Poker has been a longtime favorite of gamblers, so it was inevitable that casino owners would want to convert it into an electronic game for more casual players. The first major success was in 1979, when the game Draw Poker was released by SIRCOMA (which later became International Game Technology).
While most players on the casino floor continue to flock to the slots, an educated minority stick with video poker due to its ease of play and superior odds. The same is true of online video poker, as both versions are the rare case where the player can gain a mathematical advantage over the house under the right circumstances.
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How to Play
If you’ve never played video poker at online casinos before, I’m happy to report that it’s one of the easiest games to figure out. Most versions are played with a 52-card deck, although one or more jokers are sometimes added into the mix.
After the player makes his/her wager and presses the deal button, they’ll receive a five-card poker hand. At this stage, the player must decide which cards to retain and which to discard.
Once this decision has been made, the game replaces the discards with new cards. This gives the player a final five-card hand, and the payout is determined by its overall value in the game of poker.
Full Pay vs Short Pay
When deciding which video poker game to play, it’s always important to know if it’s a full pay or short pay game. A full pay offers the largest payout, which is usually expressed as 9/6. A short pay offers a smaller amount, such as 8/5.
The first number is the payout for a full house, while the second number expresses the payout for a flush. So in the case of a 9/6 game, a full house would pay 9:1 odds, while the flush would be worth 6:1.
Casinos can get greedy and lower the size of the payout, so it’s important to check before playing. Fortunately, all you have to do is look at the paytable for the required information.
Sample Pay Table
Most games of video poker are similar in regard to the rules, which is why the pay table is so important. Learning to understand the difference between these tables is important, as the long-term difference between a 9/6 and 8/5 game can be significant.
The following is an example of a video poker paytable. It’s taken from a game of 9/6 Jacks or Better, which is a full-pay machine with a house edge of 99.54% (assuming the player is using perfect strategy).
- Royal Flush – Pays 800 to 1
- Straight Flush – Pays 50 to 1
- Four of a Kind – Pays 25 to 1
- Full House – Pays 9 to 1
- Flush – Pays 6 to 1
- Straight – Pays 4 to 1
- Three of a Kind – Pays 3 to 1
- Two Pair – Pays 2 to 1
- Pair (Jacks or Better) – Pays 1 to 1 (even money)
Video Poker Bonuses
Casino bonuses are given out in order to lure in new players and retain existing ones, and they can be a welcome addition to your account if you’re willing to deal with the wagering requirements. Also known as the playthrough amount, wagering requirements are a multiple of the bonus (and often the deposit) that must be risked before money associated with the bonus is eligible for withdrawal.
Not all games satisfy these wagering requirements. Slot machines are always accepted, as their high house edge makes it likely that a player is going to burn through their bonus money while trying to meet the wager requirements. Since video poker offers the player a much better chance of success, it’s often excluded as a way to meet the playthrough amount, or it contributes much less relative to slot machines.
The following are some of the most popular forms found at the best video poker online casinos. Of course, the actual selection depends on which type of gaming software is being used by your casino of choice.
- Jacks or Better – The most common type of video poker game, it requires the player to get at least a pair of jacks in order to receive a payout.
- Tens or Better – The player needs at least a pair of tens to get paid. Since the required hand is easier to obtain, the payouts are smaller than Jacks or Better.
- Aces and Eights – While a pair of jacks or better is required for a payout, bonus amounts are also offered for four-of-a-kind aces, eights, or sevens.
- Deuces Wild – All two cards are wild, which means they can substitute for any other.
- Double Bonus – Played with perfect strategy and a full-pay machine, this game gives the player an advantage over the house. Most of the game is fairly traditional, but after any winning hand the player is given the option to double their money. This is done by selecting one of four face-down cards and hoping that it’s higher than a single face-up card.
- Double Jackpot – Bonus payouts are offered for various four-of-a-kind hands. Like the Double Bonus game, the player also has a chance to double their money after each winning hand.
- Joker Wild – Also known as Joker Poker, this game functions like Jacks or Better. The only difference is the addition of a wild joker that substitutes for any card.
- Double Joker – Played just like the previous game, except two jokers are in the deck instead of one.
- Loose Deuces – All two cards are wild, but the player needs at least a three-of-a-kind hand in order to receive a payout.
- Double Double Bonus – This is another version of video poker where the player can receive a return higher than 100% if played correctly (and with the right pay table). Like most games, a pair of jacks or better are required for a payout, although special bonuses are handed out for four-of-a-kind hands with certain kickers.
A Note on Perfect Strategy
No matter what type of Internet video poker you choose, there’s an available strategy card that tells you the optimal plays for each situation (known as “perfect strategy”). These are available at numerous online sites, and they give you the best available chance of winning over the long term. Since you’ll be playing at home, you don’t even have to worry about memorizing it.