How to Win at Video Poker

Video poker is the common name for a fixed-odds poker game based on five-card draw and played in either online casinos or on terminals similar to slot machines in physical casinos. As a result, video poker is often referred to as poker slots. However, it differs from slots in one key fashion. Unlike slots, there is a skill element to video poker, which involves playing the hand you are dealt in the optimum manner according to the poker-hand rankings. In this article, you’ll learn more about video poker and how to win at video poker.

how to win at video poker
Video Poker: Jacks or Better

How to Play Video Poker

Video poker has many variants, but all are based on one of poker’s simplest varieties, five-card draw. The player is dealt a five-card poker hand, then given one opportunity to keep the cards they wish to keep and discard the ones they don’t wish to retain, receiving new cards in return. This then makes up their final hand. Below is a simple step-by-step guide to playing a hand of video poker:

  1. Deposit credit into the video poker machine;
  2. Make your bet;
  3. Hit deal to receive your initial five-card poker hand;
  4. Discard cards you don’t deem useful (you can discard up to all five of them);
  5. Receive replacement cards from the same ‘virtual deck’;
  6. Any winnings are paid out according to the paytable;

Types of video poker

As mentioned above, there are many different types of video poker slots. Find below the four of the most popular varieties played in online casinos:

Jacks or better

The most commonly found version of video poker, Jacks or better, is named as such because a pair of jacks or better is the minimum winning hand. 

Deuces wild

In this version of video poker twos are wild, which means when they appear in a hand they can act as a substitute for any other card, potentially helping to make a better hand.

Bonus poker

Based on Jacks or better, Bonus poker offers a bonus for four of a kind.  

Double bonus

Another game based on Jacks or Better, this time the bonus is offered for four aces.

Classic video poker games
Classic video poker games

How to Win at Video Poker

How to win at video poker? The answer is not simple but I will represent you with several tips on how to increase your chances of winning.

1. Learn the differences between game variations.

Dozens of video poker game variations have been introduced over the years. In comparison to many gambling games, video poker is fairly new. But it’s still been available for close to 50 years.

Every video poker game variation is different. They’re almost all played roughly the same way, but they each have different pay tables and return percentages. This means you need to learn which video poker games offer the best return and which pay tables offer the best return.

When you learn these things, you still have two additional important things to learn:

  1. You have to learn where to find the best video poker machines.
  2. You have to learn the correct way to play them. This is also called strategy.

I recommend learning more about two different video poker variations when you start playing. They are Deuces Wild and Jacks or Better. These aren’t always the absolute best games available, but they’re the most popular variations and they’re each fairly easy to play.

2. Master One Game

Playing video poker is relatively easy. Anyone can sit down and play video poker. But you don’t want to just be able to play video poker. You want to play video poker in a way that gives you the best chance to win.

You can try to master more than one video poker game or variation, but the smart play is to pick one game to master first. It’s faster to learn everything you need to know about one game, including the best pay tables and the best strategy.

In the last section, you learned that Deuces Wild and Jacks or Better are the two best video poker variations to start with. Both of these variations are commonly available; they both have readily available strategies, and they both offer a pay table that has a high return.

f I had to pick one of the two game variations to recommend, I suggest Jacks or Better. It’s a little more common and the strategy is a little easier. But neither game is a bad option.

The important thing is to pick one and do whatever you need to do to master it. Deuces Wild with the right pay table offers a slightly higher return than the top Jacks or Better pay table.

3. Pay Tables Are the First Key

When playing slots, consulting the paytable before staking any money is vital and the same is true in video poker, where payouts for the various hands can vary widely from game to game.

There are two main classifications of video poker games when it comes to payouts, ‘full pay’ and ‘short pay’, with full-pay machines boasting average RTP (return to player) percentages of over 99%. 

Some video poker games will even publicise an RTP of more than 100%. However, it’s important to remember that these percentages are based on the player making the best mathematically possible decision for every hand.

Online video poker paytables should be easily accessible when playing and can usually be found in the specific game’s information or ‘i’ section.

Video poker paytable example
Video poker pay table example

4. Strategy Is the Second Key

When you play your hands the right way, it gives you the best chance to win. When you don’t play your hands the right way, it lowers the return. This means that even if you play the right video poker game variation and play on a machine with the right pay table, you still aren’t going to achieve the maximum return if you don’t use the right strategy.

 You can buy strategy card to use when you play. The more you use a strategy card, the easier it is to remember the best plays. It won’t take long for you to memorize the best strategy so you won’t even need to use your card when you play.

5. Online, Mobile, and Live Video Poker

In most ways, video poker games are the same whether you play in a live casino, in a mobile casino, or in an online casino. The gameplay is the same and the returns are the same for the machines with the same pay tables.

It’s usually easier to find decent video poker pay tables in online and mobile casinos than in land-based casinos. But once you find a good pay table, no matter where you’re playing, everything else is basically the same.


Video poker is one of the best things you can play in casinos, whether you’re playing in a land-based casino or on a real money video poker app. In fact, if you use strategy and play video poker with the top pay tables, you can play with close to a 100% return. But everything has to be perfect for this to work. If you make a single mistake, it leads to higher losses. And perfect video poker play isn’t easy.

The tips listed in this article give you the guidance to good video poker results. The truth is that you’re still unlikely to win, but at least you’re going to play with a chance to win when you follow them.