Learn Video Poker for Beginners (Including How to Play)

Video poker has long been popular among casino players because it gives you a
realistic chance to beat the house.

Of course, if you’re just starting to learn video poker, then you need to
learn both the basics and strategy before conquering the game.

That said, let’s discuss several important concepts that beginners must know,
along with how you can become a winning player.

Video Poker for Beginners – How to Play, Available Games & More

Introduction to Video Poker

If you’re completely new to video poker, don’t worry because thousands of
players start out with the game every day. And you’ll find that the playing
process is really simple.

Here are the steps for playing video poker:

  1. Choose how many coins to bet from 1-5.
  2. Click Deal.
  3. Choose what cards to hold; the remainder will be discarded.
  4. Click Draw.
  5. If your hand qualifies for a payout, you’ll be paid according to the

As you can see, playing video poker is easy. And once you nail down the
video poker basics
, the next step is executing proper strategy.

Video Poker Games

When you first begin to learn video poker, you may be shocked at how many
different games are available. In fact, there are well over 100 variations, with
each game featuring multiple paytables.

This is overwhelming for new players, which is why you should stick to the
following games in the beginning:

  • Jacks or Better
  • Deuces Wild
  • Double Bonus
  • Joker Poker

Of these, Jacks or Better is the best introduction to video poker because it
has a simpler paytable than other games. Furthermore, most video poker variants
are based on Jacks or Better, which makes it easier to learn other games in the

The other three variations on this list have more-complex paytables than
Jacks or Better. But they’re still on the lighter side regarding how many extra
payouts they include.

As a beginner, you want a paytable with as few payouts as possible for two

  1. It cuts down on the number of payouts you have to understand.
  2. It makes strategy easier because you’ll have fewer choices to make.

When you learn Jacks or Better and the other games in the list above, you’ll
have less trouble transitioning to other video poker variants.

Video Poker Tournaments

You don’t need to worry about tournaments when you’re just starting to learn
video poker for beginners. After all, you should learn the fundamentals first
before you worry about the more-advanced games.

But once you become an experienced player, video poker tournaments, are
definitely fun to play. Here’s how some of the different tourneys work:

  • Video Poker Tournaments

    These events can be set up in one of two ways: hand limits or
    time limits. A hand limit sees the tournament last a specific amount of
    hands (i.e. 250), while a time limit sees the tournament last for a certain
    number of minutes (i.e. 20 minutes). In either case, the winner is
    determined by who has the most credits (points) at the end.

  • Challenges

    You can
    invite other players to a video poker challenge, where you face off
    one-on-one or against a group. You, or whoever issues the challenge,
    determines the hand or time limit. Oftentimes, challenges have fun
    achievements that you can unlock too.

  • Contests

    A video
    poker contest works like a tournament, where the top point earners share in
    a prize pool. But the difference is that the top score is based on who has
    the best score in a single session. Video poker contests cap the number of
    sessions you can play in a single day (i.e. 5).

How Video Poker Compares to Slot Machines

Video poker and slots often compare because they’re the two most-popular
forms of machine-based gaming.

When it comes to
video poker versus slot machines
, the key distinction is
that video poker features intricate strategy that influences the long-term

Every decision you make will either improve or lessen your chances of

Compare this to slots, where you spin the reels over and over while
hoping that luck goes your way.

But slots also have an advantage in that they offer fun themes, bonuses, and
more features than video poker games. This is an alluring prospect for players
who are looking to be entertained, rather than use stimulating strategy.

The same comparison can be made between video poker and some of the new
electronic pull tab games that are being released.

As you may know, pull tab games are like a hybrid between the lottery and
slots, where you insert money into a slot-like machine, then receive tickets.
But modern pull tab games are more colorful and include some of the same
entertainment features as slots.

In the end, whether you choose video poker or slots & electronic pull tabs
depends upon what you value the most: using strategy to influence the results,
or being amused with bonuses and special features.

Video Poker Terms

It’s easier to understand video poker when you know some of the terms
associated with the game. You can consult this video poker glossary for the full
range of terms, but here are the most important ones:

  • Aces and Eights

    where four aces or 8s earns you a bonus payout.

  • Credits

    How many
    coins you have in the machine. Also refers to how many coins you bet.

  • Cycle

    Average number
    of hands that must be played before you get a certain winning hand.

  • Deuces Wild

    where 2s are wild.

  • Discards

    Cards that
    you elect not to keep during the draw round.

  • Draw

    When you draw
    for replacements cards after deciding what cards to hold.

  • Hold

    The cards you
    keep during the draw round.

  • Jackpot

    Often refers
    to a royal flush payout, although it can also indicate a progressive

  • Jacks or Better

    where payouts start at a pair of jacks or better.

  • Random Number

    Program that determines random video poker results through
    number combinations.

  • Royal Flush

    Top hand
    in video poker, featuring 10, jack, queen, king, and ace of the same suit.

  • Strategy Chart

    what hands to keep in order of importance.

  • Triple Play

    that lets you play three hands per turn.

  • Video Poker Trainer

    Software that alerts you when you’ve made a strategy mistake.

How to Learn Video Poker Strategy

Once you’ve moved past the introduction to video poker and feel comfortable
with the game, the next step involves learning strategy. The closer you are to
using optimal strategy, the better your chances are of beating casinos.

What’s nice is that you have several options when you’re trying to learn
video poker, including the methods covered below.

Strategy Charts

The easiest way to sharpen your
video poker skills
is by grabbing a strategy
chart for the specific game you’re playing.

These charts rank what hands to keep in terms of importance. Here’s an

  1. You’re playing Jacks or Better and you have four cards to a flush.
  2. You also have a low pair (10s or lower).
  3. You keep the four cards to a flush because this hand is ranked
    higher on the strategy chart.

If you’re totally new to video poker strategy, this is a great way to improve
because you merely need to compare hands on the chart.

The only catch is that you won’t find strategy charts available for
more-obscure video poker variations. In these cases, you’ll want to look for
training software (discussed later).

Learning from Video Poker Experts

If you want to rapidly go from the video poker for beginners stage to playing
like a pro, then you need to consult the experts. And the good news is that
there are more than enough gurus to learn from.

Below, you’ll find a few of our favorite video poker experts and what they
bring to the table:

Bob Dancer

As the
author of the most-catchy video poker book ever, Million Dollar Video Poker,
Bob Dancer has shot to the top of the authority rankings. The book is based
on how Dancer’s made $1 million within a six-month period playing video
poker. But he has more-sustainable advice too, especially when it comes to
taking advantage of promotions and finding the best games.

Jean Scott

Creator of theFrugal Video Poker program, Jean Scott is an excellent resource to
consult for the best bankroll management strategies. Frugal Video Poker lets
you create customizable strategy for 54 different games, and figure out what
size of bankroll you need.

John Grochowski

John Grochowski has been around the gaming world for a long time, dispending
knowledge on both slots and video poker. He’s published hundreds of articles
and several books, making him one of the best to learn from.

Free Video Poker

Once you’ve learned enough video poker strategy, the next step is to put your
knowledge into practice. And one of the easiest ways to do this is through free
video poker.

The obvious advantage to playing for free is that you can make mistakes
without hurting your bankroll. This is perfect for when you’re trying to
recognize strategy patterns and develop a rhythm.

Another perk to free video poker is that you don’t have to look far to find

Every online casino lets you play for free as long as you have an account.
Some casinos don’t even require that you create an account – you just choose the
desired game and play it through your PC or mobile device.

You can also find free video poker at various websites.

Many of these programs are rudimentary and only feature a handful of popular
games like Jacks or Better. But these sites are worth mentioning in case you’re
looking to play for fun without visiting an online casino.

Video Poker Training Tools

While free video poker is nice, the problem is that it doesn’t identify any
of the mistakes you make. This is where training software becomes useful because
it alerts you to mistakes so you can avoid them in the future.

Basically, video poker training is like an unseen virtual teacher who offers
you a free education on the game. Rather than watching video poker tutorials and
/ or pouring over strategy charts, you can just play and find out what you’re
doing right and wrong.

Here’s an example:

  1. You’re playing 9 / 6 Jacks or Better and are dealt As, Qs, Kh, Ad,
  2. You choose to keep the As, Kh, Ad.
  3. The video poker trainer alerts you to the mistake, pointing out that
    you should only keep Asand Ad in this situation.

The idea behind using trainers is to train yourself to make the correct
decisions in every situation. Once you see enough situations and learn how to
play them, using the right strategy will eventually become automatic.

You can either use free video poker trainers, which are found across the
internet, or you can purchase a program.

Ideally, the free trainers will cover your desired video poker game. But the
problem is that most free programs only cover popular variants like All
American, Bonus Poker, Double Bonus, Jacks or Better, and Joker Poker.

If you’re trying to beat positive expectation games – i.e. full-pay Deuces
Wild, 10 / 7 Double Bonus, and 10 / 6 Double Double Bonus – then you’ll need to
buy a program, which is discussed next.

Buying a Video Poker Training Program

As just mentioned, purchasing a training program is ideal when free programs
don’t cover your desired variation.

Buying trainers is especially wise if you’re an advantage player looking to
win long-term profits through a positive expectation game.

One example is WinPoker, which offers the following features:

  • Hard Hand feature,
    where the program only deals difficult hands.
  • Alerts you when
    mistakes are made.
  • Choose from 23
    different games.
  • Error Log Mode, where
    you continually practice hands you got wrong.
  • Play up to 10 hands
    per turn.

Obviously these features are great when you’re trying to become a skilled
video poker player. But the catch is that you’ll pay $30 or more for video poker

Checking Amazon.com, the cheapest price for WinPoker is currently $34.74. If
you’re just learning strategy for fun, then dumping $35 into a trainer isn’t an
appealing idea.

But the upside is that this one-time cost can save you lots of money in the
long run. Here are some theoretical examples:

Example 1

You play
10 / 7 Double Bonus, which has 100.17% payback with perfect strategy. – You
make some mistakes while playing and the payback drops to 99.0%. – You bet
$5,000 total, which leaves you with a theoretical loss of $50.

Example 2

You play
10 / 7 Double Bonus. – You rarely make mistakes and achieve payback of
100.1%. – You bet $5,000 total, which leaves you with a theoretical profit
of $5.

Thanks to practicing with the video poker trainer, you’ve now swung a $50
loss into a $5 profit – a difference of $55.

And while this is just a made-up example, it shows how training programs can
quickly pay for themselves.

Common Video Poker Errors

Given how in depth video poker strategy is, new players can make a lot of
mistakes in the beginning. But it’s important to know
the most common video poker mistakes
because these cost you lots of money when repeated.

That said, here are common errors you want to avoid:

  • Mistake #1:

    Low-paying Games – The video poker world is filled with different games and
    paytables. But you should never play a video poker variant until you’ve
    check how much it pays back.

  • Mistake #2:

    Not Making
    Max Bets (5 Coins)- If you want to achieve top payback in any video poker
    game, you need to bet the 5-coin maximum on each hand. The reason why is
    because you can only win the top royal flush payout (4,000 coins) on a max

  • Mistake #3:

    Studying Strategy-We’ve preached how video poker strategy will help you
    achieve the top payback. And there’s no way that you can play perfectly if
    you don’t study strategy.

  • Mistake #4:

    Using the
    Wrong Strategy on a Game- Every video poker game features slightly different
    strategy from the next due to paytable differences. That said, you need the
    correct strategy for each game to succeed.

  • Mistake #5:

    Too Long without Breaks- Even skilled players make mistakes when they play
    too long without taking a breather. You should take a 5-10 minute break for
    every hour you’ve been playing video poker

  • Mistake #6:

    Underestimating Bankroll Needs- Given the top-heavy payouts in video poker,
    this game has a lot of variance. And you need a large bankroll to survive
    the downswings until you hit big payouts.

  • Mistake #7:

    Signing up for the Slots Club – If you want to get video poker rewards in
    brick-and-mortar casinos, then you need to sign up for the slots club. You
    can do so online or in the casino.

How to Find the Best Video Poker Games

You can learn all of the strategy in the world, but you’re guaranteed to lose
when playing the wrong video poker games.

This is why it’s important to know the highest-paying video poker variations
along with where you can find them.

Let’s first look at the top-paying games:

  • Full-pay Deuces Wild – 100.76% payback
  • Full-pay Joker Poker – 100.64% payback
  • 10 / 7 Double Bonus – 100.17% payback
  • 10 / 6 Double Double Bonus – 100.07% payback
  • All Aces (online) – 99.92% payback
  • 9 / 6 Jacks or Better – 99.54% payback

This list doesn’t cover every obscure video poker variation that offers high
payback. But these games do represent your most-realistic chance for beating
video poker in land-based and online casinos.

Now, let’s look at methods for finding these top-paying versions:

  • Visit vpFREE2 (Land-based Casinos)

    The best way to find top video poker variants in
    brick-and-mortar casino is to search vpFREE2. This site lets you search
    casinos in different areas of Canada and the United States to find the best
    games. Las Vegas is the only place we’ve found with games offering over 100%
    payback. But you can still find solid games in other parts of the US and

  • Look at Paytables in Casinos (Land-based and Online Casinos)

    If you’re already at a casino, you
    can look at paytables to ensure that you’re paying the best-possible version
    (a.k.a. full pay) of a video poker game. But this isn’t the most-efficient
    method because it requires already being at the casino and visiting
    different games / machines.

  • Search for Reviews of Software Providers (Online Casinos)

    A good method for finding high-paying
    online video poker games is to search by individual software providers. Many
    reviews discuss what kind of video poker payback each software provider
    offers. We found that All Aces (listed above) offers 99.92% payback by
    looking at a review of Microgaming’s software. Once you know payback for an
    individual provider, you can look up what casinos they serve.


Video poker strategy isn’t easy like baccarat or craps, where you can learn a
few different bets and play perfectly. Instead, you need to know how to play a
lot of different scenarios / hands.

But part of the fun is the process when you learn video poker. If you enjoy
skill-based gaming, then you’ll appreciate the journey it takes to becoming a
successful player.

Once you get the basics of video poker down (i.e. playing, understanding
paytables), we recommend that you progress through the channels of learning
strategy in the following order:

  1. Get the correct strategy chart for the game you’re playing.
  2. Consult experts.
  3. Use a video poker trainer and practice with free online games.
  4. Purchase training software.
  5. Search casinos for the best video poker variations.

This might seem like a lot of work, but the game is a breeze once you learn
the strategy. From then on, it’s all about playing your best video poker and
hopefully earning profits!