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Video Poker Odds
Video Poker Glossary
Best Video Poker Strategies
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Video Poker Strategy Guide: How to Win Using Charts

Ultimate Video Poker Strategy Guide: How to Win Using Charts

How-To GuidesInsights & Strategies
calendarFriday, 29 March 2024eyes113
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Video poker is one of the most popular casino games around. It combines the excitement of poker with the potential for big payouts from a slot machine. While luck plays a role, video poker also involves skill and strategy. With the right tactics, you can tilt the odds in your favor and walk away a winner more often.

This guide covers everything you need to know about winning at video poker. We’ll explain the basics, odds, key terms, and most importantly – the ultimate strategies to boost your bankroll. Whether you’re a newcomer or experienced player, these tips will level up your game. Let’s get dealing!

Video Poker Odds

One of the main draws of video poker is the high RTP percentage compared to slot machines. Percentage Return To Player (%RTP) — the theoretical percentage that a game will pay back to players over an extremely long period of time.

While slots typically have an RTP around 85-95%, skilled video poker players can find games with an RTP over 99%!
 

However, this high payback potential requires making the mathematically optimal plays. The casino still has a small edge if you don’t use proper strategy. Playing perfectly is key to getting the most value. The best players track their play down to the 0.01% to ensure they are squeezing maximum value.

Here are the probabilities of getting each poker hand in a standard 5-card video poker game:

HandProbability
Royal Flush0.00015%
Straight Flush0.0014%
Four of a Kind0.024%
Full House0.14%
Flush0.20%
Straight0.39%
Three of a Kind2.13%
Two Pair4.75%
One Pair42.25%
High Card50.10%

As you can see, the top jackpot hands like the royal flush are extremely rare. But their huge payouts are what allow games to return a lot of money when played perfectly. It’s all about making optimal plays to set up those rare draws.

Video Poker Glossary

Before we dive into strategies, let’s cover some common video poker terms:

TermDefinition
Pay TableShows how much each winning poker hand pays out based on your bet amount.
Wild CardA card (usually deuces, jokers or designated cards) that can substitute for any other card to make a hand.
Full-PayA pay table that returns 100% with perfect play, before the house edge.
CreditingAccepting an even money payout instead of going for a higher hand.
Multi-Strike PokerVideo poker games that allow you to redraw cards more than once per hand.
House EdgeThe mathematical advantage the casino has over players. The inverse of the RTP.

Knowing these foundational terms will help you understand video poker rules, strategy charts, and expert plays more easily. Don’t worry if some seem confusing at first – they’ll become easy to understand with practice.

Best Video Poker Strategies

Now let’s get to the good stuff — how to actually win at video poker! Here are the top strategies used by advantage players:

Understand Pay Tables

Not all video poker games are created equal. The pay table determines how much you can potentially win for each hand. It’s critical to choose games with the best full-pay schedules.

Always scout for the most player-friendly pay tables before sitting down. Online casinos tend to have better odds than live casinos as well. Choosing the wrong game can make it virtually impossible to profit.

Learn Poker Hand Rankings

You need to know poker hand rankings like the back of your hand. From high card to royal flush, being able to quickly recognize the strength of any hand is crucial.

The most valuable hands are:

  • Royal flush
  • Straight flush
  • Four of a kind
  • Full house
  • Flush
  • Straight
  • Three of a kind
  • Two pair
  • One pair
  • High card

Commit these rankings to memory through practice. Knowing them will allow you to make split-second decisions on which cards to hold.

For example, when drawing it’s usually correct to go for the higher potential hand – like holding four hearts to draw to a potential flush over holding just a high pair. But you need to instantly recognize that a flush out-ranks a pair to make that optimal play.

Use a Video Poker Strategy Chart

Almost every video poker expert uses a simple, printable strategy chart while playing. These charts show the mathematically best play for every possible hand you can be dealt.

Using a strategy chart is easy. You simply look up the cards you were dealt on the chart and it tells you which cards to hold and which to discard for the highest expected return. 

The top charts like those from Wizard of Odds and Video Poker for Winners account for combinatorics and every possible draw to provide the highest RTP plays. Follow them!

Play the Maximum Coins

Never skip out on playing max coins! While it may seem enticing to bet fewer credits to minimize losses, you actually reduce your payback by doing so.

The biggest video poker jackpots like the royal flush only pay out when you have a five-credit bet placed. For instance, a royal flush pays:

  • 800 credits for 5 coins bet
  • 250 credits for 4 coins bet
  • 125 credits for 3 coins bet
  • 50 credits for 2 coins bet
  • 25 credits for 1 coin bet

Adjusted for the higher bet, playing five coins increases your RTP compared to playing shorts coins. In fact, for most full-pay games the payback falls below 90% if not betting max!

To take full advantage of a game’s payback, you must learn discipline and always play max coins, even when you’re running bad. It’s the only way to set yourself up for those life-changing royal flush payouts. However, practice responsible gambling by never betting more than you can afford to lose. Set a bankroll limit and walk away if you’re chasing losses or getting tilted.

Practice with Free Games

Like any skill, practice is key for mastering video poker. Playing for free online or on an app is a great way to build experience reading hands quickly, using strategy charts, and practicing bankroll management.

While nothing beats practicing with real money on the line, free games let you play millions of hands risk-free to work on your strategies before betting bigger. They are also useful for getting familiar with the rules and pay tables of new game variations.

Video poker has a relatively low house edge, but you need to put in the practice hours to realize those slim edges over time. Free games are the ideal training ground to sharpen your skills.

Set a Budget

Professional video poker players treat it as an investment, setting a strict bankroll and playing within their means. They also have pre-determined win limits to lock in profits rather than giving it all back.

Having a clearly defined budget and sticking to it is essential for any form of gambling, including video poker. It's easy to get carried away chasing losses after a cold streak.

For example, you could set a $500 bankroll and $1000 win goal for a session. Once you’re up $1000, you pocket that profit and re-assess. This type of disciplined approach, combined with a player’s edge, results in consistent profits over thousands of hands.

A common suggestion is to bring a bankroll of at least 500x your intended bet amount. So for $1 video poker, you’d want $500 or more to ride out inevitable swings. Running out of money early means missing out on maximizing your edge over the long run.

Always have a firm loss limit too, like being willing to reload your starting bankroll once. Going beyond that often leads to reckless chasing losses by going over your means. Protect your bankroll like an investment!

Pick the Right Game

Not all video poker games are equally profitable, even with perfect strategy. Game selection is a hugely important but often overlooked aspect of beating the casino.

The percentage paybacks can vary massively – from over 100% for expert players in player-friendly variants like Double Double Bonus, down to just 95-97% for most Jacks or Better and other common variations. For example, take a look at the payback for different full-pay game variations for a perfect basic strategy player:

  • Double Double Bonus Poker: 100.07%
  • Double Bonus Poker: 100.17%
  • Super Double Bonus: 99.98%
  • Triple Double Bonus: 99.58%
  • Deuces Wild: 99.73%
  • Bonus Poker Deluxe: 99.64%
  • Jacks or Better: 99.54%
  • Tens or Better: 99.14%

As you can see, your payback percentage can swing quite a bit just based on which specific game you pick. Those two extra percentage points make a large difference to your hourly winrate over time.

Do your research and learn which games have the highest potential returns with perfect play. Stick to only those most positive expected value games for the best results.

Know When to Break a High Pair

Should you always hold a pair of jacks or better? Not necessarily! While a very strong starting hand, strategy charts advise breaking up even high pairs in certain situations for a better probability draw.

For example, when dealt a pair of Queens with 2 other low cards, you’d actually discard one of the Queens. This gives you a chance to draw a higher pair, three-of-a-kind, or even a straight/flush.

Learning when to deviate from “common sense” plays takes practice and discipline following the charts. But these kinds of non-intuitive plays are exactly what gives you an edge over recreational players.

Video Poker Chart Cheat Sheet

While video poker strategy charts are incredibly powerful tools, they can be tricky to read at first with all their rows and columns. Here’s a simplified cheat sheet you can reference:

Starting HandRecommended Play
With No Pair: 
Any 4 cards to a Flush drawHold the 4 Flush cards
Any 4 cards to an Open-Ended Straight drawHold the 4 Open-Ended Straight cards
3-card Inside Straight drawHold the 3 Inside Straight cards
Any 3 of a Kind or HigherHold the 3 of a Kind or Higher
With a Pair: 
Jacks or Better PairHold the Pair
Pair of 3’s, 4’s or Two PairHold the Pair/Two Pair
Aces or Lower Pair with 4 Flush or Open-Ended Straight drawSplit the Pair, draw to the Flush or Straight
Aces through 8’s with no Flush or Straight drawSplit the Pair

Referring to a quick cheat sheet like this will prevent common mistakes until you fully internalize proper strategies. For instance, it reminds you to always split and draw to deserving draws even if you have a middling pair. With enough practice, you’ll build up a feel for when to break up hands.

Using Strategies to Win at Video Poker Variants

While the core strategies and math principles apply across all video poker games, each specific variant has its own nuances. Let’s check optimal plays for some of the most popular versions:

Jacks or Better

Jacks or Better is the original and most classic video poker variant. The full-pay schedule is known as 9/6:

  • Flush pays 6x
  • Full House pays 9x
  • Four of a Kind pays 25x
  • Straight Flush pays 50x
  • Royal Flush pays 800x

With this pay table and perfect strategy, the RTP for Jacks or Better is 99.54%. While not as high as some games, it’s still one of the best casino bets around. Proper play involves holding/breaking high pairs in certain spot situations.

Deuces Wild

In Deuces Wild video poker, all four deuce cards are wild cards that substitute for any other rank/suit. This presents drawing opportunities you don’t get in standard games.

For example, you can now make hands like Five of a Kind (with four deuces + one other rank) which pays a premium jackpot. Or you can use multiple deuces to create higher straight/flush draws.

With all those extra drawing possibilities, Deuces Wild has an RTP of 99.73% with perfect play on a full-pay schedule (9/5 for flush/full house). It’s one of the highest returning video poker variants.

However, the included wild cards change some holding strategies. For instance, many times you'll now want to discard higher pairs if you can make huge multi-deuce draws to super premium hands. 

Double Bonus

Double Bonus video poker is another positive expected value game for advantage players. It features enhanced payouts for specific four-of-a-kind hands:

  • Four Aces pays 800x
  • Four 2s/3s/4s pays 400x
  • Four 5s through Kings pays 200x

Additionally, kickers count towards the payouts for quads. For instance, four 5s with a 9 kicker returns more than just four 5s. This makes double bonus an exciting variant packed with bigger bonuses and action.

Optimal Double Bonus strategy focuses on going for premium quad hands over other draws on many deals. You may discard decent holdings to draw for the massive quad payouts.

Aces and Faces

As the name implies, Aces and Faces pays out extra for hands containing high cards like face cards (J/Q/K) and Aces. The pay table looks like:

  • Pair of Jacks/Queens pays 2x
  • Pair of Kings pays 3x
  • Pair of Aces pays 4x

With perfect play, the full-pay RTP is around 99.92% – one of the highest returning video poker games available. The emphasis is on going for top pair hands with Aces and Face cards over lower pairs/draws.

Joker Poker/Jokers Wild

These two related video poker variants both feature one or more Joker cards added into the deck to act as wild cards. The Jokers can substitute for any other card to make draws and hands more easily.

With Jokers turned into wild cards, the odds and strategies change significantly from standard video poker games. You’ll commonly see Jokers used in games like Joker Poker, Kings or Better, Aces and Jokers, and more.

Tens or Better

Still, with perfect play Tens or Better boasts an impressive 99.14% RTP. The higher probability of gaining a paying hand somewhat offsets the reduced payouts.

While the core strategies for Tens or Better are similar to Jacks or Better, there are some key differences. For instance, you’ll now want to hold lower pairs like Tens or Jacks in some situations where you’d break them in JoB.

A common example is if you get dealt:

Jh Js 9c 5d 2h

In Jacks or Better, you would discard the pair of Jacks to draw for potential straight or flush draws. However, in Tens or Better strategy you’d simply hold the Jacks to lock up a paying lower pair hand.

Mastering the nuances of when to hold or break lower premium hands is critical for extracting maximum value from Tens or Better.

Transformation into a Video Poker Shark

Video poker is one of the most rewarding and beatable casino games, if you know what you’re doing. By applying the ultimate strategies in this guide, you’ll gain a mathematical edge over the house:

  1. Always use a proven strategy chart
  2. Play maximum coin bets
  3. Select the highest returning games
  4. Bankroll manage effectively
  5. Practice frequently for faster play

With that level of dedication and strategic know-how, you can be a consistent winner at video poker for years to come. Will you become our next video poker millionaire? Study the charts, apply these tips, and start building that bankroll today!

The most successful video poker pros have curiosity. They analyze new games that emerge, finding ways to gain edges in creative pay tables and rules. It’s an ever-evolving strategic pursuit in many ways.

So if you’ve been looking for a gambling arena where skills trump luck, and analytical prowess determines success — video poker could be your perfect match. Few other casino games provide the potent combination of solitary focus and cerebral decision-making that video poker does.

Start building your knowledge base and chart practice not only in video poker, but in other games by reading our News & Guides section.