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Video Poker Rules Explained – Guide for Noobs

Video Poker Rules of Play

Video poker rules are easy to understand even if the game feels a bit confusing at first. If you’re already familiar with how slots and poker are played, you will pick up video poker quickly.

This is because the hybrid poker game incorporates the randomness of slot machines with some of the elements of poker. Although the game is not as strategic as poker, you can use video poker basic strategy to optimize your odds.

Below we go through the rules of the most popular video poker variations.

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Video Poker Rules Guide Links

video poker game rules

Video Poker Rules of Play

As mentioned above, video poker is a fairly easy game to learn how to play. Before you start playing, you will need to familiarize yourself with poker hand combinations because these are the basis of each game.

Poker Hand Combinations

If have never played poker before, here is a list of the standard hand combinations ranked from best to worst:

  • Royal flush (A, K, Q, J, 10)
  • Straight flush (any five-card sequence in the same suit)
  • Four-of-a-kind (four cards of the same rank)
  • Full house (three-of-a-kind and a pair)
  • Flush (five cards of the same suit but not in the same sequence)
  • Straight (a five-card sequence with cards of any suit)
  • Three-of-a-kind (three cards of the same rank)
  • Two pair (two sets of two cards of the same rank)
  • Pair (two cards of the same rank)
  • High card (no combination)

Often, video poker variations slightly alter the standard set of hand combinations with a unique hand paying more than usual. While high card hand could payout in a standard poker game, it will never pay out in video poker.

The reason is that in video poker, you are not playing against anybody. You are simply trying to make the best hand combination you can. Keeping the high card hand would mean that every hand pays out.

It works similarly to slots that way as your actions are not affected by another player’s actions. However, you have a slight influence over the game’s outcome because you can choose cards to keep and discard.

Video Poker Rules

How to Play Video Poker Step-By-Step

Now that you know what you are looking for on the screen of a video poker game, here is how to play:

  1. As with all casino games, you need to place your bet before the round begins.
  2. After this, you will be dealt five cards.
  3. From these five cards, you will have the option to discard or keep some or all of them. This is a rule borrowed from poker.
  4. When you discard some cards, you will get cards to replace them. You will now have your final hand.
  5. Based on the ranking of your final hand, you will earn a payout.

As mentioned above, each video poker variation slightly alters the game’s rules. There are two main variations of the game: Jacks or Better and Deuces Wild. Every other game is a sub-variant of these two and uses the core rules slightly differently. We discuss how both work below.
rules of jacks or better

Jacks or Better Rules

Jacks or Better uses all the standard rules of video poker. The only difference is that the minimum payout is a pair of jacks. Anything lower (for example, a pair of tens) and you don’t win. While games may vary based on the developer, some games pay extra for any combination featuring Jacks.

For example, a four-of-a-kind consisting of Jacks may pay more than a four-of-a-kind featuring 10s. This is game dependent, though.

Video poker variations derived from Jacks or Better usually only change the minimum payout combination (for example, Tens or Better). Or, these variations change the combination that pays out the most (for example, four-of-a-kind combinations in Double Bonus Poker)

Another thing to note is that games derived from Jacks or Better are harder to win than games derived from Deuces Wilds. However, Jacks or Better games tend to payout more.
deuces wild video poker rules

Deuces Wild Rules

Deuces Wild is another core video poker variation that mostly follows standard game rules. The only difference is that the game introduces a wild card. So, you can use a wild card to complete more combinations.

A couple of rules were introduced to ensure the game retains an acceptable house edge. Firstly, the lowest-paying combination is a three-of-a-kind. This means that not even a hand featuring two pairs nets you a profit. The idea is that the wild makes it to easy to profit this way.

Secondly, high-paying hand combinations completed with a wild card pay out less than the standard version of the hand. For example, a Royal Flush with a wild card is worth less than just a normal Royal Flush.

Games derived from Deuces Wild usually change the wild card. The standard variation uses the number two card as a wild whereas other games may use a four, aces, or any other card.
video poker rules for payouts

Payout Rules

The highest-paying hand in video poker is a royal flush except in games such as Double Bonus Poker where a specified hand has the greatest value.

After two pairs, the minimum paying hand differs with each video poker variation:

  • In Jacks or Better, the minimum paying hand is a pair of Jacks.
  • The lowest-paying hand in Deuces Wild is a three-of-a-kind.
  • The lowest-paying hand in Double Bonus Poker is a 3-cards to flush with no high cards.

Sometimes online casinos introduce new video poker machines that feature new rules that deviate from the old. Progressive jackpot games also alter ratios to provide players with bigger payouts when they win. As such, we recommend that you look at the pay table before playing a new game.
video poker basic strategy

Video Poker Strategies

There is a video poker basic strategy you can use to improve your odds. As when you play blackjack, the strategy changes a bit based on whether you are playing Jacks or Better or Deuces Wild as both games have different lowest-paying winning hands.

These strategies have been created with machine learning. Basically, a computer played video poker over and over again and listed the moves that are most likely to lead to payouts based on probability.

We won’t go too much into detail about basic strategy here, but we will give you some general advice you should always keep in mind when you video poker:

Don’t ever give up a winning hand.

Winning hands are hard to come by, especially hands that payout a lot. Giving up a three-of-a-kind may seem like a good idea if you have your eyes on getting a Royal Flush, but it really isn’t. In some video poker games, there is something like 1 in 10,000 chance that you will get the best hand in the game.

So, giving up on a winning hand for something better is just a bad idea. Often, this is the reason that many beginner players have short gaming sessions.

Study game rules before you start playing.

We already detailed how video poker game variations differ above. Basically, don’t assume you know how a game works because you’ve played video poker before. Essentially, if you play a Jacks or Better game with Deuces Wild rules in mind, you might miss out on some opportunities and vice versa.

Knowing the rules of the game you would like to play is the simplest way to avoid making costly errors that could end your game session early.

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