Video Poker… Not Just Jacks or Better Anymore

by Henry Jablonski
on May 31, 2017

Introduction to Video Poker

If you’ve been in a Las Vegas Casino any time in the past 30 years, you’ve seen them – video poker machines.  Defaulting with a Royal Flush flashing on the screen beckoning you to try a hand or two… or 2,000!

Video poker has evolved greatly over the years and continues to evolve with new and exciting games that provide even more excitement to a game that so many of us already love.

History of Video Poker

Just as technology continues to touch every aspect of our daily lives, the introduction of personal computers back in the mid-70s made its mark in the casino industry and gambling has never been in the same.

Si Redd was a distributor for Bally (now affiliated with SG Gaming) in the 1970s and had the idea to take the personal computer concept and evolve it to a computerized poker game.  Up until this time, slots machines were still pretty much the old one-armed bandits that you see depicted in old westerns.

Here are a few side notes for you history buffs.  A look back at the introduction of “gambling machines” in the United States:

  • 1880’s – Slot machines were actually introduced in the U.S. in the 1880’s in primitive form.
  • 1898 – In 1898, Charles Fey introduced a very basic slot machine called the Card Bell. This machine used images of playing cards as the slot symbols.
  • 1899 – Just a year later, Fey transformed his initial Card Bell machine into the Liberty Bell. The Liberty Bell, named after THE U.S. Liberty Bell, was a small countertop machine.  It had a level on the right side.  A design that remained for nearly 100 years!  The Liberty Bell had three reels with ten symbols on each reel.  It featured stars, bells, horseshoes, diamonds, spades and hearts.   The payout was an 86% return on the coins that were played.

The earlier slots were known simply as Bell Machines, and it didn’t long for popularity to spread and these new gambling machines kept evolving to meet the demand for more.

  • 1950’s – In the 1950’s, electro mechanical slots replaced the more basic versions and offered players three and five coin multipliers.
  • 1970’s – In the mid-1970’s the first video slots were introduced – coinciding the with the new video poker concept.
  • 1986 – In 1986, electronic systems came into play (pun intended) to link these video slot machines
  • 2003 – In 2003, one of these linked machines paid out $40 million to one very, very lucky gambler in Las Vegas.

But we digress…

Bally actually passed on Si Redd’s electronic poker concept which, in turn, prompted him to get a patent of his own and launch Sircoma (short for Si Redds Coin Machines).  Talk about a huge lucky break for Redd!

He made a deal with the Fortune Coin Company to mass-produce these new poker machines and in 1981, they made their debut in Las Vegas Casinos.

Si eventually took the company public and changed the name to International Game Technology or IGT as you may know it today.

Video Poker Game Variations

Video Poker started out with one basic poker game.  You needed a minimum of two pairs to win the hand.  That concept changed quickly to “Jacks or Better” – giving players more of a chance to win and play these games longer.  Despite the many different poker games available today, Jacks or Better still remains the number one game played by Video Poker players.

Jacks or Better is exactly as the name states.  You need a pair of Jacks or higher to win the hand.

Just as the video poker machine itself evolved from a large machine that very much resembled a television set from the 70’s to the sleek quality graphic machines of today, the games themselves also evolved.

With variations too numerous to list, you can now play poker games electronically that include:

  • Jacks or Better
  • Tens or Better
  • Bonus Poker
  • Double Bonus Poker
  • Double Double Bonus Poker
  • Triple Double Bonus Poker
  • Super Double Bonus Poker
  • Joker Poker
  • Deuces Wild Poker
  • Deuces Bonus Wild Poker
  • Deuces and Joker Poker

You get the idea…

How to Play Video Poker

Playing video poker is a lot easier if you have some familiarity with the game, the hands, and the rules.  At least a very basic knowledge of the hands and “what beats what” will make your playing experience a lot more enjoyable.

Whereas you can sit down at a regular slot machine (or video slot machine), press a button, and let the machine do its thing, Video Poker is a much different experience.   You are in control of each hand.

Before we move on to the game play on a Video Poker Game machine, here’s a listing of the poker hands that all players should be familiar with before ever pressing the Deal button for the first time.

This is in the ranking of highest hand to lowest hand.  For example, a Flush is higher than a Straight so would be the winning hand.  However, a Straight Flush is higher than a Flush and is the winning hand in that scenario.

  • Royal Flush (Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10 – all of the same suit)
  • Straight Flush (five cards of sequential rank and in the same suit, such as 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 all in hearts)
  • Four of a Kind (four cards of one rank such as 8’s)
  • Full House (three cards of one rank such as 8’s and two cards of another such as 4’s)
  • Flush (five cards all in the same suit – such as five hearts)
  • Straight (five cards of sequential rank, not in the same suit, such as 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
  • Three of a kind (three cards of one rank such as three 8’s)
  • Two pairs (two cards of one rank such as 8s and two cards of another such as 4s)
  • High hand (whatever is the highest card if no other winning hand is shown)

If you’re an absolute beginner, here’s a quick tutorial for you.  Step by step, here is how Video Poker works when playing a one-hand basic five-card game:

  1. You will opt to bet anywhere from one to five credits. Five credits are the maximum bet (Max Bet*) and we’ll go into why it’s a better bet to always play “max” later on.
  2. If you didn’t select Max Bet (which automatically triggers a deal), you’ll press the “deal” button and the machine deals you five cards
  3. From these five cards, you decide which ones you want to keep and which you want to discard. Depending on the game you’ve selected to play, this many vary.  For example, there is a different strategy to playing Deuces Wild as opposed to Jacks or Better.  If you get dealt one Deuce in Deuces Wild, you’ll most likely keep that deuce.  In Jacks or Better, you’ll most likely keep one face card whereas you wouldn’t make that decision in Deuces Wild.
  4. You then press the button(s) corresponding to the card(s) you’ve decided to keep (or hold).
  5. After you’re happy with your selection(s), you’ll press the deal button again for your redraw cards.
  6. The machine then automatically calculates your winning hand.
  7. On all Video Poker games, your number one goal is to get a Royal Flush (Ace, King, Queen, Jack and 10 of the same suit). The Royal Flush is the quintessential hand and provides the highest payout.
  8. Double Up Option: After your hand is completed, some machines also offer a “Double Up” feature which forces you to make yet another decision regarding this hand.

Do you want to take a chance and double your money or are you happy with your win and ready to move on?

If you want to take a chance, one card is dealt (the dealer’s card) and you’ll select one from a series of three to five other cards.

If your card beats the dealer, you doubled the winnings from that hand.

If the dealer’s card beats yours, you lost all of your winnings from that one hand.

That’s why it’s called gambling, right?

In the above example, we noted that this is the information and sequence when playing a one hand at a time, standard video poker machine.  As you read on, you’ll see that there’s about to be a twist… or several twists…  More options… more fun

The Payback and How it’s Calculated

There are a few things to consider when selecting which Video Poker game to play if you’re focused on the payout strategy as opposed to selecting a game you just think is going to be more fun.

Video Poker’s Payout Percentage, which you often times see prominently posted on the machine itself (especially if it’s a high percentage), is calculated based on the payout for a Flush and a Full House.

So, if you see a payout percentage of 99.54%, it’s a calculation for a 9/6 machine.  A 9/6 machine features a nine-coin payout for a full house (45 coins with max bet*) and a six-coin payout for a flush (30 coins with max bet).

Your maximum bet* is five and it’s suggested that you always play the maximum to receive the maximum payout.   Payouts may equate evenly for winning hands aside from a Royal Flush but, if you get a Royal Flush with less than the maximum bet, you do not receive the maximum payout.

For example, if you get a Royal Flush with less than the maximum bet, you get paid 250 coins per coin bet.  But, with a Maximum Bet of five coins, your payout for a Royal Flush is 4,000 coins.

Another way to look at it is:  One 25¢ coin bet = $62.50; Maximum five 25¢ ($1.25) coin bet = $1000.00.  That’s a pretty big difference!

Where Can You Play Video Poker

Gone are the days of needing to pull up a barstool in your local saloon feeding the one-arm bandits coin after coin.  Just like slot machines, video poker is widely available.  In addition to traditional casinos, there are online casinos and free video poker playing sites as well.

AARP even features Video Poker as one of their hosted games on http://games.aarp.org/games/video-poker/.

In Las Vegas, as well as in many Casinos now, Video Poker is a permanent fixture at bars as well as casinos.  Embedded right into the bar area, you can pick your favorite game and try to make some money (or at least not lose some money) while enjoying your favorite food and drinks.

Many Las Vegas bars even provide free food in addition to the free beverages for game players and Video Poker is typically the game of choice. Enjoy a free burger, drink a free beer and maybe win a hundred or two?

A New Era – The New Video Poker Experience

So, you now have the history of Video Poker.  You now know how to play (if you didn’t before).  You also have an idea about the odds and type of games available.

Let’s now take it to the next level.

Progress and Evolving Technology – it ushered in the Electronic Poker Game in the 1970s, resembling the TVs of the era.  As the television evolved, so did the video poker experience.  Now with a sleeker, flat screen design, the new games feature enhanced graphics and audio.   Most machines offer multiple choices of games from which to select, as well as help buttons and payout information.

Gone are the days of the buckets of coins as well.  Casino games are now all computerized and you feed those games with cash (bills only – no coins) or winning tickets that you’ve already cashed out from previous machines.

The evolution doesn’t stop there.  Yes.  There are basic Poker Games.  Jacks or Better, as we mentioned before, is still the most played Video Poker game, and runner-ups include the other traditional games like Deuces Wild, Jokers Wild, and Bonus Poker.

However, there are now more ways to actually play these standard games

Multiple Play Poker

One hand of poker at a time might not be challenging enough for you.  Well, you can now select from Triple Play, Five Play, Ten Play, 50 Play, and even 100 Play.

Do you like the idea of being more in control of your gambling and making decisions about what cards to play but you like the bells and whistles that slot machines offer?  New Video Poker Games now combine the two.

Super Times Pay Poker

There is a fairly new game called Super Times Pay Poker.  You bet an extra credit with each hand (so six credits instead of five), but that gets you in on the chance to receive a Bonus Multiplier of anywhere from two times to ten times pay for that hand.

So, if you get a bonus multiplier of “five” and your winning hand would regularly pay you 30 credits, you would receive 150 credits instead.

Keep in mind, though, you’re paying an extra credit on every single hand and the multiplier only pops up occasionally.

Additionally, most of the Super Times Pay games are on a Triple Play or Five Play machine.  Combining two of the new Video Poker trends into one.

The combination, though, can make for a more expensive gaming experience.  At six credits per hand and three hands per game, you’re paying 18 credits every time you’re dealt a new hand.    That expense can also add up to big money, though.  If you’re dealt a jackpot coupled with a multiplier, your final tally of winnings can really add up!

Imagine playing a quarter machine at 18 credits per game.  That’s $4.50 a hand.  But, let’s say that you’re dealt a Royal Flush combined with a five-times multiplier.

Let’s do the math:

  • Royal Flush = 4,000 credits won
  • Royal Flush x 3 lines = 12,000 credits won
  • Royal Flush x 3 lines x 5 times multiplier = 60,000 credits won
  • Your cash jackpot = $15,000

Here’s a screenshot of an eight-times multiplier being dealt out on a Triple Play Machine.

Spin Poker

The ultimate combination of Slots and Video Poker…  Spin Poker.  The reels spin like slots, you play the hand like poker, and the result is multiple ways to win (or lose)… but winning is always preferred!

Spin Poker offers nine ways to win at 45 credits per hand.

Here’s how it works:

  1. You press deal and the reels spin.
  2. A five-card hand is dealt on the middle line.
  3. You select the cards you’d like to keep – just as if you were playing a one-hand game of poker. There’s no additional strategy here.  You still have to play consistently.
  4. After you’ve selected your cards, you press draw.
  5. The reels spin again and the rest of the board fills in.

You’re now looking at 15 total cards and nine pay lines (similar to the multiple pay lines on a slot machine).

At times, you may have one winning hand.  Other times, you could have multiple winners.  If you’re dealt a winning hand and hold all five cards, you will be paid nine times as you will have nine winning hands.

Can you imagine the fun of being dealt a Royal Flush on a Spin Poker machine?

Taking Spin Poker to the Next Level…

If you’re new to the whole Video Poker concept, Spin Poker may be a totally new concept to you.  But, as we’re talking about new trends in Video Poker, we have to take this a step further.

We’ve outlined the Spin Poker concept.  But, you didn’t think the game designers would stop there, did you?

Spin Poker Deluxe

Now, you can play Spin Poker Deluxe that is 20 pay lines of winning (again, we’re being optimistic here).  The same basic play as outlined above for Spin Poker, but with 20 pay lines.  Again, you can equate it to a slot machine.  The new slot machines may have three winning lines, 100 winning lines or somewhere in the middle.

With each added level of excitement, your investment goes up.  20 lines x five credits per line = 100 credits per hand.  If you’re playing quarters, that’s $25 a hand.  But, with risk comes reward.  If you’re dealt a jackpot, you’re getting paid for that jackpot 20 times over.

Is your head “spinning” yet?  How about Spin Poker Super Times Pay?

Take Super Times Pay with the random multiplier and combine it with the slot-like action of Spin Poker and you’re now looking at Spin Poker Super Times Pay.

Can you see now how Video Poker is edging closer and closer to the excitement of slots?  Multipliers pop up… reels spin… multipliers and reels together!

But wait, there’s more…

  • Dream Card Poker – Another game where you need to up your maximum bet above the standard five-credit bet. In Dream Card Poker, when the Dream Card scenario comes up, the 5th card is the ultimate perfect card that completes the dealt hand.  So, if there’s a 3-of-a-kind coupled with the Dream Card, that’s a 4-of-a-kind dealt. Should we mention that Spin Poker Dream Card Machines are now out there as well or is that taking it too far?
  • Wheel Poker – There are many types of Wheel Poker Games out there now. The basic premise is that, if you’re dealt a certain hand, a wheel located above the machine (and paying close resemblance to Wheel of Fortune) has a spin activated.  In some cases, the spin will pay a certain amount of bonus credits (i.e. 200 extra credits added to your win for that hand).   Other machines will have a multiplier (similar to the Super Times Pay multiplier) activated so you could win two times or 10 times your winning credits. On other Wheel Poker machines, a whole new game play is activated and you have additional chances to win credits – all courtesy of your initial bet.
  • Ultimate X Poker – We’ve mentioned other games where you need to tack on an additional credit to your maximum bet. In Ultimate X Poker, you need to double your bet.  The premise is that, as long as you have the ultimate bet activated (i.e. 10 credits instead of five) and you get a paying hand, a multiplier is automatically awarded on the next hand.
  • 3-Way Action Poker – 3-Way Action is a departure from the poker games that we’ve already outlined.  In 3-Way Action Poker, you would make up to three bets on three ways to win.

  1. The first is the five-card hand on the deal.
  2. The second is the five-card hand on the draw (which is after you’ve selected the cards you wish to keep).
  3. The third is a seven-card hand consisting of the five-card-draw hand PLUS two more cards from the remaining deck.

Options… Options… Now Just Pick a Game and Play!

You’re now armed with anything and everything you need to know to become a skilled Video Poker player.  For those new to the game, just remember to study up on those hands.  Hop on to some websites and play some free games first.  As long as you have the basics, you can hone your skills.

If you’re an experienced Video Poker player, why not try some of the new games?  They’re probably not for the poker purist, but they can be a lot of fun!

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