Inside Look At Video Poker


Welcome to our article on video poker. My name is Steve Bourie and I’m the author of the American casino guide. Which is the number one bestselling book in the US about casino gambling.

Traveland the only book that comes with more than one thousand dollars in casino coupons. If you want to know more about me, or my book just go to my website at

 As a gambling author I spend a lot of time in casinos. My favorite game to play is video poker it’s really a good game for all levels of players and in this article, I’m going to show you how video poker machines work and how you can win on them.

 video poker

First, let me ask you this. Do you know the main difference between a video poker machine a slot machine? Well if you said a slot machine is a game of luck and video poker is a game of skill then you are correct. 

When you play a slot machine you put in your money and pull the handle or push that spin button. You hope that you’re lucky enough to get a winning combination.

In video poker however, it is your skill in playing the cards that affects the outcome of the game. Now besides the skill factor there is one other big difference between video poker and slot machines.

You never know what percentage a slot machine is set to pay back to the public.

Slot, Machines

But you can always calculate a video poker machine’s pay-back percentage. Just by looking at its pay table, this is a very important because, it allows you to go into a casino and easily tell which video poker machines are programmed to pay back the most money.

So, those are the two main differences between slots and video poker and I’ll return to those differences shortly but first let me give you a brief rundown on the basics of how to play. 

Video poker is like playing a game of five card poker. The only difference is that you have no opponent to beat and you can’t lose more than your initial bet.

First you deposit from one to five coins in the machine to make your bet. You are then shown five cards on the video screen and your goal is to try to make the best poker hand possible from those cards.

Since it is a draw game you’re given one opportunity to improve your hand.

rome casino video poker

This is done by allowing you to discard from one up two of five cards from your original hand. Of course, you don’t have to discard any if you don’t want to, but usually you want to replace some cards to improve your hand. 

After choosing which cards you want to keep you then push the draw button, the machine will replace all of your discards with new cards based on the resulting final hand the machine will then pay according to the pay schedule posted on the machine.

Naturally the better your hand the higher the amount the machine will pay you back. So those are the basics of how to play video poker, but now let’s go back and talk about those two big differences between slots and video poker.

How you can use that information to help you become a long-term winner at video poker. 

video poker ad

If you see how to win at slots video on YouTube where I explain how slot machines work, you know that slot machine manufacturers have a lot of flexibility when it comes to programming their machines.

If they want a machine to pay back less money to the players, they simply program in more losing combinations and if they want a slot to pay back more money they just program in more winning combinations.

 The problem for you as a player is that when you walk up to a slot machine you have no idea what it’s programmed to pay back. Fortunately, when you play video poker you won’t have that problem.

You see, with video poker machines the manufacturers can’t increase or decrease the number of winning and losing combinations they program into the machines.

real poker

The reason they can’t do that is because the number of winning and losing combinations are all based on a 52-card deck and therefore the number of those combinations are identical on all video poker machines.

Of course, I’m not including games with jokers here, but any video poker game played with a 52-card deck has exactly 2,598,960 unique five card poker hands possible and every time you push the deal button you will be dealt one of those hands.

 Now you may be wondering if the manufacturers can manipulate the winning and losing combinations and how can they change the payback percentages to make machines pay out less or more.

Well the answer is they do that by simply paying you less when you get a winning hand. To get a better understanding in this let’s look at a 9/6 Jacks or Better machine.

jokers are wild

On this machine the jacks or better part refers to the fact that you won’t win anything unless you have at least a pair jacks and the 9/6 part refers to the payback schedule.

Nine coins for a full house and six coins for a flush. This is one of the best games you can find in a casino.

It is known as a full pay machine and the expected return on this machine when you play the maximum five coins and use perfect strategy is 99. 54 percent. 

Now when a casino wants to make more money on their video poker machines, they will offer a lower pay table and that change is almost always made in the pay offs for the full house and the flush.

jacks are better

For instance, on one machine you may only get paid eight coins for a full house, while another may only pay seven and another just six.

On the flush pay off the only change is that they’re usually reduced from six to five. Every time one of these payoffs is reduced by one coin, the effect is that the payback percentage is reduced by about 1. 1percent.

So, if you had a 7/5 jacks or better machine that returned seven coins for a full house and five coins for a flush, the expected return on that machine would be 96. 15 percent, rather than the 99. 54 percent on a 9/6 Jacks or Better machine.

As you can see it it’s always a good idea to look at the pay table at the video poker machine to make sure you’re playing the game offering the highest return.


Many times, casinos will scatter higher-paying and lower-paying machines throughout the casino and it’s up to you to spot the better ones. You need to be careful however, that you are comparing the pay table on the same type machine.

You can’t compare a jacks or better machine to a bonus game or double bonus or double double bonus or deuces wild.

If you like to play jacks or better than just take a few minutes to walk to the casino and look at the pay tables on all the jacks or better machines.

You’ll probably find some variations on the full house and flush payoffs. Just be sure to play on the machine where the payoffs are the highest for those hands.

Remember that the probability of getting a full house in all those jacks or better machines is the exact same so why would you want to settle for seven coins for a full house when another machine in the same casino may offer you 8 or 9?

many slot machine banner

Every video poker machine’s payback percentage can be mathematically calculated but it’s impossible to do that on your own.

You can buy a software program to do it, but it’ll cost anywhere from thirty dollars to fifty dollars. Another option is to just go to our website at and visit our video poker section.

In that area you’ll see an article called video poker pay tables just click on that and it will bring up a list of the most common pay tables along with the notation of the payback percentage for that pay table.

Now that you know how to find the best machines to play you’ll need some help with the strategy. It turns out that video poker is similar to blackjack in a sense that there is a basic strategy.

There is always one best way to play your hand in any given situation. How is that strategy determined?

video poker background

Well of course it’s done with computers. There are 32 different ways any five-card poker hand can be played, and the computer will analyze all 32 of those plays to come up with an expected value for each play.

This expected value which is referred to as EV by knowledgeable video poker players. This is the key to making your decisions and the play that delivers the highest EV is how you should always play your hand.

Let’s say you’re on a 9/6 Jacks or Better machine and you’re dealt the following hand which includes a pair of 10s and four hearts. Should keep the tens or go for the flush?

Well if you look at the computer analysis for this hand. You’ll see that if you keep the pair of 10s the EV of that hand is a little better than 4.

1 point but if you keep the four cards flush the EV is much higher at more than 5. 7 coins, so the correct answers that you should keep the four-card flush.

people at video poker slot machines

Because, that expected value is the highest, as you see just like a machine’s pay back percentage can be calculated.

So, can the correct strategy for playing any hand, but once again you will need to buy a software program costing up to fifty dollars. However, there are also strategy charts you can buy that will show you how to play your hands properly and those cost around five dollars.

Keep in mind that the strategy will change slightly whenever the pay table is changed so, you need to make sure you are using the proper strategy for each pay table.

poker online

If you want to get some video poker strategy charts for free you can do that on our website at

Just go to the video poker section and click on the article title free video poker strategy charts. You can then print out any of those charts and bring them with you to the casino.

One last thing I want to mention about video poker is that at unlike slot machines you can find machines are set to return more than 100 percent. And how you may ask can a casino offer a game with an expected return of more than one hundred percent?  

10s are better

Wouldn’t they lose money on that machine? Well yes, they would lose money if everyone who played that machine knew the right strategy but ninety-nine-point nine percent of the people who play that game don’t know how to play it properly, so they won’t even come close to achieving that 100 percent return.

Therefore, the casino can still make money on that game. So, there you have it hopefully I’ve answered most of your questions about video poker and the next time you visit a casino you’ll be able to easily choose the best paying machines and use the proper strategy.

Thanks for reading and best wishes for good luck on your next visit to the casino!

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