Best Video Poker Strategy

Video poker machines have been an essential part of every casino since the first machine was invented in 1970. Apart from finding video poker in brick-and-mortar gambling houses, you can also play many of the game’s variants across hundreds of online casino sites.

Just like regular poker, video poker is a game that combines luck and skill. Over the years, many people have tried to come up with strategies on how to win at video poker by using math and probability in order to minimize or completely annul the house edge. It’s safe to say that some of them have succeeded.

The purpose of this page is to share some of these strategies and teach you how to become a better video poker player. Note that understanding all the different strategies takes time and patience, but if you possess both, you’ll learn how to minimize your risks and eventually turn a profit.

Why does video poker attract a lot of players?

It’s quite easy to see why video poker is so popular. To begin with, it has a very low house edge when played optimally, so if you’re looking for a higher chance of making a profit, it’s much better to wager on video poker than on slots or roulette.

Furthermore, the game is quite interesting. Sure, there is a certain repetitiveness to it. However, in every hand, you will receive a different combination of cards, and you will have to decide whether to risk or play for a lower payout. This certainly makes things somewhat dynamic.

Since the classic game can be repetitive, many video poker variants have been invented over the years, with each adding a unique element to the game in the form of payouts and extra winning combinations.

Another big reason why players enjoy video poker is the skill factor. There’s a big allure in trying to beat the odds by making the right moves. Once you play enough video poker and start noticing that you’re getting better, you’ll only want to play more.

Probably the biggest reason for the enormous popularity of video poker is its simplicity. Video poker is very easy to learn and play, which brings us to our next point.

How to play video poker for beginners

If you’re completely new to video poker, don’t worry: learning to play this game will take only a couple of minutes. We’ll take Jacks or Better—arguably the most popular video poker variant—as a framework for learning the rules.

In Jacks or Better, the goal is to create the best five-card combination using the standard poker hand rankings. However, as the name of the game suggests, only those hands with a pair of jacks or better will result in a win. Any lower pair or just a high card will be considered a loss.

The game functions similarly to a five-card draw. After you make your bet, you will receive five random cards. You will then select which cards to keep and which to discard. You can keep anywhere from zero to all five. The number of discarded cards will be replaced by new ones, which will help you create your best five-card combination. Of course, you can change the size of your bet after each round.

The wins are paid according to the table below:

Hands/Coins 1 2 3 4 5
Royal Flush 250 500 750 1,000 4,000
Straight Flush 50 100 150 200 250
Four 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
Three of a Kind 3 6 9 12 15
Two Pairs 2 4 6 8 10
Pair of Jacks or Better 1 2 3 4 5

Note that this is a 9/6 video poker pay table for Jacks or Better only, with the “9/6” referring to the payouts for a full house and a flush, respectively. You might find other payout figures for this same variation of the game, while some other games, like Deuces Wild, will have completely different payouts for certain hands and will feature some additional ways of constructing a winning hand.

Basics of video poker strategy

You should know that no video poker strategy is foolproof. Although all poker games involve some degree of skill, it’s the randomness of the machine that will ultimately decide whether you win.

Like any casino game played against the house, video poker has a house edge. That’s a number suggesting how much money the casino is mathematically inclined to win from your long-term wagers. If the house edge is 2.0 percent, for example, that means that on every dollar wagered, the house is likely to profit two cents.

The goal of video poker strategy is to lower the house edge to an absolute minimum. This implies that you must play the game optimally, in a way that minimizes risks and increases your chance of winning every hand.

Video poker games usually have a house edge of between 0.5 and 5.0 percent, while certain games can even have a negative house edge when played optimally.

Each variant entails a different strategy, and some games of the same variant can even have different pay tables depending on where you play. Also, strategies may differ depending on your end goal. If you’re looking for the best chance of hitting a royal flush, the strategy will be different than when you’re gunning for smaller yet more
likely wins.

Of course, just because you might find a strategy that favors smaller wins doesn’t mean it hasn’t been designed to give you a chance at winning big. As a matter of fact, winning small will keep the money in your balance, extending your shot at winning a royal flush or some other high-paying hand when the opportunity presents itself.

Different pay tables and long-term expectations

Before you even begin implementing any strategy, you should find a video poker game with the right pay table. As mentioned, different games can have different pay tables, even if they are of the same variant.

The most favorable Jacks or Better game will have a 9/6 pay table, indicating payouts for full house and flush, respectively. A game that features such a table is commonly called a full pay game. Other games you might stumble upon can feature 9/5, 8/6, 8/5, 7/5 or 6/5 payouts.

The differences in payouts may appear small, but they can actually affect the house edge quite a bit, as presented below.

Pay Table House Edge
9/6 0.46%
9/5 1.55%
8/6 1.61%
8/5 2.70%
7/5 3.85%
6/5 5%

This is why you need to always check a game’s pay table before you start betting. Most games will have their pay table displayed in the information tab.

Understanding video poker math

Your best five-card combination will come from a 52-card deck. And there are plenty of combinations in that full deck of cards—2,598,960 to be exact.

Out of all these combinations, only four are the royal flush (suited 10, J, Q, K, A). This means that the odds of being dealt a natural royal flush are 1 in 649,740 or approximately 0.00015 percent.

To put it in perspective, there are 604,800 seconds in a full week. This means that if you played one hand a second for seven days without sleep or rest, you still wouldn’t be able to draw a natural royal flush on a weekly basis.

Here is a table showing the probability of being drawn each winning hand in Jacks or Better video poker.

Hand Odds
Royal Flush 1 in 649,740
Straight Flush 1 in 72,193
Four of a Kind 1 in 4,165
Full House 1 in 694
Flush 1 in 509
Straight 1 in 255
Three of a Kind 1 in 47
Two Pairs 1 in 21
Pair of J, Q, K, or A 1 in 7.69

Of course, the odds change significantly after the initial deal. If you are only one card away from a royal flush, the odds of getting it on the draw are 1 in 47. If you get dealt three of a kind, there will be a 1 in 16 chance of turning it into a full house and 1 in 24 chance of getting four of a kind.

Jacks or Better strategy

Jacks or Better is the most common video poker variant and the one you should probably start with if you’re a beginner.

Many strategy charts lower the house edge of Jacks or Better to just a half a percent. In fact, the strategy chart for this game is more of a ranking list of potential cards you should keep while discarding the rest. You should start from the top of the list and move down until you’ve found your hand combination.

Here’s how it looks:

  1. Royal flush, straight flush, four of a kind
  2. Four cards to a royal flush
  3. Full house, flush, three of a kind, straight
  4. Four cards to a straight flush
  5. Two pair
  6. High pair
  7. Three cards to a royal flush
  8. Four cards to a flush
  9. Low pair
  10. Four cards to an open-ended straight
  11. Two suited high cards
  12. Three cards to a straight flush
  13. Two off-suit high cards (choose the lowest two if there are three or four)
  14. Suited J-10, Q-10, K-10
  15. Single high card
  16. If you are dealt none of the above, discard all five cards

Let’s use an example to further explain how this works.

You are dealt the following hand: J, ♠J, ♠4, ♠7, ♠8. Since you are one card away from completing a flush, you might think that the best play is to discard J and hope for another club card. However, since “Four cards to a flush” is ranked lower in the strategy chart than “High pair,” the right play would actually be to discard ♠4, ♠7, ♠8, and leave J, ♠J.

This strategy is a simplified version of the optimal video poker strategy. If played without mistake, it lowers the house edge to 0.54 percent, compared to 0.46 percent when using the more complex strategy.

Deuces Wild strategy

Deuces Wild is another very popular video poker game that features similar rules to Jacks or Better, with the major difference being that it utilizes “wild” cards. Namely, all deuces (2s) in the deck count as wilds, completing any best one-off combinations. For example, if you have two aces and a deuce, you actually have three of a kind. If you draw three deuces and a jack, you’ll have a chance at a royal flush.

Of course, this creates an advantage for the player, as more combinations are now likely to be the winning ones. To compensate for this advantage, Deuces Wild offers lower payouts for certain combinations and, unlike Jacks or Better, doesn’t offer any for combinations weaker than three of a kind.

The strongest hand is still the royal flush, but only if it’s natural (doesn’t contain any wilds). It is followed by four deuces, royal flush with wilds, and five of a kind (four of a kind + a wild), after which the hand ranks move down just as they do in the regular video poker game to three of a kind.

Because the wilds are involved, the Deuces Wild strategy is a bit more complicated. Even the simplified version of the strategy chart contains nearly 30 different plays. However, if you manage to keep up with it, you will actually create a negative house edge of -0.71 percent, meaning you will always be likely to make a profit.

The plays are divided into five parts, depending on how many deuces you are dealt:

1.Four deuces
2. Three deuces

  • 1. Keep the royal flush
  • 2. Keep three deuces only

3. Two deuces

  • 1. Keep four of a kind or higher
  • 2. Four cards to a royal flush
  • 3. Four cards to a straight flush with consecutive 6–7 or higher
  • 4. Keep two deuces only

4. One deuce

  • 1. Keep four of a kind or higher
  • 2. Four cards to a royal flush
  • 3. Full house
  • 4. Four cards to a straight flush with consecutive 5-6-7 or higher
  • 5. Flush, straight, three of a kind
  • 6. Any four to a straight flush
  • 7. Three cards to a royal flush
  • 8. Three cards to a straight flush with consecutive 6-7 or higher
  • 9. Keep the deuce only

5. No deuces

  • 1. Royal flush or four to a royal flush
  • 2. Three of a kind
  • 3. Four cards to a straight flush
  • 4. Three cards to a royal flush
  • 5. Single pair
  • 6. Four cards to a flush
  • 7. Four cards to an open-ended straight
  • 8. Three cards to a straight flush
  • 9. Four cards to an inside straight
  • 10. Two cards to a royal flush, J, or Q

Double bonus poker strategy

Double Bonus Poker is a really interesting variant of video poker, as it diverges a little bit from the classic hand ranks. Namely, if you draw four of a kind, your payout will depend on which cards were a part of that combination, unlike in Jacks or Better and Deuces Wild, where any four of a kind pays the same.

In Double Bonus Poker, four of a kind with aces pays 160 per coin, four 2s, 3s, or 4s pay 80, while four 5s through Ks pay 50. Also, two pair hands pay the same as Jacks or Better. If you find the 10/7 payout game and apply the optimal strategy, you can force a negative house edge of -0.17 percent.

Below is a list containing all the optimal plays of Double Bonus Poker ranked from best to worst. If you don’t find a play listed here, you should always discard all five cards.

  1. Royal flush, any four of a kind, straight flush
  2. Four cards to a flush
  3. Three aces
  4. Full house, flush, straight
  5. Three of a kind other than aces
  6. Four cards to a straight flush
  7. Two pair
  8. High pair (JJ, QQ, KK, AA)
  9. Four cards to a flush
  10. Three cards to a royal flush
  11. Four cards to an open-ended straight
  12. Low pair
  13. J-Q-K-A off suit
  14. Three cards to a straight flush (open-ended draw with the number of gaps lower or equal to the number of high cards)
  15. Four cards to an inside straight with three high cards
  16. J-Q suited
  17. Three cards to a flush with two high cards
  18. Two suited high cards
  19. Four cards to an inside straight with two high cards
  20. Three cards to a straight flush (open-ended draw with a single gap or two gaps with 2-3-4 suited, an ace-low, or a single high card)
  21. Four cards to an inside straight with one high card
  22. J-Q-K off suit
  23. 10-J suited
  24. J-Q off suit
  25. Three cards to a flush with one high card
  26. 10-Q suited
  27. Three cards to a straight flush (two gaps and no high cards)
  28. J-K or Q-K off suit
  29. Single ace
  30. 10-K suited
  31. J, Q, or K
  32. Four cards to an inside straight without a high card

Always choose the progressive jackpot machines

Many video slot machines have started to adopt the progressive jackpot mechanic commonly seen in video slots. The payout for a royal flush on these machines starts at the usual figure but grows once players start putting in the wagers. The potential payout resets after someone has won the royal flush.

The odds and the gameplay remain the same although some progressive video poker machines have a slightly lower payout. Nevertheless, due to the progressive mechanic, the jackpot prize can be worth millions, so it’s always worth taking a shot.