The term video poker has come to describe dozens of different variants on the same basic game, but a standard set of rules dictates the action on every video poker machine.
Video poker almost always plays out as one form or another of five card draw. This means the basic hand rankings that determine winners and losers in a traditional poker game also apply to video poker.
One pair is the lowest possible qualifying hand in most games, along with two pair, three of a kind, straight, flush, full house, straight flush, and Royal Flush. For the standard video poker game – Jacks or Better – the lowest hand that still qualifies for a 1:1 payout is a pair of jacks. In other games that utilize wild cards and other variables, the minimum qualifying hand can be two pair or even three of a kind.
A video poker hand begins with five cards being dealt to the player from a virtual dealer. Players may opt to hold one, none, or all of these cards while attempting to complete a qualifying hand. After clicking the hold buttons underneath each card (or touching the screen on some machines), the player presses the draw button to take their new cards. After this draw the hand is complete, with winning hands automatically adding a payout into the player’s running account, and losing hands resulting in a deduction.
Betting in video poker occurs on a five-tiered system, and most machines begin at $0.25 and run through $1.25 for a maximum bet. Higher-limit machines can offer $1 through $5 or $5 through $25 betting, but the majority of machines you’ll encounter on the gaming floor will play on the $0.25 to $1.25 tier.
You can find different payout scales on different machines and slight adjustments in the payouts for various hands can tip the scales higher in the house’s favor. More information on how to play machines with the most advantageous payout tables can be found on the video poker strategy page.
The only difference between betting the minimum and maximum on video poker comes when you hit the game’s premium hand: the Royal Flush. When you’re fortunate enough to make a Royal at one coin, the reward is a 250 to 1 payout. And if you bet four coins, the payout moves to 1,000 credits. But when you make the maximum bet of five coins and make a Royal, the payout jumps to 4,000 credits, making the max-bet a favorite play for video poker enthusiasts.
As mentioned above, every video poker variant plays with a distinct set of rules, and many games feature rules unique to that game alone. By clicking through the machine’s introductory menu, players can read about the rules for each game before playing.
Be sure to consult these handy rulebooks before diving into an unfamiliar game, because playing video poker without knowing which hands to draw for can severely reduce your potential profit and expected return.
The popular Deuces Wild variant of video poker turns the four 2s in the deck into wild cards, and these can be used as any card necessary to complete a hand. Because big hands are easier to make with wild cards involved, the payouts for the same hands in Deuces Wild are lower when compared to Jacks or Better. Other video poker variants include Bonus Poker, Double-Double Bonus, and Joker Poker.