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Video Poker Strategy - Tips to Remember

19 February 2024

When you play online slots, you don’t have much place to make a strategy other than deciding on the size of your bet or potentially buying the bonus feature, if available. You just set the bet, push play and hope for the best. And the house always has a better edge in slot games than in video poker, for example, which could affect your choice of a casino game to play.

If you choose to play poker, you should know that video poker is different from regular poker played at land-based or online casinos. The most notable difference is it’s played on a machine and without opponents, so you rely on your instincts, knowledge of the game, and a bit of luck to win.

And that’s where having a solid video poker strategy comes in handy. When you have a strategy to follow, it’s easier to build your game and make decisions about your cards and next moves. But what strategy do you use, and how do you implement it? Read our video poker strategy guide to find out.

Why Use a Video Poker Strategy?

While it’s true that poker, much like other casino games, is a game of chance, it is also a game of skill and strategy, one that you can learn and practice to perfect. Video poker was among the first games to appear at online casinos, giving players plenty of time to develop strategies or adjust them to the online environment.

Using a strategy in video poker is vital for boosting your chances of winning. When you have a clear strategy, it sets you up for success if the cards play your way. You will, of course, need to know all the rules of the game first and the strength of the cards you hold so you will know how to control them and what to play.

Choosing the right strategy for your game will depend on the game variation you pick and the cards you get at the beginning of the game.

What Is the Best Strategy for Video Poker?

video poker shouldn’t be a guessing game, and our advice is that you learn as much as you can before you start playing. It’s not too complicated, but it takes time and, of course, practice to understand all the combinations and what to do with the cards that you get. So, what is the best strategy for video poker?

The answer is the infamous: it depends. An optimal strategy for video poker that works for every game variation probably doesn’t exist, but it depends on the preferred playing style and the cards you get in the initial hand. Let’s look into some basics first.

1. Understand Video Poker Pay Tables

Video poker machines have their pay tables, and they are available to you on display when picking the machine you’d like to play on. You have probably noticed that slots have pay tables as well, and video poker paytables are similar, showing how much you can win for each winning poker hand you have. 

The pay tables start from the highest-value wins and work their way down to the lowest-paying hands. Video poker machines have different pay tables, so you should look for ones that offer better payments, as that is particularly significant in the long run. The payout will also depend on whether you play with one or more coins, with the highest payouts being for five coins per game.

2. Use a Video Poker Strategy Chart

A strategy chart is an excellent tool for beginners, designed to help you understand your hand and tell you what cards you should keep and what to replace. As with the pay tables, the chart also typically starts from the best, top-paying hands and works its way down to all other potential combinations and options.

A video poker strategy chart can tell you if there is room for improvement in your hand and suggest how many cards you should replace to actually try to improve your hand. The chart lists the names of the starting hand (so you should know them by the time you start playing, or at least have a reminder next to you) and gives ideas on what hand they can improve to if you replace your cards and get the right ones in the next dealing.

3. Learn Poker Hand Rankings

It goes without saying that you need to know what a poker hand combination is and how valuable it is in the game of poker. The best poker hand you can possibly get is a Royal Flush, and you need an Ace, King, Queen, Jack and Ten, all of the same suit, to get this hand. Truth be told, it is an extremely rare hand, but it always beats all other hands.

Another rare but very valuable hand is a Straight Flush. It is a hand where you get five cards in the same suit in sequential order, whatever cards those might be. Only a Royal Flush beats a Straight Flush, so you understand why it’s such a valuable hand.

Four of a Kind is also a highly ranked poker hand, as it can’t be improved further, and so are a Full House, a Flush or a Straight. Full House means that you have three cards of the same rank and another two of the same rank, for example, three Queens and two nines. Flush means that you have five cards of the same suit, and Straight means you have five cards in sequential order, no matter the suit.

Apart from these strong hands, there are other hands with great potential for winning, so make sure to know them so you can recognise them and replace the right cards when a video poker strategy chart tells you to do so.

4. Understand the Role of RTP

First things first: what does RTP mean? RTP, or the theoretical Return to Player, is the percentage of invested funds players can expect to get back from a casino game over a longer period of time. It is the percentage that the game providers calculate based on the game mechanics and other factors.

The RTP could also be understood as a means to calculate the house edge or the online casino’s profit margin. So, if the RTP sits at 95%, for example, the house edge for that game is 5%. That doesn’t mean that you will necessarily get the RTP value of your invested funds every time you play, but theoretically, it’s what players could get over time.

Video poker, again theoretically, has a higher RTP than most slots, especially because it requires some knowledge of the game, skills and strategy to play. When you look for a machine to play video poker, make sure to check the RTP it indicates on the pay tables. The higher the RTP, the better, especially over time. Lower payouts on the pay tables also mean that the RTP for the game is lower, and you should probably find a better option.

5. Know When to Break a High Pair

Whether or not to break a high pair is a tough decision to make, especially for a novice video poker player. Every video poker strategy guide will tell you to keep a high pair when there are no other useful cards in the hand, and that is quite an obvious thing to do. But what do you do when the situation is a bit more complicated?

Let’s say you’re holding a high pair, and your other cards show the potential to form a Straight Flush or even a Royal Flush. If your strategy is to win as many hands as possible and you don’t necessarily want to risk for those wins to be the highest possible, then you shouldn’t break a high pair even if there is a chance at winning a Royal Flush. If your calculations tell you that you could make a bigger win based on your cards, you can consider taking that risk.

A high pair is actually a medium-strong hand, and you should keep it in most situations and try to improve your hand by replacing the other three cards. Our advice is only to consider breaking a high pair when your other cards show huge potential for a much bigger win.

Optimal Video Poker Strategy for Most Popular Variations

Strategies can differ based on the video poker variation you choose to play, and based on the variation you choose, you can find your optimal strategy for video poker. The most popular variation is Jacks or Better, but Deuces Wild is also among players’ favourites. Let’s see what are some strategies that could work for each of the most popular video poker variations:

Jacks or Better Video Poker Strategy

Jacks or Better is called that because the lowest-paying hand is a pair of Jacks. Other stronger winning hands are like in other video poker games, but if you are holding a pair in the end, you can only win it it’s a pair of Jacks or higher. 

So, if, in the initial hand, you get no matching cards, but you get Jacks or a card of higher value, keep that one and replace others. If you get no combination and no Jacks or higher, don’t hesitate to draw all five new cards.

When it comes to drawing cards that have the potential to form winning combinations like Royal Flush, Straight Flush, Full House, or any other strong card combination, hold them and replace the ones you don’t need. Remember only to break a high pair when you have a four to a Royal Flush in the game of Jacks and Better.

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