The game of online video poker is a staple in most online casinos these days, as this deceptively simple game as attracted players for generation. In this article we will take a look at some variations of the game plus the type of strategy to adopt if you want to make a profit from video poker.
History of Video Poker
Online Video Poker as we know it today is not so very different from the very earliest mechanical poker slot machines which were in use at the end of the 19th Century. An amalgamation between the famous game of poker and slot machines, the first video poker machines started appearing in Vegas casinos in the 1970s and 80s.
While this new game was not a huge success at first, it gradually grew in popularity, particularly when the winning hand was reduced from two pairs to a pair of Jacks or Better (the standard format of the game as we know it today).
The version we know from various online and mobile casinos has got a lot of competition from video slots and casino table games featuring cutting edge graphics and enhanced game-play, but the classic video poker slots are still to be found in just about every online casino out there.
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How to Play
It won’t take you long at all to get the hang of video poker. You simply choose your stake and then click the Deal button to discover your 5 card hand. You can choose to keep some or all of your cards, and discard the ones you don’t want. The discards are replaced by new cards and you are left with your final poker hand.
The hand ranks are exactly the same as for any other form of regular poker, and most online versions of the game require you to have at least Jacks or Better in order for you to win. A pair of Jacks or better will usually offer a payout at even money, while a Royal Flush would get you 800 times your original stake.
Wild Card Video Poker
The most common variation on the basic game described above is one which introduces Wild Cards into the equation. So some games will allow Jokers to replace any other card, while other variations will have the 2s acting as wild cards.
Of course this makes it easier to form good hands, so the minimum paying hand is generally raised to three of a kind in a wild card game, although you can find Joker games which require only a pair of Kings or better (look out for these ones).
Multi-Hand Video Poker
Another common variable is to introduce multiple hands into the game, where you pay extra to play multiple hands at the same time. Multi-hand games will deal you one hand, and you choose to keep or discard cards as you normally would. The difference is that this time if you decide to keep a card – let’s say you hold on to an Ace – then all the other hands that you are going to play will also keep one Ace.
The other 4 cards are randomly allocated to all of the hands you are playing, so some of them might add another Ace or pair to make a winning hand, while others will add nothing of use. Obviously this means that a good original hand will result in multiplied winnings, although naturally the reverse is also true.
Other Video Poker Variations
Some video poker games use a combination of wild cards and multiple hands, and you can find games offering up to 100 hands for playing at the same time.
Aces and Eights games are the same as the standard Jacks or Better game except there are extra pay-outs for four Aces, 8s or 7s.
The Double Bonus game features an extra doubling of pay-outs for four of a kind Aces, 2s, 3s, or 4s. Double Double Bonus just boosts that 4 Ace jackpot depending on the kicker card.
Tens or Better sounds like a better deal than Jacks or Better, but in fact the house edge is bigger in this version of the game, so best to steer clear.
Basic Strategy and Tips
The strategic element in video poker entirely revolves around which cards you should keep and which to discard. Obviously you will hold onto a pair of Jacks or anything better than that, but what other cards should you keep and what should you throw away?
Here are the four Worst hands that you should keep. If you get a worse selection than these then just discard everything and hope the re-draw brings better luck:
Keep the following:
- Jack + Ace (unsuited) or King + Ace (unsuited)
- Ten + King (same suit)
- A single Jack, Queen, King or Ace
Any three non-consecutive cards of the same suit, which are two away from a straight flush (e.g. 236; 458; 67T; 468 –suited)
If you don’t even have one Jack or three to a straight flush then throw everything away.
Why is Video Poker so Popular?
In an online gaming landscape dominated by flashy video slots and live streaming casino games, video poker still manages to retain a devoted following. This is partly because, unlike most slot games out there, an element of strategic thinking is required in order to succeed at online video poker.
Allied to that is the fact that a video poker game offers a much better return to player than a slot game, especially when you use the optimal strategy as you play.
For those reasons and more online video poker is likely to remain a fixture at online and mobile casinos for many years to come.