Video Poker Strategy

Page Updated: 13th May 2014

Big B Casinos Video Poker Strategy Guide for playing at Online Casinos

Recently Video Poker has experienced an enormous gain in popularity. Today the game is played by more people in more online casinos than any other game with the exception of slots. Many people are attracted to video poker because, unlike slots, a player’s knowledge of the game and level of skill can actually affect the outcome of the game. Video poker machines give hours of entertainment and if you are playing at the expert level you can put your payoff expectations at close to 100%. The reason that this is even feasible is because most players don’t play anywhere near the expert play level.

The first versions of video poker required two Pair or better for a win, however when the pay schedule was changed to include a high pair, the popularity of the game boomed enormously. After this and onslaught of different versions of the game evolved. To play video poker online is very simple, once you find the game you want to play, place your bet, put in one to five coins and the first cards are dealt. From the five cards that are dealt to you, decide which of the cards if any, you want to keep. After this decision is made, click the draw button to get your final cards. Once all of your final cards have been dealt, the machine will recognize the ranking of your hand and pay you according to the paytable.

Here are a couple of tips, or a video poker strategy that you can addopt that will bring your skill level close to expert and greatly improve your chances of winning. There are several varieties of video poker that can be found with very different payouts on the same winning hands. The overall win depends on the pay schedule of the particular machine that you are playing. The cards in Video Poker machines are randomly dealt, so a low pay schedule will not be offset by a machine making more winners, nor will a high pay schedule be offset by fewer winners on the machine, so that theory that a machine can run hot or cold is not something you should rely on. Shopping around for the best paying machines is a very important part of being a player at the expert level. The expert player knows that to get a top return you must play the machines that pay out the best. Machines that vary from the full pay schedule do so at the expense of the inexperienced player. They lower the payout on frequent winners and increase it on the less frequently paid hands. Any little reduction in payback is unfavorable because it can have a serious impact on your chances of winning. As a guideline, a one unit payout reduction on straights, flushes or full houses will reduce the payback about 1% each. In four of a kind payouts reductions can cost the player even more. With all of this in mind there is no real need to settle for substandard games, because the trend towards increasing the number of full pay machines is in full swing. As a result of this, the casinos have taken notice to an increased number of video poker players. If the machine that you are looking at does not have the payback posted, then look at the chart on the machine and pick the one that pays the most for a full house and a flush, the greater the return the higher that machines pays out.


The following is an example on a jacks or better machine.

Machine Return Approx. Machine Payback
9 for a full house / 6 for a flush 99.5%
8 for a full house / 5 for a flush 97.4%
7 for a full house / 5 for a flush 96.3%
6 for a full house / 5 for a flush 95.2%

A Simple Strategy

Playing with a 52 card deck, ignoring the order of the cards within the hands, there are exactly 2,598,960 unique 5 card hands that can be your initial hand dealt. Las Vegas style Jacks or Better offers odds of winning at 46% of hands dealt:

Number of times you win once in every X number of hands

Hand Once in X number of hands
Royal Flush 40 165
Straight Flush 9 610
Four of a Kind 423
Full House 87
Flush 92
Straight 90
Three of a Kind 13
Two Pairs 8
High Pair 4,6
Non-winners 54% of hands
  • The payouts for each hand combination are attached to the machine along with the maximum number of coins. It is always wise to play the max in order to be eligible for the bonus payout for the highest ranking hand; the royal flush. Also make sure that the machine has accepted all of the coins you deposited before playing in the even that you do get a big win, so you can get that extra bonus.
  • Progressive Video Poker machines are a very good way to go; they can pay out enormous amounts for a royal flush and make the payout more in line with the difficulty of getting a royal flush, which is about 1 in 40,000 hands. Look for the progressive machines that are showing 80% of the payoff amount $2000 on a machine that has a payoff of $2500, and be sure to play the required number of coins to be eligible for the big win.
  • Remember that in video poker you are playing a machine that is programmed to only payoff when a player has one of the posted hands. This is said so that you don’t have to bother holding a kicker card, because it only works when playing against other players the machine doesn’t care what you are holding, not to mention that you have lost the opportunity to draw a better card.
  • Along the same lines don’t draw to an inside straight; the odds of getting that fourth card are very slim. If you have an open ended straight, four consecutive cards and one is needed at either end to fill the straight, you might want to take that chance; the straight is a good payoff.
  • Always hold any pair vs. holding that high kicker. Many players would discard a pair of twos and keep one or more high cards, to try for the three of a kind will give you better odds than hoping for a higher pair.
  • Always keep a high pair vs. a four card open straight, a four card flush or a three card royal, going for the three of a kind is the safer bet because then at worst you have at least recovered your bet.
  • Keep a low pair over a four card open end straight, the pair has more value as a three of a kind than going for the elusive straight.
  • A three card royal should be kept over almost everything because it has a much better payout and it well worth the risk taken.
  • Never be afraid of drawing five cards, there is no sense in keep bad cards when there is a chance for at least a low ranking winning hand.

Basic Strategy Chart

You are dealt Draw the following Cards
4 of a kind or better 0-1 cards (Trade in 5th if wild cards available)
4 cards to a royal 1 card
Full house or flush 0 cards (keep all your cards)
3 of a kind 2 cards
4 card straight flush 1 card
Straight 0 cards (keep all your cards)
2 pair 1 card
High pair 3 cards
3 cards to the royal 2 cards
4 card flush 1 card
Low pair 3 cards
4 card straight 1 card
3 card straight flush 2 cards
2 high cards 3 cards
1 high card 4 cards
Garbage 5 cards