Video Poker

Slot machines and video poker games are lumped together as mechanical games but they offer entirely different game play once money goes into the slot. Video poker is one of the best plays against the house in a casino while slot machines carry one of the largest house edges. In video poker you control the play and always know the odds of making a winning combination whereas the percentages of symbols lining up in winning plays on the slot machine are always unknown.

While there is no such thing as a “hot” or “cold” machine, just like slots it is possible to find favourable games based on learning the vagaries of the paytables. The basic video poker game of Jacks or Better carries a house advantage of only 0.46% and some games with wild cards and bonus plays can actually deliver a rare player edge in a casino.

Video Poker History

It was a primitive machine but in his long gaming career Si Redd had learned to spot the potential in ungainly gaming contraptions. William Silas Redd was born on a sharecropper’s farm in the American South in 1911. When the Great Depression hit in the 1930s he started his own pinball business and when he started peddling a line of jukeboxes Redd landed in Nevada just as the state was legalising gambling. He bought into a nascent jukebox distributor named Bally and the first of many inventions he contributed to the progress of gaming was an oversized slot machine called “Big Bertha.”

In the 1970s, at an age when most were putting the finishing touches on retirement planning Redd began to champion a new type of electronic slot machine that dealt poker hands. After he was unable to convince the higher-ups at Bally to move forward on “video poker” he persuaded the company to let him patent the machine. The result was Draw Poker, which Redd marketed under the company name of Sircoma (an ungainly acronym for Si Redds Coin Machines).

Redd contracted with a Reno, Nevada outfit called Fortune Coin Company to manufacture the newfangled poker machines. He tweaked the rules of Draw Poker to make the lowest ranked hand to win on the paytable Jacks or Better rather than two pair. By 1981 video poker was the hottest new game in casinos and Sircoma evolved into International Game Technology (IGT) that became the world’s largest manufacturer of mechanical gaming machines.

How To Play Video Poker

A hand of video poker is generated exactly like a spin of the reels on a slot machine – by building credits from inserting money into a land-based machine or linking to an account online. The player has the option on how much to bet, typically between one and five coins. The cards are then delivered from a single deck which is electronically shuffled constantly. A five-card hand is dealt face-up on screen.

After the hand the player decides which cards to hold and which to discard – any and all cards can be mucked for a new hand. New cards are dealt to replace the discards and as soon as the final hand is completed any wins are paid according to the posted paytable.

Game Variations

Jacks or Better is the standard video poker game from which dozens of games are derived. Many are based on the paytable; if a full house returns 9X your stake and a flush returns 6X your bet the game is considered 9/6 or “full pay.” Other variations referred to as “Short-Pay” games are 9/5, 8/6, 8/5 and 7/5. You can also find games of Tens or Better.

Wild cards are introduced in a variety of fashions. Jokers Wild is dealt from an expanded deck that includes one or more jokers. In Deuces Wild the four deuces are wild and in Deuces and Jokers at least five cards in the deck are wild; getting all five wilds can return a maximum of 10,000 coins on a maximum five-coin bet. The minimum hand to return coins is bumped to Kings or Better and higher in these games.

There are many bonus games to choose from in video poker where there are additional payouts for certain hands. In Aces and Eights three additional prizes are awarded for four of a kind of aces, eights or sevens. Double Bonus bays big rewards for four aces and Double Double Bonus pays out extra for four aces with a low card kicker and half a royal flush.

Some games offer the option of doubling up a winning hand. If selected five cards are dealt and the furthest to the left is revealed. You select one of the remaining cards and it is higher than the upturned card your win is doubled. Video poker games can also be progressive, although it is not as common and the prizes are not as lucrative as with slot machines.

Multi-hand games are also available in video poker – 10, 50 and 100-hand games. As a general rule the best pay tables come with the single play games.

Video Poker Tips & Advice

Video poker is one of the best bets in any casino. Not only is the house edge on hands played with perfect strategy rarely higher than 1.5% but some games involving wild cards and bonuses can actually have an expected return to the player of over 100%. Before investing real money in online video poker you can study proven strategies and play practice hands to learn the correct strategy.

Always play the maximum number of coins on a video poker hand. The paytable jumps precipitously from four coins to five coins and tapping max bet is the way to bring the expected return beyond 100%. On average a royal flush will hit once every 40,400 hands although every hand is random so the best hands can arrive back-to-back or not show up for 250,000 hands.