Like slots, video poker is addictive. A lot of gamblers like the game because if they use the right strategy and manage their money properly, they can make their bankroll last a long time. In fact, in some circumstances (depending on the paytable), you can expect to win over the long run; a few video poker variants pay out 100%+ if you use an optimal strategy.
The problem is that most folks jump into the game without having a strategy in place. They know how to play poker and assume that will help them win in video poker. It won’t.
Outcomes in video poker have nothing to do with reading opponents or keeping track of pot odds. Instead, you’ll be playing a variation of five-card draw, pulling hands dictated by a random number generator. Your long-term results are thus determined by the game’s paytable and the odds of making certain hands.
Below, we’ll cover the 14 most important tips for playing video poker. Stick to them and you’ll maximize your chances of winning. Deviate from them and you’ll see your bankroll dwindle.
One quick note before we get started: the following tips reflect a basic strategy for Jacks or Better video poker. That’s important to keep in mind. When you visit Bovada Casino and Slots.lv, arguably two of the best online casinos you’ll find, you’ll notice they offer several video poker variants. Each variant warrants using a slightly different strategy.
On this page, we’re going to focus on Jacks or Better. We’ll dig into other variants in the future.
14 Keys To Playing Online Video Poker To Win
#1 – Always Play 5 Coins
Take a look at the paytables that accompany the different variants at Bovada and Slots.lv. Notice that each table displays five columns? The fifth column shows that you’ll receive a huge bonus if you make a Royal Flush. The payout goes from 1,000 for betting four coins to a staggering 4,000 for betting five coins.
Obviously, the odds of making a Royal Flush are slim (approximately 1 in 40,000). But if (or when) it hits, you’ll score a huge payday.
Always bet five coins to give yourself that opportunity. If necessary, lower the amount per coin so you can bet the maximum number of coins on each hand.
#2 – Play Single-Hand Video Poker
Jacks or Better at Bovada and Slots.lv comes in single-hand, 3-hand, 10-hand and 52-hand variants. Stick to the single-hand game. The odds of winning are better since it uses a more generous paytable. You can easily verify that for yourself.
The differences in the paytables for the single-hand and multi-hand variants are small. But those small differences have a large influence on your long-term results.
#3 – Review The Single-Coin Payouts For A Full House And Flush
Some online casinos use the following paytable for Jacks or Better video poker (for single-coin bets):
Royal Flush: 250
Straight Flush: 50
Four of a kind: 25
Full House: 8
Three of a kind: 3
Two Pair: 2
Jacks or Better: 1
Bovada Casino and Slots.lv use a slightly different table:
Royal Flush: 250
Straight Flush: 50
Four of a kind: 25
Full House: 9
Three of a kind: 3
Two Pair: 2
Jacks or Better: 1
Check out the payouts offered for a Full House and Flush. That’s where the difference lies.
At first glance, the disparity between the tables seems insignificant: 8 and 5 vs. 9 and 6 for a Full House and Flush (respectively). In reality, it’s huge. When you crunch the numbers, you’ll find the first table will return 97.29% of your money over the long run while the second table will return 99.54%. That shaves the house’s edge to a razor’s width.
#4 – Learn How Poker Hands Are Ranked
Strictly speaking, you can play video poker without having a clue regarding whether a Full House beats a Flush (it does) or whether two pair beats a three of a kind (it doesn’t). The casino software will keep track of everything for you.
But it’s in your interest to familiarize yourself with hand rankings. That way, you can make quicker decisions regarding which cards to hold. You’ll have a keener grasp of the odds of making certain hands.
Along those lines, the next several tips will address how to handle the hands you’re dealt. In a single 52-card deck, there are 2,598,960 possible 5-card hands. Knowing which cards to hold and which to discard will dictate how well you do over the long run.
Let’s take a look at some example hands…
#5 – Hold The High Card
Suppose you’re dealt the following:
This hand doesn’t contain much of anything with potential (low pair, four to a straight flush, etc). But there’s at least a high card. That’s something. In such cases, always hold the high card and get rid of the rest. Go for a potential high pair.
#6 – Hold Two High Cards
Now suppose you’re dealt the following hand:
Here, you’d want to hold both high cards. Your hope is that you’ll draw a Queen or King, making a pair that wins (remember, you need Jacks or better).
#7 – With Three Unsuited High Cards, Hold The Lowest Two
Let’s complicate things. Take a look at the following:
Here, your hand contains three high cards: Ace, King and Jack. Your first instinct might be to hold all three of them. Doing so gives you more opportunities to make a high pair on the draw. But that’s actually a bad decision. Keeping the three high cards prevents you from making a Full House.
When you’re faced with three high cards, hold the two lowest-ranking ones – in this case, the King and Jack. Discard the Ace along with the others and try to draw to a high pair.
#8 – With Three High Cards, Hold Two In The Same Suit
Let’s adjust the hand used in the previous example so that it contains three high cards with two of them in the same suit:
Here, we need to change our approach. Rather than holding the King and Jack, getting rid of the Ace, we would instead hold the Ace and Jack (suited high cards) and get rid of the King. The reasoning is that we want to take advantage of the opportunity to make a Flush or Royal Flush.
#9 – Don’t Bet On An Inside Straight
An inside straight is a hand that needs an “inside” number to make a full straight. Here’s an example:
Here, you need a 9 (the inside number) to complete the straight.
Inside straights are tough to make. For that reason, you should never try to draw to them. Rather than discarding the 2 and hoping to draw a 9, discard the entire hand and draw five new cards.
#10 – Try For The Flush
Take a look at this hand:
At first, it looks like you’re holding a whole lotta ‘nuthin. It’s junk, right?
Well, not so fast. With 4 cards showing hearts, you have a reasonably good chance of drawing to a Flush. So go for it rather than discarding the entire pile!
Having said that, if your hand contains a high pair, two pair or a three of a kind, forget the Flush. Your hand is already a winner.
#11 – Hold A Low Pair Over An Outside Straight
Here’s a tricky one. Take a close look at the following cards:
Should you discard the 2, 3 and 4, and try drawing to a three of a kind or two pair (or dare we dream a four of a kind)? Or should you jettison one of the 5s, and try to draw to the outside straight?
When faced with a hand like the one above, a lot of folks are tempted to try for the straight. But the correct play is to hold the pair. The odds of drawing to a winning hand are better going that route.
#12 – Try For The Flush Over A Low Pair
Now, what if the choice is between a possible Flush and a low pair? Check out this hand:
It’s tempting to hold the pair. It seems like a safer bet and try to draw to a three of a kind. But the correct play is to abandon the pair and go for the Flush. Given the payouts and the odds of drawing to a three of a kind vs. a Flush, you’re better off doing so.
The last two tips are a bit more holistic than the ones we’ve just covered.
#13 – Slow Your Roll
When you’re first learning how to play online video poker, limit the size of your bets. At Bovada Casino and Slots.lv, you can wager as little as nickel ($0.05) per hand.
Of course, as we noted above (ref. #1), you should always bet the maximum five coins. That means you’ll be betting a minimum of $0.25 per hand.
You can play 500 to 600 hands an hour. That being the case, resist the temptation to bet large in the hopes of rapidly building your bankroll. Slow things down. Bet small amounts and make your bankroll last while you learn the ropes. When you feel confident that you’re able to stick closely to the strategy outlined above, feel free to increase your bets.
#14 – Print Off A Strategy Chart
Don’t try to remember what to do in every possible circumstance – at least, not in the beginning. Print off (or write down) the following chart:
1. Full House or better
2. Four to a Royal Flush
3. Straight, three of a kind, or Flush
4. 4 to a Straight Flush
5. Four pair
6. High pair
7. Three to a Royal Flush
8. Four to a Flush
9. Low pair
10. Four to an outside Straight
11. Two suited high cards
12. Three to a Straight Flush
13. Two unsuited high cards (if more than two, pick then pick lowest two)
14. Suited 10/J, 10/Q, or 10/K
15. One high card
16. Discard all five cards
This chart shows what you should do given any hand. Always pick the highest-ranked circumstance. For example, suppose you have the following hand (we’ll use the one from tip #12):
Four to a Flush is ranked higher (#8) than a low pair (#9). According to how the hands are ranked in the chart, you should abandon the pair the 5s and try to draw to a Flush.
Keep the chart next to you while you play. Refer to it to make sure you follow a sound, consistent video poker strategy. If you try to memorize the chart right out of the gate, you’re almost certain to make costly mistakes. Let the memorization occur naturally. After you play a few hundred hands, you probably won’t need the chart.
In my experience, the top two online casinos to play video poker are Bovada Casino and Slots.lv. Both are legitimate, trustworthy and ultra-responsive to customers’ needs. Both offer generous bonuses. And importantly, both will allow you play video poker for free.
Once you get some experience under your belt, deposit money into your account and have a blast playing for real cash payouts!
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