Video poker tips and guides

Category: Video Poker

Why Play Video Poker

Like blackjack, video poker involves making decisions that affect the profitability or lack of profitability in your play. If you’re playing on an appropriate machine, and if you can play perfectly, you can get the house edge down to 0.46% or lower. Blackjack players who are really good might be able to beat those odds, but that ain’t easy–have you tried counting cards? That’s the only way to get a better payout percentage playing blackjack as opposed to video poker.

Video poker is dead easy, and I can play it by myself. When you’re playing blackjack and you want to think about a decision, you might have a whole table full of people staring at you while you make your decision. I can’t stand that kind of pressure. Give me the solitude and comfort of a video poker parlor any day, thanks.

Video Poker Payback Percentages

Different video poker games have different payback percentages, but even the worst games with the worst paytables usually have better payback percentages than slot machines. It’s more exciting to talk about the really great payback percentages that are available. Jacks or Better, with a 9/6 pay table, offers a payback percentage of 99.5%. Some Deuces Wild games offers payback percentages of just over 100.1%. And one of the easiest video poker games to learn perfect strategy for, Pickem Poker, offers a 99.95% payout.

Play Video Poker

When you add back the value of the comps and rewards available through the slots club, even negative expectation video poker games become positive plays. If a casino is paying out 0.4% of your play back in comps and slot club rewards, and you’re playing a game that already pays back 99.95%, your total payout percentage becomes over 100.3%. (And that doesn’t include the free drinks you can order while you’re playing. If you like premium liquors, you can increase the value of those free drinks even more.)

Video Poker Strategy

Video poker is similar to slot machines and has something in common with poker besides just the name. The decisions you make affect how much you win or lose. That’s the biggest difference between a video poker machine and a slot machine, by the way–no matter what decision you make while playing a slot machine, it has no effect on the mathematical outcome of the game.

This site aims to teach you how to play video poker. There are two reasons we recommend playing video poker – one is that it’s a lot of fun! The other is that we think video poker is your best chance of winning against the casino in the long run. No other casino game gives you the chance to win with less effort than video poker.

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Jacks or Better Video Poker Strategy

Full Pay Jacks or Better Video Poker

Step one in an optimal strategy for jacks or better is finding a game with the best possible pay table. The pay table is simply the list of returns on different video poker hands. When you’re looking for a jacks or better pay table, you’re looking for what is called 9/6 jacks or better. This is also called a “full-pay” machine.

“Full pay” does not mean that the machine pays back at 100%. A 9/6 jacks or better game will return about 99.5% to a skilled player. Full pay simply means that you’re getting the highest standard pay table for a specific game or machine.

Pay Table for Full Pay 9/6 Jacks or Better


1 coin 2 coins 3 coins 4 coins 5 coins
Royal flush 250 500 750 1000 4000
Straight flush 50 100 150 200 250
4 of a kind 25 50 75 100 125
Full house 9 18 27 36 45
Flush 6 12 18 24 30
Straight 4 8 12 16 20
3 of a kind 3 6 9 12 15
2 pair 2 4 6 8 10
pair of jacks or better 1 2 3 4 5

On a jacks or better game, you should focus on the payouts for the full house and the flush. The 9/6 refers to a payout of 9 coins on a full house when you’ve bet 1 coin, and a payout of 6 coins on a flush when you’ve bet 1 coin. Most online casinos offer full-pay jacks or better, but land-based casinos are often full of “short-pay” game, like 8/5 jacks or better. An 8/5 game pays back only 97.3%, which is a big difference from a full pay game.

Different Payback %’s for Jacks or Better Games

Version Payback % Est. $ Played per Hour Expected Loss/Hour
9/6 99.54% $750 $3.45
8/5 97.3% $750 $20.25
7/5 96.15% $750 $28.88
6/5 95% $750 $37.50

How Jacks or Better Strategy is Determined

To figure out the perfect strategy for jacks or better, you have to determined what the optimal decisions are given certain combinations of hands. And to determine that, you have to understand how frequently certain hands will come up, what the payout is when they do come up, and what the return for that particular hands is. You don’t actually have to do those calculations, because they’ve already been done by people smarter than me, but it’s important to understand that those numbers are “behind” the correct strategic decisions.

Frequencies and Paybacks on 9/6 Jacks or Better Hands

Hand Odds Probability Payout Return
Royal flush 1 in 40,391 0.002% 800 1.98%
Straight flush 1 in 9148 0.011% 50 0.55%
4 of a kind 1 in 423 0.236% 25 5.91%
Full house 1 in 87 1.151% 9 10.36%
Flush 1 in 91 1.101% 6 6.61%
Straight 1 in 89 1.123% 4 4.49%
3 of a kind 1 in 13 7.445% 3 22.33%
2 pair 1 in 8 12.928% 2 25.86%
Jacks or better 1 in 5 21.459% 1 21.46%
Nothing 1 in 2 54.543% 0 0.00%

The odds are rounded to the nearest whole number, and the 800 payout on the royal flush assumes a max bet. If you don’t make the max bet, you don’t get a payout of 800 on that bet.

Really Simple Jacks or Better Strategy for Beginners and Casual Players

This is a simple strategy that will give you a decent return, but at the same time is easy to learn and play.

Rule #1 – Hold any paying combination unless you have 4 to a royal flush, or unless you have a high pair and 4 to a straight flush. In those cases, draw to the royal or straight flush.

Rule #2 – Start at the top of this list, and stop when you get to a hand you can hold:

  • 3 cards to a royal flush

  • 4 cards to a straight flush

  • low pair (any pair lower than jacks)

  • 4 cards to an outside straight draw

  • JQKA offsuit

  • 2 suited high cards (jacks or better)

  • 3 cards to a straight flush

  • JQK offsuit

  • 2 unsuited high cards

  • high card + 10 of the same suit, excluding ace-ten

  • any high card

  • nothing, draw 5 new cards

The Complete 9/6 Jacks or Better Strategy Table

The way this strategy table works is that you start at the top and go down. Once you find a match, those are the cards you hold.

The combinations that you can hold are listed in order of which ones have the best return.

An inside straight is a straight with a gap in the middle of it, so that only 1 card can complete the straight. For example, 4578 would need a 6 to complete the straight. An outside straight draw would be something like 4567, because any 3 or any 8 would complete the straight, doubling your chances of hitting it.

  • Royal flush

  • Straight flush

  • 4 of a kind

  • 4 cards to a royal flush

  • Full house

  • Flush

  • 3 of a kind

  • Straight

  • 4 cards to a straight flush

  • 2 pair

  • Pair of jacks or better

  • 3 cards to a royal flush

  • 4 cards to a flush

  • 10JQK, unsuited

  • Pair of 10’s or less

  • 9-10-J-Q, unsuited

  • 8-9-10-J, unsuited

  • 9JQ, suited

  • 9-10-J, suited

  • 9-10-Q, suited

  • 4 cards to an outside straight with no high cards

  • 3 cards to a straight flush, with 2 gaps and 2 high cards

  • 3 cards to a straight flush, with 1 gap and 1 high card

  • 3 cards to a straight flush, no high cards

  • JQKA, unsuited

  • 2 cards to a royal flush, 2 high cards

  • 4 cards to a straight with 1 gap and 3 high cards

  • 3 cards to a straight flush with 2 gaps and 1 high card

  • 3 cards to a straight flush with 1 gap and no high cards

  • JQK, unsuited

  • 2 high cards, unsuited (don’t keep an ace if you have 3 high cards)

  • 2 card royal flush with a 10 and no ace

  • 1 high card

  • 3 card straight flush with 2 gaps and no high cards

  • Nothing – draw 5 new cards

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Full Pay Deuces Wild Video Poker

The first step in a coherent deuces wild video poker strategy is to find a “full pay” game. In video poker, “full pay” doesn’t mean that the game pays back at 100%, it just means that you’re getting the best standard pay table for that particular game. But in Deuces Wild, if you can find an actual full pay machine, the payback percentage is 100.76%, which makes it one of the best bets in any casino, if you play correctly. In fact, it’s an example of positive expectation video poker.

Pay Table for Full Pay Deuces Wild


1 coin 2 coins 3 coins 4 coins 5 coins
Royal flush 800 500 750 1000 4000
4 deuces 200 400 600 800 1000
Wild royal flush 25 50 75 100 125
5 of a kind 15 30 45 60 75
Straight flush 9 18 27 36 45
4 of a kind 5 10 15 20 25
Full house 3 6 9 12 15
Flush 2 4 6 8 10
Straight 2 4 6 8 10
3 of a kind 1 2 3 4 5

It should probably be noted that full pay deuces wild is not a common offering, and most places offer what the Wizard of Odds calls “not so ugly” Deuces Wild, and some places offer faux full pay Deuces Wild. (This is the part where the Texas Holdem dealer tells me, “English only at the table, sir!”)

In the “not so ugly” version of Deuces Wild, 5 of a kind pays 16 instead of 15, and a straight flush pays a 10 instead of a 9. This might make you think the return would be better on this version of the game, but it’s not. Because the return on the 4 of a kind is reduced to 4…and that particular hand makes up 1/3 of your expectation in this game, so reducing the payout for that hand by 20% has a big effect on your expectation. Although the game still has a 99.7% payback, even with that change.

There are lots of other pay tables for Deuces Wild, and the payback percentage just keeps going down for these games. The hands and paybacks to look at are the 4 of a kind – you want to get paid at least 5 to 1 on this hand if at all possible, since it’s the biggest source of your return.

Strategy for Full Pay Deuces Wild

Like the jacks or better strategy, you start at the top of the deuces wild strategy table and work your way down. The strategy is actually divided into 4 strategy tables, which are determined by how many deuces you have. (Also, if you’re looking for a quick and dirty intro to strategy, check out our deuces wild tips article.)

4 Deuces

This is a great hand. Draw a card if you want to, but you pretty much have five of a kind here no matter what you draw.

3 Deuces

Not much to complain about here.

  • Wild royal flush.

  • 5 of a kind, with a pair of tens or better in addition to your 3 deuces.

  • 3 deuces only, draw 2 cards.

2 Deuces

  • Wild royal flush.

  • 5 of a kind.

  • Straight flush.

  • 4 of a kind.

  • 4 cards to a wild royal flush.

  • 4 cards to an open-ended straight flush.

  • 2 deuces only, draw 3 cards.

1 Deuce

  • Wild royal flush.

  • 5 of a kind.

  • Straight flush.

  • 4 of a kind.

  • 4 cards to a wild royal flush.

  • Full house.

  • 4 cards to an open-ended straight flush.

  • 3 of a kind.

  • Flush.

  • Straight.

  • 4 cards to a straight flush with a gap.

  • 4 cards to a straight flush with 2 gaps.

  • A deuce + A34, or A35, or A45, any of which are suited.

  • 3 cards to a royal flush with no ace.

  • 3 cards to an open ended straight flush.

  • 3 cards to a royal flush with an ace.

  • Deuce only, draw 4 cards.

No Deuces

  • Royal flush.

  • 4 cards to a royal flush.

  • Straight flush.

  • 4 of a kind.

  • Full house.

  • 3 of a kind.

  • Flush.

  • Straight.

  • 4 cards to a straight flush.

  • 3 cards to a royal flush.

  • A pair.

  • 4 cards to a flush.

  • 4 cards to an open-ended straight EXCEPT for 3456.

  • 3 cards to a straight flush.

  • 456 suited.

  • 345 suited.

  • TJ suited.

  • 3 cards to a straight flush with 2 gaps.

  • TQ suited or JQ suited.

  • 346 suited or 356 suited.

  • 4 cards to a straight with one gap EXCEPT A345.

  • Nothing, draw 5 cards.

Just go down the chart until you find something that matches what you have in your hand, then hold that and either get paid or draw. The first part of each chart matches the payout schedule for the machine, since those are the highest hands, so they’re easy to remember. You don’t even have to memorize them unless you want to. (And if you play video poker much, you’re probably already somewhat familiar with hand rankings anyway.)

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Deuces Wild Tips

If you’re one of those people who aren’t interested in a complete strategy chart for a game like deuces wild, then you’ll be interested in this plain-talking simple deuces wild tips page. It’s just a list of strategy suggestions that will help you minimize your losses and maximize your winnings at Deuces Wild video poker.

  • There’s no such thing as a single high card in Deuces Wild. The ONLY time you’ll hold a single card in Deuces Wild is when you have a deuce.
  • NEVER discard a deuce. If you have a draw to a natural royal flush, you might think about it, but don’t actually do it, because it’s a mistake.
  • Never hold a single high card along with your deuce. Holding a high card with a single deuce only hurts your chances of making a good hand.
  • Always keep a pair over 4 to a flush or 4 to a straight.
  • Never hold 2 pairs. Always hold one pair and draw 3 cards.
  • It doesn’t matter which of the 2 pair you throw away.
  • Don’t kick yourself over your decision after the fact either.
  • Avoid a Deuces Wild machine that pays less than 5 to 1 on four of a kind.
  • Four of a kind accounts for over 1/3 of your total return in Deuces Wild. That will help you understand why you don’t hold 2 pairs or 4 to a flush or a straight.
  • You’ll throw away everything in your hand about once in every 5 hands. (Compare that with one in every 30 hands or so in Jacks or Better.)

I’ll repeat some of the advice and tips from the jacks or better tips section too. Remember to have fun – this is a game, after all, and the whole point is to enjoy yourself. Take advantage of the slots club and comps to increase your returns.

Deuces Wild is one of the most exciting and interesting video poker games available, and if the tips on this page help you have more fun with the game, then I’ve done my job.

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Progressive Video Poker

Where to Play Progressive Video Poker

Progressive video poker games are played in exactly the same way as any other video poker game, with one major difference: all bets feed a percentage into a massive jackpot that’s connected throughout all the video poker games on that software. If you hit a certain hand, then you win the progressive jackpot. It’s very similar to progressive slots, only it’s video poker.

The main difference is that you can calculate what the progressive jackpot has to get up to in order to determine when a game has a positive expectation. If a jackpot bet on a video poker game gets high enough, then instead of a payback percentage of 99.5%, you might get a payback percentage of 100.5% or 101% or even higher.

Progressive Video Poker

Different Software, Different Progressive Video Games

There are a number of different online softwares that power online casinos. Each one has a different version of a progressive video poker, or multiple versions. You’ll be able to find some of the major softwares and the progressive video poker games available on the following pages. We’ll also include some information about payback percentages for the video poker games, usually how high the jackpot must be in order to make the game a positive expectation bet.

  • Microgaming
  • Playtech
  • Realtime Gaming
  • Cryptologic
  • BossMedia
  • OddsOn
  • Slotland
  • Net Entertainment
  • Random Logic
  • iGlobalMedia

We’ve tried to list these in order of popularity, although we’re only basing the popularity of these casinos on our own knowledge, not anything official. Eventually each of the above softwares will have a link to its own page, which will include information about their progressive video poker versions.

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How To Play Video Poker

Video poker is a rather popular casino game that looks similar to a modern slot machine and is played an a computer monitor. When the game first came out, the machines were not all that popular but, eventually, they became a staple in gaming centers all over the world.

The very first video poker machine was created and developed in the early seventies around the same time that personal computers emerged. Starting in the early eighties, casinos around the country began putting the games out on their floors where they became increasingly popular among customers were too intimidated by the tables of real poker games.

In many ways the poker machines work the same way that electronic slot machines do. Players insert money or a preloaded gaming card into it, they receive a randomized hand and use the buttons on the screen to begin placing their bets, which are usually set at increments of one or five dollar amounts. The machine, after the draw, then pays out if the hand that the player had was one that consisted of a winning combination such as a pair, straight, flush, or etc.


The amount of money that players can win each hand depend on how rare of a hand they end up with. Most hand combinations are exactly the same as they are in regular table poker and the odds of getting one are roughly similar as well. In most high end casinos, the video poker devices also offer some sort of progressive jackpot, in which a player is encouraged to continue playing the same machine and feeding in more money with the hopes of winning one of the unique bonuses.

Since poker is more of a game of skill, rather than purely a game of chance like so many other casino activities, experienced and knowledgeable gamblers can eventually learn helpful tricks and skills which can help them win. Since the cards are dealt randomly from a computer generated deck of fifty two, the possible outcomes and combinations can sometimes be calculated to an extent. Good poker players will learn and develop helpful strategies to end up with an optimal hand.

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