The Ultimate Guide to Video Poker

Poker is one of the oldest card games and one which adored by many players across the globe. It’s classified as a game of skill and requires strategy, guts and mind games to make a profit, however, video poker differs from the original live game. Video poker has many variations and game types, all of which are played without an opponent and in this guide, we’ll be going through all the variations, including detailed walkthroughs, strategies and the different payouts of each type of video poker game. 

Even though the classification of hands remains unchanged between live poker and video poker, the latter doesn’t take into consideration the power of a pair. In video poker, a pair is a pair, regardless of what the cards show and this is purely because of how the game mechanics are set up. For instance, in the game ‘Jack or Better’, only a pair of Jacks or higher will be considered as a winning hand, anything less won’t contribute towards a win and a pair of Queens, Kings or Aces pay out the same. 

If you’re a fast thinker and love fast paced games, video poker is the right game for you. Video poker takes little time to master but nevertheless, it still involves a great deal of skill and having poker knowledge is always beneficial, although the strategy used will differ greatly. It’s common knowledge within the poker community that you play the player, not the cards, but since there’s no player to beat in video poker, this notion is completely irrelevant. 


Online Casinos with Video Poker

How to Play Jacks or Better

Jacks or better takes less than a minute to learn and as the name suggests, only a pair of Jacks or better will contribute towards a winning hand. The game is played with five cards and you’re allowed to jacks or betterchange all of them if you’re unsatisfied with the hand you were dealt. To ‘hold’ a card, you’ll need to click on the card or cards that you wish to keep. The payout for a pair of Jacks or higher will pay 1:1 and this will play a significant role in the strategy adopted. But before we delve deeper into strategies and tactics, a walkthrough of a hand is essential to fully grasp how the game is played.

Unlike live or regular online poker, Jacks or Better has one round of betting which occurs before the five cards are dealt. Once the bet is placed, five cards are dealt and displayed on your screen. This is your time to act. You have the option of holding or changing as many cards as you deem fit. If, for instance, you hold two cards, another three will replace the ones you discarded and the machine will instantly display whether your hand is a winning or a losing one. 


Jacks or Better Strategy

Jacks or Better is a very simple game but you’ll need to make decision based solely on payouts and outs, unlike in live poker, where you’ll need to take into consideration positioning, timing, bluffing, bet sizes, etc. 

As touched on briefly above, the payout for a pair of Jacks or Better is 1:1 and the fact that anything below a pair of Jacks doesn’t payout as a win will play a significant role in the cards you choose to hold. Most casino games have a house edge between 94-97% but if Jacks or Better is played perfectly (and it can be played perfectly), then the game can offer 99.54%. 

The following table is a detailed structure of the payouts in Jacks or Better. This will help you in your decision making when choosing which hands to hold. The first column is the lowest bet with its corresponding payout and the payout increases as the bet size is increased. 


jacks or better paytable


All video poker machines display the payouts right above the cards, so there’s no need to memorize them. Now, let’s get down to the nitty gritty of the game. How is Jacks or Better played perfectly? Well, for starters, you’ll need to follow these tips in order to make the best possible decisions when playing Jacks or Better:

  • Draw five new cards when you have no potential winning combinations or when no card higher than a Jack.
  • If you only have one face card, meaning a Jack or higher, hold that card and swap the rest.
  • When you draw a pair, hold both cards and draw three additional cards with the intention of making three of a kind. This is somewhat riskier when the pair is below Jacks but still worth chasing nonetheless. 
  • If you’re on a straight flush draw with three cards, hold them and draw two new cards. The risk-to-reward ratio makes it well worth the chase. 
  • Needless to say, when you draw three cards to a Royal Flush, hold all three and hope you hit the best hand in poker!
  • When you’re a card short of a straight or flush, hold all four and replace the remaining card

The instructions above should be practised consistently in order to make a profit in Jacks or Better. 

But there’s another factor that needs to be considered, one which could have a significant effect on your bankroll and this is the time when a low pair should be discarded. Amateur players would always keep a low pair in hopes of hitting three of a kind and while this is a solid strategy for the most part, there are situations where low pairs should be mucked.


jacks or better hand classification


The following are scenarios when it is advantageous in keeping a low pair:

1. When you have a low pair and a straight draw at the same time. For instance, you have a pair of 4’s and a 5, 6 & 7. Discard the unmatched three cards as you’re more likely to make three of a kind than a straight. 

2. When you just need two cards to make a straight flush, it’s always advisable to hold the pair, especially when you consider the fact that the odds to make a straight flush stand at 649,739:1

3. When you hold a low pair and are two cards shy of a Royal Flush. Once again, hold the pair. 


There also situations when a low pair should be discarded as the odds of hitting something better than three of a kind will be less likely than making a better hand, especially when you consider the payout:

  • When you have a low pair but at the same time you’re a card short of a flush or an open-ended straight draw. 
  • When you have two cards left in making a Royal Flush, you should discard the low pair. You’ll be in a good position in boosting your bankroll to new heights while at the same time you’ll also be on a flush draw. 

Another difference between live poker and video poker is the fact that a weaker straight still pays the same as a higher straight. The same notion applies to a full house. So whether you make a straight to the Ace (10, J, Q, K, A) or a straight to the King (9, 10, J, Q, K), the payout remains unchanged. 

Jacks or Better is all about assessing the situation you find yourself in at the current time and even though it could be tempting to get off track because of a flush or straight draw when already holding a high pair (Jacks or Better), you should stick to your guns, as consistency is the key to success in this video poker game. 

For instance, if you have a pair of Queens and need just one card to make a flush, it’s always worth keeping the high pair as this is a guaranteed win. It’s always wise to pocket guaranteed payouts rather than risk drawing nothing. Besides, you have the potential to draw to pairs and three of a kind. The same approach should be adopted when making on a straight draw and holding a high pair. 


How to Play Deuces Wild

There’s no game quite like Deuces Wild and it is one of the most thrilling games you can play for real money. As the name suggests, any Deuce or ‘2’ is a wild card, which essentially means that it will be replaced with any card to make a winning hand. The most important thing to remember when playing Deuces Wild is that three of a kind is the smallest winning hand that can be made, which means that both a pair and two pairs will be disregarded.

Deuces Wild and Video Poker in general have some of the highest RTP’s, as they can reach as high as 99.9%, should the game be played flawlessly throughout. The game is very similar to Jacks or Better and in most cases, the strategy adopted in Deuces Wild will be the same as in Jacks or Better, as explained above. Regardless, we’ll go through the strategy you should be using in order to increase your chances of boosting your bankroll. 

The betting round is exactly the same as it is in Jacks or Better, which takes place once, at the beginning of the hand and you’ll also need to decide which cards to hold after the hand is dealt. 

Pairs and Two Pairs:

Pairs should be held, regardless of their value as you’ll have six outs that could turn a pair into three of a kind. The same notion applies for two pairs, as one Deuce will turn two pairs into a full house, which pays four times your original stake. 


        Straights and Flushes

Up and down straight draw essentially means that you’re a card away from making a straight and can be completed by drawing a top or low card. For instance, if you’re dealt 5, 6, 7, 8 and a King, discard the King with the hopes of drawing a ‘4’ or a ‘9’. Since the game is Deuces Wild and Deuces replaces a card to make a winning combination, any ‘2’ drawn instead of the King will complete your straight. Straights pay double your initial stake.

When chasing a flush and dealt three of four cards of the same suit, discard the unmatches suits and chase the flush. The same strategy as the one used for a straight is applied here but the flush pays three times your original stake. 

The classification of hands is the same as any other video poker game but in Deuces Wild, there is an additional winning combination that can be made, which is ‘5 of a Kind’. Needless to say, a Deuce has to be involved in order to make this hand and it pays 12 times your original stake. It is classified one place higher than a straight flush and right below the Royal Flush (with deuces). A ‘special’ four of a kind, which is the second highest payout of the game and pays 200 times your original stake is the ‘four deuces’.

The only reason it pays significantly higher than the regular four of a kind (the one with the help of a deuce) is because there are no cards that can help the four deuces being drawn and have to be drawn purely by themselves. 

In Deuces Wild, there are two Royal Flushes that can be made. One with Deuces and only pays 25 times your original stake, since the odds for making a Royal Flush with a deuce drop significantly as opposed to making one without a deuce.

The ultimate hand in Deuces Wild, as in any other poker or video poker game, is a pure Royal Flush, which is drawn without any help from wild Deuces. This pays 800 times your original stake. So if you’re betting five coins on each hand, a pure Royal Flush will return 4000 coins. 

If you follow the recommendations of the decisions listed in the table below, you’ll be playing Deuces Wild flawlessly and you’ll be in a great position to increase your bankroll:

deuces wild strategy


Video poker is very versatile and players have a huge variety of games to choose from. The most popular games and the ones that are widely available at most online casinos are the ones mentioned above, i.e. Jacks or Better and Deuces Wild. However, the following are other video poker games that can sometimes be found at some online casinos.

  • Ace Invaders
  • Aces & Faces
  • Anything’s Wild
  • Big Times Draw Poker
  • Bonus Poker
  • Build a Wheel Poker
  • Double Pay Poker
  • Dream Card Poker
  • Pick a Pair
  • Back ‘Em Up
  • Super Hand Poker


Video Poker Conclusion

Video poker is one of the most thrilling casino games you can play against a machine, as it’s fast paced, full of action and has one of the highest RTP percentages on the market. If played flawlessly, the RTP can even rise up to 99.9%. Jacks or Better is the most popular video poker game and can be found at most online casinos. 

If you’re looking to learn the ropes and get acquainted with video poker, all online casinos that have video poker games available have an option to play the games for free. Try the strategies discussed in this guide to see if you can increase your free money bankroll and only play the game for real money once you’ve mastered the games.