each new game provides a different twist with unique payout structures.

For example, Double Double Bonus is a game where you get paid less for smaller hands like a flush or full house, but some new winning hands are added into the mix. Rather than just paying a flat 125 coins on a four of a kind, this game pays more for select four of a kind as follows:

Four Aces – 800
Four Aces with a 2, 3 or 4 – 2,000
Four 2’s, 3’s or 4’s – 400
Four 2,s, 3’s or 4’s with an Ace, 2, 3, or 4 = 800

Poker strategists would say that Jacks or Better is a better bet because of the higher full house and flush payouts but video poker players who love that bigger money potential do gravitate to games like Double Double. There’s even a Triple Double Poker that pays as much for four Aces and a 2, 3, or 4 as it does for a Royal Flush.

Now, of course, these aren’t the latest and greatest innovations, but we did want to ease you in a bit as there are so many new video poker games out there today. They all take your basic Jacks or Better, Bonus, or Wild Card Games and integrate some new and more slot-like enhancements such as spinning reels or multi-game versions.

Many land-based and online casinos will take a game like Jacks or Better and offer it in the traditional one-hand option or three-hand, five-hand, ten-hand, 50 play or even 100 play at a time games. What that means is the player is dealt one five card hand just like we outlined in the section above. He or she then holds and discards accordingly but, they then get any number of draws based on the multi-game variation.

For example, a three-hand game provides three different draws on the same original deal. So, if a player was dealt a hand that included two Kings, which were then held, the draw is based on two Kings for every single multi-play hand. One hand might result in three of a kind, another could be four of a kind, or they could all end up with a similar payout. Whatever the case, there are three different chances to increase the original hand.

Now, of course, multiple chances to win on one hand means that multiple bets need to be placed so that it can get pricey. But, some players love to play in hopes that they’ll get a jackpot dealt to them so they can be paid for it multiple times over.

There are so many new video poker games out there today that we can’t cover them all, but we will give you a quick glimpse at some of the more popular new high-tech games.

We just introduced you to multi-hand poker, so we’ll segue into Super Times Pay first as it is a twist on multi-hand games.

Super Times Pay Poker

This particular game takes the multi-hand concept, usually three or five hands, and then adds to the action by providing a random multiplier. To be in the running to get the multiplier, you need to, not only bet the maximum but an additional credit per line. So, if you’re playing three hands at a time, you need to put up 18 instead of 15 (or six credits per line as opposed to five).

The multiplier can be anywhere from two times the pay to ten times, and it can pop up at any time. It truly is random so you could play for awhile with no multipliers or watch it appear a few hands in a row.

Let’s say you were dealt a straight and also received a three times multiplier. You would hold the straight, so you get paid on all three hands. Whereas you’d usually receive 20 credits per line, the multiplier increases it to 60, so your payout is 180 credits total on that one hand.

Spin Poker

Video Poker meets Slots, and the result is Spin Poker. This game is played like regular poker but has five reels and nine pay lines. When you look at the screen, you’ll see a grid that’s five across and three up and down (15 cards total).

You click deal and a five card hand is dealt out, and then the cards are either held or discarded just like every other video poker game. This time, though, your redraw has spinning reels to fill in the remaining spots to complete the 15 cards.

If you’re dealt a winning hand, you’ll win nine times. Otherwise, you could win on one pay line, two, three, or any number up to nine total and you get paid accordingly. The pay lines are just like they are on slot machines. They’re not just horizontal lines. They can be diagonal or zig-zag across the board but you need to bet all nine lines (45 credits total for maximum play) to be in on all of the available action.

Color Match Royals

This particular poker version is a very recent addition to the collection. The success at Color Match Royals hinges on flushes. The payouts are structured so that Royals come out 12 times more frequently, straight flushes are 17 times more apt to appear, and the good old regular flush is 26 times more active.

Super Hand Poker

We’ve talked about multi-play options where, for example on a three-play game, one hand is dealt, cards are then held or discarded, and then the redraw gives three chances to better that one hand.

With Super Hand Poker, three entirely different hands are dealt. Any winning hands with the first five cards are paid, but then the hand with the highest potential for winning moves on to the redraw where regular triple play rules resume.

Three-Way Action Poker

This game is a bit different than the others that we’ve discussed so far in that it’s a three-bet game with three ways to win, and it combines five card poker with seven card poker.

The way it works is that the first bet applies to the five-card dealt hand. The second bet is the five card hand on the draw (after you’ve made your selections and discards), and the third is a seven card hand that is comprised of the five card draw hand plus two more cards from the remaining deck. There is a lot of action per round, three-ways to be exact, and it’s a departure from traditional video poker.

Ultimate X Poker

If you play this one, be prepared to shell out more money for each round you play. This game requires that the bet doubled to get in on the multiplier action (similar to Super Times Pay). The way this works is that players who have a ten credit bet in place (as opposed to the regular five credit maximum) receive an automatic multiplier for every hand that directly follows a paying hand. So, if you get a flush on the current hand, expect a multiplier for your next round.

More Options

The games we’ve mentioned are just a few of the new adaptations to the original video poker game. Poker purists probably take a pass on adding all of the bells and whistles, but players who enjoy the entertainment factor to video poker opt for these types of updated machines as they add a little something extra to their quest for the Royal.

The variations certainly don’t stop with our list, though. You can take a game like Spin Poker and now you’ll even find Spin Poker Deluxe that increases the pay lines from nine to 20, or there’s Triple Play Spin Poker with three different boards of 15 cards and reels that spin in each.

The same goes for Super Times Pay and most of the new and different games out there today. They’re always getting bigger and more advanced but, as the games expand, the bets then increase accordingly, so players should be careful and review maximum bet information on every game before they press the deal button and find out their hand cost them ten times what they had anticipated.

How to Improve My Chances?

Any gambling is going to involve a great deal of luck. However, there are a few things that video poker players can do to increase their overall chance of cashing out some winnings.

  1. Look for a 9/6 machine – aka a full pay game. 9/6 refers to the payout of full house and flush with “9” representing full house and “6” as flush. With a five credit maximum bet, a 9/6 machine will pay out at 45 for a full house and 30 for a flush. A short-pay machine may be something like an 8/5 that pays 40 and 25.
  2. Review RTP percentages and choose the highest one. If you’re not familiar with an RTP, it’s the Return to Player and is a long-term percentage of the overall player take versus the casino’s cut. So, if a machine was a 99% RTP, that means the casino takes 1% of the overall wagering and players, in any number of combinations, will receive the 99% difference. No, that doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed £99 back if you put in £100. It’s a long range average and some players will recoup more than others. However, the higher the percentage, the greater the resulting wins. If given the choice of a 97.2% machine or a 99.5% option, we suggest you take the 99.5.
  3. Select the games with the higher overall RTPs. The number one on the list would be full pay Deuces Wild. This is the traditional Deuces game and not Deuces Bonus or other wild card variations. Playing Deuces Wild with an approach outlined by professional players who know the ins and outs of the game will turn this particular poker game into a 100% average return opportunity.
  4. Not a Deuces Wild fan? Choose Bonus Poker, Double Bonus, Double Double Bonus, or Joker Poker as they all can have an approximate 100% expected return. The lower return game? Jacks or Better, as it comes in just under 100%. Of course, this is with optimal playing strategy and depends on the game manufacturer and specific posted pay tables.
  5. Play the maximum bet. If you’re playing a progressive game, it’s mandatory to bet the max or you won’t be in contention for the bigger payout opportunity. On standard games, though, many will pay equivalently regardless of one, two, three, four, or maximum coins wagered until it comes to the Royal Flush and then players betting low could lose out. More online casinos tend to pay accordingly, even for Royals, but brick and mortar casinos and some of the online video poker games pay a Royal out at 250 credits per one credit bet and then 4,000 total for the maximum five credits. That’s a big jump. Four coins = 1,000 credit and five = 4,000!
  6. Don’t play for Royals and Royals alone. If you go for that elusive Royal Flush every time you get a face card, you’re looking a one in 40,000 chance. Play for the smaller wins as well as the big ones and you could have a very positive outcome.

Is It Better to Play Some Other Game?

Video poker is one of the highest payout games around as long as players have a designated strategy, and play by the rules and recommendations that are advised by poker strategists and professionals.

If you don’t enjoy the game of poker, though, you’re probably not interested in any payout comparison. It should be fun and, unlike slots, you have more control of the outcome depending on your method of play.

Keep in mind that video poker isn’t going to provide you with those extremely rare but massive jackpots that slot games can offer. A 25-cent (US dollar) poker game with a maximum $1.25 bet per hand has a top prize potential of $1,000 on a basic one-hand, non-jackpot progressive game. Slot games can start out as little as a penny or 1p per line and there are games online and in-house that offer millions in top payouts. Now, again, those jackpot awards are rarely granted, but players know they’re in the running.

If you want that type of action and possibility, then slots are going to be a better choice.

Now, if you just like the bells and whistles that slot games provide but you enjoy the game of poker, new options like Spin Poker or Ultimate X will give you the best of both worlds. You still won’t be in the running for millions, but a few thousand here or there certainly can be fun!

Playing Online

Online Video PokerMost online casinos have at least a small Video Poker area that provides the basics, but some take the game to the next level like you’ll see in live casinos, offering players some of the latest and greatest high-tech games.

Microgaming, RTG, Rival, even Si Redd’s IGT all provide video poker software for the various online casinos that, combined, now serves nearly every area of the globe.

The UK’s Hippodrome Online offers poker action from Microgaming. Remember them? High Speed, Aces and Faces, Triple Pocket Hold ‘em, and Three Card Poker Gold are part of the 18-game line-up.

Also, UK’s Bet365 has a small section but some popular multi-hand selections like 25-line Aces and Faces, Jacks or Better multi-hand, and four-line Deuces Wild.

Canadian-based Sports Interaction offers 50-hand Jacks or Better, Mega Jacks, and Aces and Faces.

Intertops that allows for US players carries European Slot Poker, Mystery Bonus, Loose Deuces, and Seven Stud Poker amongst other more traditional versions.

Dafabet that mainly caters to Asian and UK players carries only four games of Video Poker, but they include 50-line Jacks or Better and Two Ways Royal.

Regardless of the region, video poker is now an international offering, and anyone who wants to go on the quest for the Royal won’t need to look far to find the game of their choice.