Three Mistakes You Should Avoid When Playing Online Video Poker

By in Poker on
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Many newcomers to online video poker have likely tried out the game recently while they were quarantined in the hopes of enjoying some gambling action. But if you’re in a rush to play, you can end up making some common mistakes that will damage your chances. Luckily, we’re here to help you avoid these online video poker mistakes.

In the past few weeks, we’ve been trying to give you a nice introduction to the world of online video poker. It really is one of the best casino games to play online. You can learn to play it a matter of minutes, it provides excellent payback, and online play is pretty much the same as what you would expect when playing the game in a casino.

Because of all that, it can be tempting to rush right out and sign up for a gambling account to get started. We’re not trying to stop you from doing that, because we really do recommend video poker as an excellent distraction during these trying times. But we are trying to warn you against the common online video poker mistakes that can cause problems for you.

As excited as you might be to play the game, you have to go into it with a smart approach. Video poker isn’t hard to learn in terms of just being able to sit down and operate the game correctly. But you can further than that and learn to play in a manner where you’re cutting down on the mistakes that could hurt you.

You should be thinking about your online video poker as an investment. And, like any investment, you should be trying to protect it. Sometimes, in the gambling world, it’s just as important knowing what not to do as it is knowing the proper actions that you should take.

In the following article, we’re going to detail three of the most common online video poker mistakes made by players who might not know too much about the game. We’re also going to talk to you about the ways that you can avoid these pitfalls. The hope is that you can take this information and become a better online video poker player immediately.

Mistake #1: Not Making the Maximum Wager

This is one of the most common video poker mistakes made by beginners. You might not realize it, but betting is part of your video poker strategy. Knowing how to bet is just as important as knowing what cards to hold and discard on any given hand.

One of the mistakes that newcomers to online video poker often make is that they change their bet every time. They might do this because they’re trying to protect their budget. Or they could be trying to guess when a winning hand is going to show up and bet accordingly.

Let’s take on both of those notions:

  1. First of all, you are actually going to harm your budget in the long term by betting less than the maximum amount, or Max Bet, on every hand.
  2. Second, you shouldn’t ever be guessing about what might happen from hand to hand. We’ll talk more about this when we get to another one of the mistakes in this list.

For now, let’s just say that there is no way you can guess what’s coming during an online video poker game based on what’s come before.

Why This Is a Mistake

Online video poker game makers are pretty savvy. They understand the psychology of bettors and they know that many people are wary about their budget. That’s why they give people the option to bet less.

But just about every online video poker game is set up so that the maximum payback percentage you can earn from the game comes when you bet the highest amount. Payback percentage measures the average amount of return that a player can expect based on the probabilities of winning hands and the pay tables.

Most online video poker games allow you to wager between one and five credits per hand. When betting between one and four credits, payoff for the royal flush, the rarest and most lucrative of all video poker hands, sits at 250 to 1. But it rises to 800 to 1 when you bet five coins.

You might think that you’ll never end up with a royal flush and that this doesn’t matter. But if you play video poker regularly, at some point you’re likely to end up with one, either on a deal or a draw. Imagine if you achieve one and you’ve short-changed yourself by betting less.

As for games with wagers that can extend beyond five coins, these games are also set up so that the Max Bet pays off the most. You might have to wager ten coins per hand in some cases. But the extra wager usually opens up a special feature that can be quite lucrative.

How To Avoid This Mistake

Simply make the Max Bet at all times. There’s a reason why you’ll see an icon on your online video poker game that says something like “Max Bet and Deal.” It’s because savvy players want that option so that they can play the game that much quicker while making the most advantageous wager every hand.

If you find that such a wager is too expensive for you, you should switch to a game with a lower denomination where you can make the Max Bet every hand. Doing this will keep your payback percentage at the maximum possible level. But it will also take a little bit of a burden off your budget.

Mistake #2: Not Paying Attention To The Pay Table When Making Decisions

One of the great things about video poker is how transparent everything is. You are given the pay table for the game, which lets you know which hands are most valuable. And simple probability math can show you the chances of attaining those hands.

Pay Tables

The pay table is a wonderful piece of information for online video poker players. It can not only show you the strategy you should be using, but it will also tell you how volatile the game can be. Yet many people completely ignore it, especially when it comes to newcomers to online video poker.

This could be for a number of reasons. Perhaps these folks are used to slot machines, where pay tables don’t mean anything in terms of strategy. After all, there is no real strategy involved in slot machines, where you just pretty much spin the wheels and hope that it works out for the best.

Or it could just be that they don’t realize how important that the pay tables are and that they just want to start playing as quickly as possible. As a result, they might play all pay tables as if they were the same exact thing.

Why This Is a Mistake

The best way to illustrate the problem of playing every pay table as if they were all the same is to give you an example. Take a look at the following two pay tables, each of which is pretty popular in the world of online video poker:

Jacks or Better Pay Table

Coins/Hands 1 Coin 2 Coins 3 Coins 4 Coins 5 Coins
Royal Flush 250 500 750 1000 4000
Straight Flush 50 100 150 200 250
4 of a Kind 25 50 75 100 125
Full House 9 18 27 36 45
Flush 6 12 18 24 30
Straight 4 8 12 16 20
3 of a Kind 3 6 9 12 15
2 Pairs 2 4 6 8 10
Jacks or Better 1 2 3 4 5

Triple Double Bonus Pay Table

Hand/Coins 1 Coin 2 Coins 3 Coins 4 Coins 5 Coins
Royal flush 200 400 600 800 4000
Straight flush 50 100 150 200 250
4 of a kind – aces 2, 3, 4 kicker 800 1600 2400 3200 4000
4 of a kind – 2s, 3s, or 4s A, 2, 3, or 4 kicker 400 800 1200 1600 2000
4 of a kind – aces 5s – Ks kicker 160 320 480 640 800
4 of a kind – 2s, 3s, or 4s 5s – Ks kicker 80 160 240 320 400
4 of a kind – any other 50 100 150 200 250
Full house 9 18 27 36 45
Flush 7 14 21 28 35
Straight 4 8 12 16 20
3 of a kind 2 4 6 8 10
2 Pairs 1 2 3 4 5
Pair of jacks + 1 2 3 4 5

You can see how these pay tables reward different hands in different ways. Also notice how, in the case of the Triple Double Bonus game, the four of a kind hands are paid depending on which cards are involved.

Let’s take a look now at a sample deal and see how it is affected by the specific pay table:

  • Ace of hearts
  • Ace of spades
  • Six of diamonds
  • Six of spades
  • Nine of hearts

How would you play this hand? Well, if you’re used to playing regular poker, your first instinct is likely to hold on to the two pair and discard the nine of hearts. You’d have a combination that would win many poker hands, and you might even draw another six or ace for a full house.

If you were playing Jacks or Better, your instinct would have been correct. You’d be locking down a payment of 2 to 1. And you could get a full house for a 9 to 1 payback.

It’s not surprising that the strategy for Jacks or Better lines up with basic poker strategy. After all, Jacks or Better was based on the porker principle that says that the harder it is to achieve a hand, the more valuable it is.

Watch for Bonus Pay Tables

But any pay table with the word “Bonus” in it alters that equation somewhat. In particular, Bonus pay tables raise payback for 4 of a kind hands much higher than most other online video poker games. And they often balance this out by lowering pay for common hands such as two pair.

In the case of the Triple Double Bonus pay table above, two pair only pays off at even money, instead of 2 to 1. As a result, the pair of aces in the sample deal is actually as valuable as the two pair.

If you hold the two pair, you would still be able to draw to the full house. That would pay off at 9 to 1, same as the Jacks or Better game.

You would need another ace or six to do this. There are total of four aces and sixes left in the deck with 47 total cards remaining. That makes your chances of getting the draw you need barely better than 1 in 12.

That possibility doesn’t provide as much possible reward as if you were to go for four of a kind, particularly with the aces. If you were to drop all other cards besides the aces, you’d have three draws to get the two remaining aces in the deck. And if you do, your payback on the Triple Double Bonus pay table would be 160 to 1 at least and 800 to 1 at most.

For those reasons, the better play here on the Triple Double Bonus pay table is to hold onto the two aces. In other words, you would play it differently than the Jacks or Better pay table. That’s just one example why you shouldn’t play all online video poker pay tables with the same strategy.

How to Avoid This Mistake

The key to avoiding this potential pitfall in online video poker is to choose a favorite pay table, whether it’s Jacks or Better, Triple Double Bonus, or any of the others that can easily be found. Once you do that, you can build your strategy according to that particular set of payback totals.

If you’re bouncing from pay table to pay table, it can be very difficult to avoid making errors in your holds and discards. The math involved can get very tricky, as the example above proves. And it can be easy to overlook some nuance of a pay table if you don’t play it too often.

Once you have a favorite pay table, you can use strategic resources like video poker training software or strategy charts to learn the perfect strategy for that particular game. If you do this, you can assure yourself of making the right selections every single time.

Mistake #3 Basing Your Decisions on What Has Already Happened

There are many different ways that this mistake can manifest itself. It could be a case where people think that a specific video poker online game is either “hot” or “cold.” If they think it’s a hot game, they might try to take advantage of it, while they might try to avoid a cold one.

Another common online video poker mistake, one which we touched on above, is if you change your bet based on what you think is coming in a certain hand. You might conceivably raise your bet if you think you’re due for a winning hand or lower it if you think you’re in for a losing one.

Finally, there is the possibility that some players might try to anticipate what is coming on the draw based on what has occurred in previous hands.

For Example:

If they’ve seen a lot of aces in previous hands, they might worry that they won’t get the one they need on the current draw for a certain winning hand. As a result, they might instead try to make a different winning hand.

All of these are mistakes and will lead to your making less money playing online video poker than you otherwise might. A simple understanding of how an online video poker game operates will show you why.

Why This Is a Mistake

Inside any video poker machine or online game is software that is programmed to run the game. Inside this software is the equivalent of a random number generator. This ensures that the results of any single hand of video poker are completely independent of anything that came before or anything that will come after.

Think of it in terms of there being a simulated deck of 52 cards somewhere hidden side the game. The random number generator keeps these cards in a state of perpetual shuffling until the very moment that you click on the “deal” button. At that point, the top five cards in this random deck appear on your screen as your deal.

At that point, the remaining 47 cards in the deck go right back to shuffling all over again. They continue in that mode until you click on the “draw” button. Once the hand is over, the original 52 begin shuffling again.

Knowing this process, you can probably see why attempting to guess what’s coming based on what’s come before is a mistake. Each deal and draw are completely random.

You might see the ace of spades in five consecutive hands. Or you might not see it for fifty hands in a row. None of those results change the fact that you’ll have a 1 in 52 chance of receiving the ace of spades in any particular spot in the hand that you are about to play.

Online video poker is not casino blackjack, where card counting might actually help your chances. Each new hand takes place with a freshly shuffled deck. Nothing that happened before will have any effect on it.

How to Avoid This Mistake

Think of every hand you play as the first one of the session. And try to rid yourself of what’s happened before. That can be tricky to do, as it’s human nature to have past results affect current decisions.

To prevent that, make sure that you develop a strategy for your online video poker that stays in place no matter how many hands you’ve played and what’s happened before. As we said above, use strategy charts or training software to help develop that strategy. And learn tunnel-vision to keep the past from influencing the present when you play.


We hope that this article shows you how easy it is to fall for common online video poker mistakes. More than that, we hope that you now know how to steer clear of these mistakes in the future and learn how to play video poker online the right way. If you can, you could be well on your way to be an expert, even if you’ve only just begun.

Jim Beviglia

Jim Beviglia joined as a staff writer in 2018, parlaying his years of freelance writing into contributions on a number of different topics. He handles the sport of horse racing for and the intersection between the worlds of cryptocurrency and online gambling in a weekly blog. For his full-time job, Jim handles the television and track announcing duties at a h ...

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