Guide to Playing Tens or Better Video Poker

Tens or Better video poker tells you what it’s all about right in its name. As you might expect, you can start getting paid back with just a pair of tens, instead of the pair of jacks it takes in most forms of video poker. But what isn’t quite so simple is trying to figure out if the game is actually a better choice just because it’s a little bit easier to form a winning hand.

Video poker is a form of casino entertainment that really stands tall among games that are friendly to bettors. It takes some of the best elements of both table games and slot machines and combines them into a game that is extremely easy to learn. On top of that, it can be played just as easily at top gambling websites as it can in casinos.

Most novices know of video poker in its most common form. This is called Jacks or Better, and it is called that because it takes a pair of jacks to, at the very least, get some sort of return on your wager. It is easy to understand for beginners and, if played correctly, you can play for a long time at a casino without needing to put a lot of money into the machine.

Some people like to seek out more complex forms of the game, both in casinos and at top gambling websites. But those games can be much more volatile than Jacks or Better. What that means is that they provide more opportunities for high payouts, but the tradeoff is that you have a much greater risk of blowing through your bankroll in a short time.

If anything, Tens or Better video poker moves in the other direction. It gives you more winning hands by lowering the threshold for a winning hand to a pair of tens instead of a pair of jacks.

That means that you can often sustain play for a long period of time, just as in Jacks or Better. It also means that you have more chances to come up with winning hands, which can encourage you to keep after it until you get one of the game’s highest-paying hands, such as four of a kind, a straight flush, or a royal flush.

The only problem is that the pay tables for Tens or Better video poker isn’t quite as lucrative for certain hands as Jacks or Better. A full house, in particular, will pay you significantly more in Jacks or Better than it will in Tens or Better. As a result, the payback percentage for the full-pay version of Jacks or Better is a little better than Tens or Better.

In the following article, we’ll discuss how to play Tens or Better video poker. We’ll also talk about the pay tables and how those pay tables affect the payback percentages of the game. Finally, we’ll look into how you can learn to play the game with perfect strategy, and we’ll also check out the game’s advantages and disadvantages compared to other video poker games.

Learning to Play Video Poker

Tens or Better video poker resembles most other forms of video poker in terms of its gameplay. You don’t need to know about any twists as you might for games that include extra features that are unlocked with extra bets. As a result, even those playing video poker for the very first time shouldn’t have any trouble learning how to play in a hurry.

If you are new to video poker, you are in for a treat. Video poker is often the only game that people will play in casinos or at gambling websites. That’s because, in many ways, it’s a game that encompasses all of the best parts of other casino games in one package.

Video poker often gets lumped in with slot machines because both are located in the same section of the casino in many cases. Indeed, video poker is like slot machines because both can be played in a solitary way. You don’t need to deal with anybody else, you can simply put in your money and take on the machine, playing at your own pace and leisure.

Video Poker Machines on a Casino Floor

There is also a comparison to table games because there is a strategic element to both. Video poker is not a mindless experience, as can be the case with slot machines. You must understand probabilities and pay tables to play the game at a high level and maximize your winnings.

But video poker takes those positives and improves upon them. For those who might be intimidated of playing table games because they are worried about the protocol and the etiquette, video poker provides a solution. There is nobody else you have to worry about when you settle in to play at a video poker machine, you can just play free of any hassles.

As for the advantages that it has on slot machines, we already told you that video poker includes strategy, so that you can have some sort of control over gameplay. But slot machines also lack any sort of way to tell, on the gambler’s part, what kind of payback they might receive from a particular machine. And you don’t have any way to know when you might expect a winning spin.

But video poker accounts for all of that. First of all, the probabilities of playing with a 52-card deck dictate how often you might receive certain winning hands. And when you combine the probabilities with the pay tables which state how much each of those winning hands pay, you can then tell exactly how much you can expect to receive in payback from the machine that you’re playing.

All of that, in addition to how simple it is to play, makes video poker the game of choice for many discerning casino-goers and online gamblers. But before you can take advantage of games like Tens or Better video poker, you have to learn how to play. With that in mind, here is a step-by-step look at how the game is played.

Step 1: The Bankroll

The first thing you have to do when playing video poker is to establish your bankroll. That means that you have to insert money into the machine. Or it could mean, if you’re playing online, that you have to create an account at the website that you’ve chosen.

Once you have your money in the machine, you’ll notices that it is registered as credits or coins. These credits will be equal to a unit of denomination for the machine that you’re playing.

Machines will vary in terms of the size of the denomination, from low amounts like a penny or nickel to higher amounts like a dollar. Some machines might even give you the opportunity to choose which denomination you want to play.

To figure out how many credits you’ll have to play, you have to divide the money that you put in by the denomination. For example, $10 in a 25-cent machine will get you 40 credits (10 divided by .25). You should try to judge the amount of credits that you need by the length of time that you want to play. Once you learn how to do it, you can often play several hands of video poker per minute.

Step 2: The Bet

When you play Tens or Better video poker, it is similar to most basic forms of video poker in that it will give you the chance to bet between one and five coins per hand. There are some exotic forms of video poker where you can bet more than five coins to unlock a special feature. But you won’t have to worry about that here.

Some people who are a bit misguided about how video poker works vary their bets from hand to hand based on how they’ve done in previous hands. For example, they might make small bets several hands in a row and suddenly make a bigger bet because they think they’re due to win. Video poker doesn’t work that way, however, because you have the same chances of winning a hand no matter if you’ve won or lost 50 hands in a row before that.

In actuality, you should be betting five coins every single hand to max out your chances of making the highest profit. The reason for that, as you’ll see when we get to talk about the pay tables, is that the payout for the royal flush hand is significantly higher when you bet five coins than when you bet less. At one through four coins played, the royal flush pays 250 to 1, but it jumps to 800 to 1 when you bet five coins.

It’s understandable if you’re just starting out playing Tens or Better video poker and don’t have the biggest budget that you might want to keep your bets low. But if that’s what you really feel you need to do, you would be better off lowering the denomination and betting the max. Otherwise, you will essentially be lessening your return of investment since the royal flush hand, if achieved, will make up a large chunk of that.

Step 3: The Hand

If you’ve ever played five card draw poker at home or out with friends, you should have a hang on how to play basic video poker. In most simple versions of five card draw, you get a five-card deal and try to improve the hand with a draw round. Your goal is to beat the other players with your hand, although you can bluff your way to a win if you are savvy enough.

With video poker, there is no bluffing and you don’t have to worry about other players. All you have to do is make one of the winning hands that are listed on the machine’s pay table. In the case of Tens or Better video poker, those winning hands are:

  • Pair of tens or better
  • Two pair
  • Three of a kind
  • Straight (five cards of consecutive rank, like 3-4-5-6-7)
  • Flush (five cards of same suit)
  • Full house (three of a kind and two pair in the same hand)
  • Four of a kind
  • Straight flush (straight with five cards of same suit)
  • Royal flush (ten, jack, queen, king, and ace of the same suit)

As we stated above, the main difference with Tens or Better video poker is that it pays off with a pair of tens, which isn’t a paying hand in Jacks or Better. That knowledge might alter your strategy a bit, but we’ll get to that later. For now, let’s talk about how a hand of video poker works.

The first that will happen, once you make your bet, is that you’ll receive five cards on your screen. Your chances of receiving these cards would be the same as if you were playing with a freshly shuffled 52-card deck at home. Your hope is that you might end up with some combination of cards that is already a winning hand like the ones listed above.

Of course, you don’t have to panic if you don’t have a winning hand immediately on the deal. The draw round will give you another chance to score. On the draw, you get to discard cards that you don’t think are helping your hand and have them replaced by others that are still in the deck.

This is where your strategy will come into play. You’ll have to assess your probabilities of making winning hands from what you’ve been dealt. And you’ll have to decide which of those hands are worth seeking out on the draw based on how much they pay.

Let’s take a look at a sample hand to see how this all might work. Imagine that you receive the following cards on the deal:

Nine of Clubs, Ten of Hearts, Ten of Spades, Jack of Hearts, Queen of Hearts

Right off the bat, you might notice the pair of tens. Since you’re playing Tens or Better video poker, you know that, at the very least, you’ll get your money back if you keep the two tens. You might even do better if you get some luck on the draw, perhaps making two pair, three of a kind, a full house, or even four of a kind.

But a closer look reveals that there are some other possibilities that you can pursue in this hand. For instance, with the nine through queen already in your hand, you are just an eight or a king short of a straight. Since there are four of each in the deck, you would have an eight in 47 chance of drawing a straight (47 because that’s how many are left in the deck without the five cards that were dealt).

Finally, you also have the ten through queen of hearts. That gives you three cards to a flush, a straight flush, or a royal flush. In other words, this hand has the elements of just about every winning hand on the Tens or Better pay table.

How do you choose? Well, understanding probabilities helps, as does the ability to figure out which hands are worth the risk. It’s something that you can learn through playing a lot of video poker, or it’s something that you can learn with some help, which we’ll talk about when we get to the strategy section of this article.

In any case, once you make your choice here, you will press the buttons below the cards that you want to hold. The others will be discarded once you press the “Draw” button and replaced with others from the deck. At that point, the hand is complete and will be scored, meaning that any winnings will be added (the bet will already have been deducted from your bankroll at the beginning of the hand).

That’s basically how every hand of video poker works. There will often be times when your choice of what to hold and discard will be much more obvious for you, as this was a relatively complicated example. In any case, you’ll find that the more you play, the quicker you’ll be able to make these decisions, usually in a few seconds or less once you become experienced.

You can continue to play video poker as long as you have money left in the machine. Once you are out of credits, you’ll have to either replenish your supply or quit. In addition, you can always cash out and collect your winnings at any time.

Now that you understand how to play, it’s time to get deeper into Tens or Better video poker by talking about the way that the pay tables affect how you play and how much you can expect to get paid by the game.

Tens or Better Pay Tables

Knowing how to read a pay table is an important thing for video poker players to understand. By knowing how much each winning hand pays, you can determine whether or not it’s worth going for them based on what you’ve been dealt. The pay tables will also let you know what the payback percentage for a game might be.

Let’s start by taking a look at what is known as the full-pay pay table for Tens or Better video poker. By full-pay, we mean that this will be the highest-paying version of the game that you’ll be able to find, either in casinos or at top gambling websites.

Tens or Better Full-Pay 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
Four of a kind 25 50 75 100 125
Full house 6 12 18 24 30
Flush 5 10 15 20 25
Straight 4 8 12 16 20
Three of a kind 3 6 9 12 15
Two pair 2 4 6 8 10
Tens or better 1 2 3 4 5

How do you read the pay table? You simply have to follow the row for the winning hand that you made over to the column for the amount that you bet. For example, a flush with a five-coin bet will pay off 25 coins, which means a 20-coin profit (25 coins minus 5 wagered).

Without any context, you might not know if this pay table is good or bad. As a result, let’s examine the full-pay version of Jacks or Better, since that is the game to which Tens or Better is most often compared:

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
Four of a kind 25 50 75 100 125
Full house 9 18 27 36 45
Flush 5 10 15 20 25
Straight 4 8 12 16 20
Three of a kind 3 6 9 12 15
Two pair 2 4 6 8 10
Jacks or better 1 2 3 4 5

The obvious difference here is that Tens or Better starts paying with a pair of tens. To explain the difference, you should know that you have a chance of making a pair of tens or better around 25% of the time. You will only make a pair of jacks or better 21% of the time.

But the Jacks or Better compensates by paying out higher for both the full house and flush hands. Jacks or Better gives out 9 to 1 and 6 to 1 odds for these hands, respectively. Tens or Better can only offer 6 to 1 and 5 to 1.

What you also have to realize is that these are the full-pay versions of these two variations. You will find many different pay tables under the Jacks or Better umbrella, most of which lower the payout for the full house and flush hands. Tens or Better has only one known variant in terms of its pay table, which is this one:

Tens or Better (Lower Paying) 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
Four of a kind 20 40 60 80 100
Full house 6 12 18 24 30
Flush 5 10 15 20 25
Straight 4 8 12 16 20
Three of a kind 3 6 9 12 15
Two pair 2 4 6 8 10
Tens or better 1 2 3 4 5

The big difference is that the four of a kind hand pays off only 20 to 1 in this version. Compare that to the full pay version’s 25 to 1 odds for this hand. You might think that four of a kind is rare but, if you play the game enough, you are likely to encounter it and, when you do, you’ll want that full-pay payoff.

Why these differences are important is that they will affect payback percentage. Let’s talk about that now.

Payback Percentage for Tens or Better Video Poker

Percent Sign in Front of Money
Payback percentage is a measurement that is important for those who plan to play video poker seriously to understand. If you are only going to play once in a while in a casino for fun, the payback percentage likely won’t matter that much to you. The luck of the deal and the draw will have more to do with how well you perform than anything else if you fall into that category.

But those who plan on playing Tens or Better video poker, or any other form of video poker for that matter, need to understand how payback percentages work. A payback percentage is a computation of exactly how much a machine will return to you on average. It is determined by combining the probabilities of making winning hands with the payback for those hands.

Without having to do all that math, you can usually just look up the payback percentage online once you know the pay tables. Remember, however, a payback percentage is only an estimate of what you can expect. Your results may vary, especially over a short session.

If you play the game a long time and play with expert strategy (more on that below), your payback percentage will start to resemble the quoted one. For example, if you play a video poker machine with a 99% payback, it means that you can expect $990 in return for every $1,000 gambled in the machine. That means a total loss of $10.

99% is usually the threshold for a good video poker machine. If you’re getting 99% back from a machine, you are very close to breaking even. And when you factor in casino loyalty programs, you can easily expect to either break even or even eke out a small profit.

In the case of full-pay Tens or Better video poker, the payback percentage sits at 99.1%. We would recommend it as a video poker game that you should play if you come upon it in a casino or a gambling website. It falls short of the payback for full-pay Jacks or Better, which sits at 99.54%, but it is still quite competitive.

But you have to know the pay tables well. If you run into the pay table above where the four of a kind only pays at 20 to 1, the payback drops under 98%. Again, for those who are playing recreationally, this won’t matter much, but those looking to get the most out of their play should be aware of the disparity.

Video Poker Strategy

Above, we presented you with a sample hand where there were several distinct possibilities in terms of which direction you could go with your holds and discards. But there is only one mathematically correct play out of all those choices. That is the one that generates the highest expected value out of the cards that have been dealt.

It’s not easy to do all of that math on the fly. That’s why it’s a good idea to find some resources to help you out in the quest to play with perfect strategy. But you have to make sure that you are tailoring that strategy to Tens or Better video poker.

For example, if you were playing Jacks or Better and had a pair of tens along with four cards to a flush, the right play is to go for the flush. But in Tens or Better video poker, since the Tens pay off, you are better off holding them and locking in your even-money payout while going for something even bigger on the draw.

As for the resources to help you out, there are two which we highly recommend which, if used correctly, can help you achieve perfect play, which means that you are making the right choice on every single hand. And perfect play means that you will achieve the quoted payback percentages for the games. Playing with less than perfect strategy means that those percentages will drop.

Those two methods which we recommend are:

  • Strategy Charts: The best way to use strategy charts, which can be found for top variations like Tens or Better video poker, is to memorize it. These charts list all of the combinations of cards you might receive on the deal from most to least valuable. Once you recognize which cards you have match one of the valuable combinations, you can discard the ones not included.
  • Video Poker Training Software: This software shows you how to play video poker by allowing you to simulate actual play, with betting and bankrolls and everything. When you input the pay table you are going to play, the software can then instinctively tell which are the right plays for every possible deal. When you make a wrong choice, you will be alerted as to what the correct hold and discard should be.

Tens or Better Video Poker Pros and Cons


  • Very simple game to learn
  • With a pair of tens paying off, you have an excellent chance of making winning hands
  • Can play for a long time with small bankroll

  • Poor payoffs for flush and full House hands
  • Small chance of jackpot-style payout
  • Only full-pay table provides competitive payback

Conclusion on Tens or Better Video Poker

Tens or Better video poker, whether you play it in a casino or on a top gambling website, makes it pretty easy for you to get some kind of winning hand. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a lucrative game on the whole. But it does make for a great way for beginners to build confidence when playing video poker.