When video poker was firstly introduced, it was struggling for acceptance. It was considered as a good substitute for slot machines and the machines were frequently introduced as “poker slots”. Slot players should think about graduating to video poker, since winning here is much more likely. Nevertheless, even if slot machines and video poker have a lot in common, one big difference is the required skill. Your decisions will affect the outcome of the game. The only thing to remember is that for video poker you need to learn and have a proper strategy, in order to win. If you intend to play it with just guessing around, you might actually do worse than you would with slots.

Since the cards are dealt randomly from a shuffled 52-card deck, or 53 cards, the frequency of possible combinations can be tracked and calculated, and a winning strategy can be made. However, why do casinos always offer beatable games? Well, it’s simply because a small percentage of people actually know the game basics. Video poker became one of the most known casino games, because of the Americans’ knowledge of poker hands. If you are ready to learn about this game, you came to the right article. First off, every playoff is based on a five-card hand, which can be ranked as follows:1

Royal flush: has to consist of Ace-king-queen-jack-10, and they all have to be of the same suit.

Straight flush: 5-same suit-cards in a sequence. If by any chance two players have the same hand, a straight flush, the cards will be compared by the highest rank.

Four of a kind: A hand must consist of four same ranked cards; for example, ace of hearts, ace of diamonds, ace of clubs, ace of spades.

Full house: Two cards of the same rank, and three cards of another rank; for example, king of diamonds, king of clubs, king of hearts, eight of clubs, eight of hearts.

Flush: A hand must consist of 5-same suit-cards; for example, king-queen-nine-eight-five all of clubs.

Straight: Five cards of mixed suits in a sequence; for example, ace of hearts, two of clubs, three of diamonds, four of diamonds, five of hearts.

Three of a kind: Three cards with the same rank; for example, jack of diamonds, jack of hearts, jack of spades.

Two pair: Two cards with the same rank, together with two cards of another rank; for example, queen of diamonds, queen of hearts, seven of clubs, seven of hearts.

One pair: This poker hand consists of two cards of one rank; for example ace of clubs, ace of diamonds.

Almost all machines with video poker are variations of a simple five-card draw poker game. Attempts were made to introduce the seven-card draw game on machines, but five-card draw basic games prevailed. Every machine will feature a video screen of the cards being dealt. When a player wins he receives credits that are displayed as a meter on his video screen, and they can be cashed out at any time. Some of the machines will have the pay table on the screens, while other will have their pay tables painted on glass. There is also a console that has a bill validator below the screen. It is meant for players to put in their currency and credits that they will later see on screen. Usually, there are buttons on the left marked “Bet One Credit” and “Cash Out”; there are also five buttons in the center that correspond to each dealt card, marked “Hold/Cancel”; on the right there are two buttons marked “Deal/Draw” and “Bet Max.”


The game begins when the player pushes the bet and deal buttons. Most of the machines will accept up to five credits or coins at a time. If the player pushes Bet Max, the machine will take five credits and will deal a hand. When you make your bet, five cards will be dealt on the screen. Then, you will have the option to hold or discard any or all of your cards. If you are satisfied with your hand, and want to hold, you need to push Hold/Cancel button matching to your chosen cards. You can hit the button again to cancel your decision. After making all of the hold decisions, you need to press the Deal/Draw button, after which all the cards that are not held will be discarded and new cards will be dealt. These five cards will be the final hand. The machine will then compare your five cards to the pay table, and if your cards are the winning hand, the corresponding number of credits will be given.

Some Jacks or Better versions return 99.5 percent with optimal play, and they are referred to as 9-6 machines. The credits you gain are decided by the amount of coins you put in; for example:


In different countries, there are different types of machines. In a lot of casinos through US, 8-5 machines are paying 8 for 1 on the full house and 5 for 1 on the flush, and sometimes 7-5 machines are given instead of the 9-6. An 8-5 machine has 97.9 percent of optimal play, and 7-5 machines have a 96.2 percent. Nevada is most likely to have a lot of 9-6 full-pay machines, however, they can also be found in Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Illinois, etc… Sometimes 8-5 pay tables are offered instead of 9-6 even in Nevada, so be sure to read the pay table before deciding to play. 10-6 and 9-7 were the best machines of Jacks or Better that were ever offered in Las Vegas. Optimal play of these two machines was more than 100 percent. Of course, casinos did not lose their money with these machines, since most of the video poker players are not that skilled to play at optimal level. Nevertheless, you should have in mind that even the most skilled players will lose more on these 100-percent machines.

It is always good to have your own strategy, and this article will help you make one. Most players will be able to improve their chances just by following a bunch of simple holding and discarding rules. You should always hold a straight flush, royal flush, full house, four of a kind, three of a kind or two pairs. If you get three of a kind, you should always discard the remaining two cards for a better chance of getting four of a kind, and having a chance at a full house. With two pairs, you should also discard the last card for a chance of a full house.

You should only break up a straight or a flush if you have four cards to a royal flush; for example, if you have an ace-king-queen-jack-9, all of the same kind, you should discard the 9 for a chance to get a 10 of the same kind. With discarding that 9, you will open the possibilities of getting a flush with any other card of the same kind, a straight with any kind of 10, or a pair of jacks, aces, kings or queens. Remember to always keep a lower pair of cards instead of one higher card. A four-card open straight has an opening either at the beginning or at the end to complete the hand; for example, a hand of 3-4-5-6 can use either a 2 at the beginning or a 7 at the end. An inside straight has a middle space that needs to be filled if you want to complete the hand; 3-5-6-7 needs a 4 to become straight. Such open straights give players a better chance at winning.


When you get use to the quick strategy, you might want to learn a more complex and more accurate strategy. This strategy is useful on the common 8-5 and 7-5 Jacks or Better machines. Just as in the previous strategy, there are some hands that are never broken up. Obviously, if you are lucky enough to be dealt a royal flush, you hold all five cards. (In larger payoffs, the machine will screen “Jackpot” or “Winner!”. In these cases you will more likely be paid by an attendant than a machine. Keep in mind that you should not put more coins in before you get your money.) Also, hold all five cards if you have a full house or a straight flush. If you have four matching cards, you should hold them for a four of a kind. If you have three of a kind, you should hold them but discard the other two for a chance to get the four of a kind or a full house.

Sometimes, the player might break up a flush, a pair of jacks or better or a straight. If you are in a situation where you do not have one of the “always keep” cards, you should try discarding cards that will give you an opportunity for something bigger. For example, if you have a jack of diamonds, 9 of diamonds, 10 of diamonds, jack of spades, and 8 of diamonds, you have a pair of jacks or better and four cards to an open straight flush. In this situation, you should discard the jack of spades and draw the four-card straight flush. But, always remember to keep a straight flush, royal flush, three of a kind, full house, four of a kind, or two pairs. If you cannot see any possible outcome by keeping any of the given cards, you should discard all of them.

Last but not least, don’t ever over-bet your bankroll. If you feel comfortable with playing for the maximum number of coins, then do so. You should have in mind that the video poker machines are able to pay back a high percentage of money you put into them, and the payouts are quite unpredictable. Giving five or ten hands with no payouts is not unusual. Unlike some casino games, with video poker all you really need is patience, and with the rules from this article, you might come out ahead, for once.