Online Video Poker

Video Poker Machine PhotoVideo poker is a favorite of millions of players and is hugely popular in both landbased and online casinos. The game is not that difficult to comprehend and is preferred by many because of its dynamics and low house edge. If you have ever played slots, you undoubtedly will notice a similarity between this game and video poker since the latter resembles an arcade to a great extent. Unlike slots, however, video poker is not entirely based on chance since players are able to profit by incorporating certain strategies into their gameplay. It is precisely decision-making that renders video poker a more exciting game to play.

Those who have previous experience at the regular poker tables will find it even easier to play since the game is based on the standard five-card draw variation of poker. What further increases the appeal of this enticing game is the possibility of collecting large payouts as well as the anonymity it offers, which renders it the perfect option for those who prefer to play alone. Since video poker combines both luck and skill, its popularity continues to increase, with hundreds of brick-and-mortar and web-based casinos offering exhaustive collections of variations of the game.

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Where Video Poker Originated From

Before we proceed with explaining the basic principle of play in video poker, we would like to say a few words on when, where and how the game first emerged. You may be surprised to learn that the origins of video poker can be traced back to the end of the 19th century. What is not surprising, though, is the fact the video poker and slots are closely related since the two are based roughly on the same principle.

The prototype of all video poker machines was first introduced in 1891 by the Sittman and Pitt Company of Brooklyn and consisted of five drums, containing standard playing cards. When players inserted a coin and pulled the lever, the five drums would rotate and eventually pay out if a valid poker hand was formed.

At the turn of the 20th century, the father of the slot machine, Charles Fey, created the first ever video poker machine which was capable of automatically awarding monetary prizes to the players who succeeded in forming the highest-ranking hand, the Royal Flush. Fey was also the person to introduce the first machine which had the Hold functionality – a feature all video poker machines share today, allowing players to choose which cards to keep and which ones to discard in an attempt to improve their hand.

This was followed by the addition of the Draw feature which introduced a certain degree of skill to the game and video poker quickly took off, with machines being available in the majority of liquor stores and smoke shops throughout the United States. The interesting thing about the early machines was they did not contain the entire deck of 52 cards since the Jack of hearts and the Ten of spades were removed – something many of the players had no idea about. This is important, because the removal of these two cards, in particular, decreases the probability of forming a Royal Flush with about 50%.

The game continued to evolve throughout the years and the first ever electronic video poker machine made its entry to the market in the 1970s. This was followed by the installation of hundreds of video poker machines on casino floors all over Las Vegas in the 1980s. What further gave the game’s popularity a massive boost was changing the lowest-ranking hand from Two Pair to a pair of Jacks or Better.

Today, video poker is one of most widely played casino games in the world, with many different variations being available online and in landbased gambling venues. Some of the most well-known variants include Jacks or Better, Deuces Wild, Aces and Faces, Tens or Better, and Double Bonus Poker, among others.

Video Poker Photo of First Machine

Video Poker Machines and Their Layout

The great thing about video poker is that one does not necessarily have to be a genius in order to get a proper understanding of how the game works. The online variations of the game are played precisely the same way and feature roughly the same components as the machines in landbased venues.

The base-game screen features all the necessary information players need. Half of the screen is occupied by the payout table which consists of a list containing all qualifying winning hands. These are typically enumerated in descending order, starting with the highest ranking hands. Next to each qualifying hand, players will be able to see the respective payouts for winning bets of one, two, three, four or five coins. The five cards players are dealt per hand are usually positioned directly below the paytable.

The gaming controls are quite easy to grasp. Players can bet a single coin with one click of the Bet One button. It is also possible to wager the maximum number of coins, which is five, by clicking on the Bet Max button. The coin denomination can also be adjusted, usually by clicking the buttons that read “-” and “+”. The most widespread denominations you can use include 0.02, 0.05, 0.10, 0.25, 0.50 and 1.00. The coin values may differ depending on the game’s software developer but generally, the maximum denomination available is set to 1.00 credit. The function of the Deal button is pretty much self-explanatory. Some video poker variants offer the Double Up functionality when players succeed in forming a winning hand to double or even triple their profits.

It is important to mention that similarly to slots in both landbased and online casinos, the outcome of video poker is governed by programs (or computer chips in landbased venues), called Random Number Generators or RNG. The RNG produces a series of numbers, usually quite long, which represent each of the 52 cards in the virtual deck (or 53 cards in variants like Joker Poker). The RNG ensures the fairness and randomness of the game and continues to produce these long sequences of numbers until a player eventually clicks on the Deal button.

When this happens, the RNG automatically deals five cards at random. This piece of software produces hundreds of outcomes per second, even while no one is there to play the video poker game. It is impossible to predict what hand you will be dealt since the RNG has billions of outcomes for any set of cards. With around 16 quintillion possible outcomes in most video poker variants, players can rest assured the games are just as random as if the cards have been dealt from a well-shuffled deck.

One essential thing players need to remember is that the results are ultimately decided by the RNG and are not dependent on extraneous factors such as previous outcomes, the number of coins wagered or their denomination.

Video Poker Layout

How Video Poker is Played

Less seasoned players will be astonished at how simple it is to play video poker. The game is based on five-card draw poker and Jacks or Better is the basis of most online variations you may play. The objective of the players is to form the highest-ranking qualifying hand, listed in the paytable. The majority of video poker variants utilize a standard deck containing 52 cards. The only exceptions to this rule are the Joker Wild variants where the Joker serves as a replacement for other cards and thus, enables players to improve their hand.

In many instances, the lowest-ranking hand is a pair of jack or higher like aces, kings or queens, but of course, it all depends on which video poker variant you have chosen. In stark contrast to regular poker, there is no dealer’s hand and players are not competing against each other.

Video poker enables players to bet anywhere between one and five coins per hand. Once you have selected the coin value and number of coins you want to bet, you need to hit the Deal button, after which, you will be dealt five random cards. When you evaluate the strength of the hand you have, you can choose which cards to hold and which ones to discard. Then, you need to click the Deal button again, so that the discarded cards are randomly replaced with new ones from the remaining deck.

Once your cards are replaced, the game will pay you out on winning hands according to the paytable. In many cases, the ranking of the hands coincides with that in standard casino poker, with players being able to form Royal Flush, Straight Flush, Four of a Kind, Full House, Flush, Three of a Kind, and Two Pairs. Make sure you get well acquainted with these rankings before you proceed to make any real-money bets on video poker.

Some online variants of the game, like those created by popular developers Betsoft and Playtech, enable players to double their profits on winning hands. In order to do so, players need to select an additional card which is higher than that of the virtual “dealer”. Those who draw a higher card will have their winnings doubled or even tripled.

Reading the Video Poker Paytable

One of the biggest advantages of playing video poker stems from the fact you will not have to struggle to evaluate your final hand as the game will automatically do it for you. The paytable is, in fact, the most important feature of the entire game since it indicates the profits players collect on winning hands. Strangely enough, a great number of players overlook its importance.

As soon as the game loads, you will notice the paytable positioned in the upper section of the screen. Normally, it is divided into six columns and the first one is where the winning hands are listed, starting from the highest-ranking one. The remaining five columns list the credits you can win for each hand, depending on the number of coins you have bet. Thus, if you bet three coins of a 0.10 denomination and form a Flush, for instance, and the paytable reads 12 credits for a three-coin bet, you will receive a total of $3.60 or the equivalent in your preferred currency.

You may notice there is a vast difference in the payouts for a Royal Flush when the player has bet four or five credits. In many variants of the game, a Royal Flush pays out 1,000 credits for four-coin bets, while winners receive 4,000 credits for this hand if they have bet five coins. This usually serves as an incentive for players to bet the maximum number of credits allowed in a given game.

Players, who are new to video poker, should learn to recognise the so-called “full-pay” games because even minute reductions in the payback influences the overall chances of walking away on profit. Gambling operators are rather smart in this respect as sometimes they manage to “disguise” the reduction with an overall drop in payouts of lower-ranking hands which have a higher probability of winning while boosting the payouts of higher-ranking hands which occur on rare occasions only. Do have in mind that the probability of hitting a Royal Flush is minuscule at 0.000154%. Meanwhile, if you play a video poker game where the Royal Flush pays out 4,700 credits for five-coin bets instead of 4,000, this will improve your overall payback by 0.35% only. That is why, you should always check the payouts on lower-ranking hands as well.

Jacks or Better Paytable
Coins 1 2 3 4 5
Royal Flush 250 500 750 1000 4000
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 Pair 2 4 6 8 10
Jacks or Better 1 2 3 4 5

How Video Poker Differs from Standard Poker

While most of the hand rankings in video poker and standard poker coincide, there are many aspects in which the two games differ. The biggest difference between the two is the fact video poker players are competing neither against each other, nor against a dealer. What starting hand you are dealt depends entirely on the game’s Random Number Generator.

While video poker calls for some decision-making, it is important to mention the level of skill required in this game is much smaller than that in regular poker. A base knowledge of the game will suffice in order to play video poker recreationally. In comparison, standard poker calls for nurturing a set of skills like the understanding of probability and poker combinatorics, emotional control, attention to details, as well as the ability to vary one’s play and to pick up tells from their opponents. Standard poker requires a good amount of time and patience which is not the case with its RNG cousin. The psychological factor is also removed from video poker.

Another difference is how winners are actually paid out. As becomes evident, the payouts in video poker are predetermined, fixed and listed in the games’ paytables. This is not the case in cash games and tournaments where players contribute to the pot. Also, in standard poker, there are several betting rounds while in video poker there is only one decision to make and it is which cards to hold – after the draw, you either get paid or lose.

The good thing about video poker is that there is no way for someone to prevail over you if you have a lower-ranking hand, for instance, Two Pair. Since no other players are involved in the game, no one can beat your Two Pair with a Flush, for example. Furthermore, the “size” of the hands, for lack of a better word, is completely irrelevant in video poker since the worth of a nine-high Flush is precisely the same as that of a seven-high Flush.

The bottom line is in both video poker and standard poker, the players, who have devoted their time to mastering the game and have carefully studied its peculiarities, that ultimately do better than those who are poorly prepared. Such is the case with most things in life and poker is hardly an exception.