Everything you need to know about Video Poker

in Casino blog
Created: 13 May 2018
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Video poker is one of the top popular game categories you can encounter at online casino sites. The land based machine experienced the height of its popularity during the 1980’s, and then the game was transferred to the online casino platform, when the interest flared up again among bettors around the world. It’s not simple to compare video poker to any other gambling item - it is a unique creation that combines elements of video slots and Texas Hold’em poker, adding a variety of extra features and distinguishing options. Video poker is available at lower stakes than some other parlour casino games and it’s a game where the player’s decisions truly make a difference.

A Bit of History

Precursors of today’s widely popular video pokers are poker machines invented in the final years of the 19th century and ungraded in the beginning years of the 20th century. The first ever poker machine was invented by the Sittman and Pitt Company headquartered in Brooklyn, New York, in 1891. It was a mechanical assembly with 5 drums (reels), each containing images of 10 playing cards. Insert coin, pull the handle, the reels spin and they ultimately form a poker hand. Charles Fay, known as the father of the slot machines, contributed to the poker machine development as well with his ‘Card Bell’ contraption in 1898 and the ‘Skill Draw’ machine with a hold feature in 1901. 

World’s first video poker machine was introduced in 1970 by Dale Electronics, and it was called ‘Poker-Matic’. Every casino in Vegas had one and mass production began soon. The first online video poker software was introduced by Microgaming in 1994.

Game Layout and How it Works

The game of video poker normally benefits from a same or similar layout no matter the variation. It’s up to the developer to choose a specific background for a particular video poker game, but it’s common to display the paytable somewhere on screen, usually at the top. Here the player can see which payouts correspond to which hands. Jacks or Better is normally the least valuable hand, whereas the Royal Flush carries the biggest win. Other winning ranks include Two Pair, Three of a Kind, Straight, Flush, Full House, Four of a Kind and Straight Flush.

Betting options are normally displayed at the bottom of the screen. The player needs to set the bet first as well as the coin value; most games allow bets up to 5 coins. The next step is to click on the Deal button. A total of five cards will be dealt, and the player is required to choose which cards will remain in the hand and which ones will be removed and replaced. The objective is to form the best paying hand as possible, so if your initial hand announces a possible high paying winning rank, you go and remove the cards that don’t fit the pattern. Then, it’s necessary to click the Deal button again and your final hand will be formed with additional cards from a fresh deck. If your hand is one of the winning hands, it will light up and you’ll receive a balance boost according to the paytable.

Types of Video Poker Machines

There are well over a dozen variations on the standard version of the game of video poker. The most basic format is called Jacks or Better and the majority of the remaining versions draw from it in terms of game rules and proceedings. They mostly tend to differ in the paytable department. 

Jacks or Better is also known as Draw Poker and it runs on the standard poker mechanism described above. Unless you have a pair of Jacks or higher, you won’t receive a payout playing Hacks or Better. The maximum payout is reserved for the Royal Flush. Jacks or Better is the best paying video poker with an RTP of 99.46% if the player applies a simple poker strategy and up to return rate of around 99.55% if a more sophisticated strategy is applied. 

Joker Poker is not as common as Jacks or Better but still quite popular. This version is played with all the regular cards and an addition of the two Jokers. The Jokers can replace any other card and thus they increase the chance for completing winning hand combinations. 

Tens or Better is quite similar to Jacks or Better, except it offers payouts for lower valued hands. A lot more demanded is, however, Deuces Wild video poker. In this game the 2s turn into Wilds, so there is a bit of the Joker Poker element since the 2s can replace other cards like the Joker. Since there are 4 Wilds available, the paytable has been modified. The lowest combination requirement is Three of a Kind. Deuces Wild has a payout rate of 99.7% and it can even go higher. 

More notable video poker versions include Bonus Poker, Double Bonus Poker and All American Poker.

Playing Video Poker: Tips and Tricks

Most video poker player will agree that having a winning hand is the best feeling ever. That being said, one needs to be careful about chasing higher hand combinations because that means risking missing on a win that has already been ensured by the initial deal. It’s a common mistake to ignore the potential of a Three of Kind and Four of Kind payout brought by a small pair.

The game has easy rules overall, and all you need to do is pay attention to the paytable and apply strategies that you can find online or in poker-related literature. Strategy charts are specific to the game so you’d want to reach the ones applicable in the particular poker variant you want to play. Jacks or Better, the basic video poker game, is recommended to the beginners because it all moves from there. Some call it ‘vanilla’ poker, but it’s a great basis to work your way up from. The rest is just picking up the intricacies.  

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