Video Poker Tips

Video Poker Tips

Many video poker players know that the game is about more than chasing royal flushes and hoping luck shines on you.

In fact, video poker contains a large amount of skill that few casino games can match. And you can greatly improve your chances of beating the casino with enough strategy.

But how do you develop the necessary skills to win in video poker?

Let's cover some tips that will help you become a complete player, from the beginning to the advanced stages.

Beginner Video Poker Tips

Tip #1: Bet the Max Number of Coins

Video poker machines let you wager anywhere from 1 to 5 coins per hand. If you want the best chance to win in video poker, then you need to bet the 5 coin max every time.

The reason why you should do this is because the royal flush payout features a disproportionate jump when you bet 5 coins. Here's a look at this:

  • 250 coin royal flush on a 1 coin bet.
  • 500 coin royal flush on a 2 coin bet.
  • 750 coin royal flush on a 3 coin bet.
  • 1,000 coin royal flush on a 4 coin bet.
  • 4,000 coin royal flush on a 5 coin bet.

The 3,000 coin jump between the 4 and 5 coin bet is the sole reason why you wager the max. This large discrepancy has a noticeable effect on the house edge, which you can see in the example below:

  • Double Bonus payback when betting 5 coins = 100.17%
  • Double Bonus payback when betting 1 to 4 coins = 99.1%
Tip #2: Know when Not to Bet the Max

All video poker books, articles, and other strategy resources recommend that you bet the 5 coin max because it gives you the best chance to win. But if you can't afford to wager the max, then it's not the end of the world.

The key thing to understand is that you only draw to a royal flush about 1 out of every 40,000 hands. This means that the vast majority of the time, you don't need to worry about missing out on the extra 3,000 coins.

Non royal flush payouts make up approximately 97% of totally video poker payback. And given that all other payouts increase proportionately when moving from a 1 to 5 coin bet, you won't miss anything here.

We still suggest that you make5 coin max bets. But if you're a casual player who wants to play 1 to 4 coins for fun, then this won't ruin you.

Tip #3: Pay tables Change Payback

All video poker games can look the same to a new player. But slight differences in the pay table have a noticeable impact on the house edge.

Let's start by looking at different pay tables for Jacks or Better (JoB:

  • 9 / 6 JoB = 99.54% payback
  • 9 / 5 JoB = 98.45%
  • 8 / 6 JoB = 98.39%
  • 8 / 5 JoB = 97.30%

The numbers in front signify what each game pays for a full house and flush.

In the case of 9 / 6 JoB, you receive 9 coins for a full house and 6 for a flush. With 9 / 5 JoB, you earn 9 coins for a full house and 5 for a flush.

The 1 coin difference in the flush payouts may not seem like a big difference. But the flush payout occurs frequently enough to have a 1.09% impact on the payback.

Let's look at another example involving Double Bonus:

  • 10 / 7 / 5 Double Bonus = 100.17% payback
  • 9 / 7 / 5 Double Bonus = 99.11%
  • 9 / 6 / 5 Double Bonus = 97.81%
  • 9 / 7 / 4 Double Bonus = 97.74%

Double Bonus pay tables not only feature differences in the full house and flush payouts, but also the straight payouts. The lowest pay table in this list is the 9 / 7 / 4 Double Bonus game, which pays 9 coins for a full house, 7 for a flush, and 4 for a straight.

Tip #4: Look for the Best Games

You can know all the video poker strategy in the world. But if you don't play the right games, then you're wasting your time.

Here's a look at some of the top games in video poker:

  • Full pay Joker Wild = 101.0% payback
  • Full pay Deuces Wild = 100.76%
  • 10 / 7 / 5 Double Bonus = 100.17%
  • 10 / 6 Double Double Bonus = 100.07%
  • All Aces (online) = 99.92%
  • Split Way Royal (online) = 99.80%
  • Aces & Eights (online) = 99.78%
  • Not So Ugly Ducks = 99.73%
  • Super Double Bonus = 99.69%
  • 9 / 6 Bonus Poker = 99.64%
  • 9 / 6 Jacks or Better = 99.54%
  • 8 / 5 Bonus Poker = 99.17%

Obviously it's best to play games that give you the best chance to win. But the other side is that you need to be able to find these games.

We don't know any casino that still offers full pay Joker Wild. Full pay Deuces Wild, Double Bonus, and Double Double Bonus can only be found in Las Vegas based casinos.

This means most players will be relegated to the top online video poker games, and 9 / 6 JoB and 8 / 5 Bonus Poker in brick and mortar casinos.

Tip #5: Know the Do's and Don'ts

Knowing the do's and don'ts of video poker helps you follow the most universal strategy rules and make more money. Here are the biggest things you should and shouldn't do in video poker:

  • Do: Play the maximum coin size, unless you're a casual player who's just looking to have fun.
  • Don't: Play longer than you can afford to, and / or play multi hand games that are too expensive for you.
  • Do: Look for the best games and pay tables.
  • Don't: Sit down to a video poker machine and start playing without looking at the pay table.
  • Do: Play when you're rested and in a good mood.
  • Don't: Play when you're drunk and / or tired.
  • Do:Learn proper strategy so that you can win money.
  • Don't: Think that you can beat video poker without putting some work into the matter.
  • Do: Know that video poker has ups and downs, and you need a bankroll that can survive this variance.
  • Don't: Obsess over royal flushes and think that video poker is all about winning big payouts.
Tip #6: Start with an Easy, Low Variance Game like Jacks or Better

If you're new to video poker, we recommend that you play Jacks or Better.

The first reason why is because this machine has low variance (a.k.a. volatility), meaning it offers more consistent payouts. This is crucial for any player who has a small bankroll and wants to consistently win money back.

The second reason for choosing JoB is that it has simpler strategy than most games. Because JoB has a simple pay table, you don't have to make as many strategy decisions on each hand.

Tips on Improving Your Video Poker Skills

Once you know which video poker games and pay tables to choose, the next logical step involves working on your skills. After all, you have a much better chance of winning when you make correct decisions over and over.

The good news is that there are multiple ways to become a better player. This next section will cover some of the video poker calculators and tools that'll up your game.

Tip #7: Use a Video Poker Strategy Chart in the Beginning

While you can start with one of several methods to improve your video poker play, we recommend getting a strategy chart and playing Jacks or Better.

Earlier, we explained that JoB is a great game to start with due to its simplistic strategy. Another reason to begin with this game is because JoB strategy charts are the easiest to find.

As for strategy charts, these rank made and non made hands in the order that you should keep them in. Here's an example:

  • You're dealt: 4s 4d 8d Jd 3d
    • Option #1: you keep 4 cards to a flush.
    • Option #2: you keep pair of 4's (low pair).
  • Consulting the strategy chart, you can see that the 4 cards to a flush rank higher.

When you play JoB with a strategy chart, you'll develop a general feeling for video poker strategy. And this makes it easier to deal with the strategy nuances of other games.

Also note that you'll find both simple and optimal charts for JoB. The simple chart helps you get to 99.46% payback, while the optimal version leads to 99.54% payback.

The advantage with using a simplified chart is that there are fewer decisions to worry about, and you still come close to optimal payback. Of course, serious players will appreciate how the optimal chart helps them get the highest payback.

You can see both versions below:

Simple JoB Strategy Chart
  • 1Royal flush, straight flush, 4 of a kind
  • 24cards to a royal flush
  • 3Full house, flush, straight, 3 of a kind
  • 44cards to a straight flush
  • 5Two pair
  • 6High pair (A's through J's)
  • 73 cards to a royal flush
  • 84 cards to a flush
  • 9Low pair (10's through 2's)
  • 104 cards to an outside straight
  • 112 suited high cards
  • 123 cards to a straight flush
  • 132 unsuited high cards
  • 14Suited K 10, Q 10, and J 10
  • 151 high card
  • 16Discard everything
Optimal JoB Strategy Chart
  • 1Royal flush, straight flush, 4 of a kind
  • 24 cards to a royal flush
  • 3Full house, flush, straight, 3 of a kind
  • 44 cards to a straight flush
  • 5Two pair
  • 6High pair (A's through J's)
  • 73 cards to a royal flush
  • 84 cards to a flush
  • 9Unsuited K Q J T
  • 10Low pair (10's to 2's)
  • 114 cards to an outside straight w / 0 to 2 high cards
  • 123 cards to a straight flush
  • 13Suited Q J
  • 144 cards to an inside straight w / 4 high cards
  • 15Suited K Q or K J
  • 16Suited A K, A Q, or A J
  • 174 cards to an inside straight w / 3 high cards
  • 183 cards to a straight flush
  • 19Unsuited K Q J
  • 20Unsuited Q J
  • 21Suited J T
  • 222 unsuited high cards w / king high card
  • 23Suited Q T
  • 242 unsuited high cards w / ace high card
  • 25Jack only
  • 26Suited K T
  • 27Queen
  • 28King 29. Ace 30. 3 cards to a straight flush
Tip #8: Practice with Video Poker Training

One way to really take your video poker game to the next level is by using a training program.

Video poker trainers play just like regular games. But the key difference is that they let you know when you've made correct and incorrect strategy decisions.

Let's look at a couple of examples:

  • Example #1
    • You're dealt: 6s 9d Qh 5c 3h
    • You keep Qh and discard everything else.
    • The trainer shows that this is the correct move in this situation.
  • Example #2
    • You're dealt: 2h 8c Qc Kd Ad
    • You keep Ad,Kd, and Qc, then discard everything else.
    • The trainer shows that this is incorrect because you should've also discarded Qc.

The great thing about trainers is that you have a helping strategy hand the entire time you're playing. As you continue learning the right and wrong moves in each situation, video poker strategy will eventually become second nature.

Besides repetition, another good thing about training programs is that they let you practice games that aren't covered by strategy charts.

We've found strategy charts for 6 video poker variations, which is a small percentage compared to what games are available.

And if you're trying to win through positive expectation (+EV) games like Deuces Wild, Double Bonus, and Double Double Bonus, you won't find strategy charts for them either.

Video poker trainers, on the other hand, cover a wider range of variants. And some of these programs even let you customize pay tables so that you can practice any game.

Finding Video Poker Trainers

When using video poker trainers, you have two options: free programs and versions that you pay for.

Free video poker trainers are the most convenient option because you merely need to do a Google / Bing search and you're ready to play. These versions give you a few different options with regard to games & pay tables, which helps you practice the popular variants.

The only problem with free trainers is that they don't cover enough games for skilled players. For this, you'll need to buy software, which can cost up to $60.

One example is Bob Dancer's Video Poker for Winners program. Retailing at $49.95, this is a CD ROM that allows you to do the following:

  • Practice different games.
  • Play problem hands.
  • Check unusual hands.
  • Calculate bankroll requirements for different games.
  • Figure out how much money you'll earn through slots clubs.

A casual player won't want to pay $50 for a video poker trainer, especially if their favorite game is already covered by a free program.

But again, serious players who want to play +EV variations - or at least games with payback in the high 99% range - should consider using a trainer.

Tip #9: Consider Free Video Poker

Want to put your skills to the test without a helping hand or having to put money on the line? Free video poker is another good tool that you can use to get better.

Online casinos offer free video poker as a service to attract players. And most casinos have a wide variety of games that you can practice with.

Another good thing about playing at internet casinos is that you can play as many hands as you'd like without spending anything.

The downside to free video poker is that you don't get advice like with a trainer or strategy chart. For this reason, we only recommend that you use the free version when you're testing your strategy.

Tip #10: Use a Hand Calculator to Figure Out Tough Hands

A video poker hand calculator is great for times when you want to figure out an individual hand. Here's a look at how these calculators work:

  • 1Choose your desired game and pay table.
  • 2Choose each card that you want for the 5 card hand.
  • 3Push Process to get the results.
  • 4The calculator will give you EV on each potential decision. You go with the decision that has the highest EV.

Hand calculators aren't meant to be a heavily used strategy tool, like a trainer or chart. After all, it takes several seconds to create each hand.

Instead, a calculator is good for difficult hands that you haven't trained for, or have forgotten how to play. Considering that some trainers come equipped with hand calculators, these are handy side tools that you can use in a jam.

Tip #11: Use a Bankroll Calculator

Video poker games take hundreds of thousands of hands to reach their payback percentage. Do you have the bankroll to last until this point?

Bankroll calculators will help you figure out your bankroll requirements for any game.

We haven't found any free video poker bankroll calculators floating around the internet. But some programs like the aforementioned Video Poker for Winners come packaged with these tools.

Once you have a calculator, you can input your desired game to find your risk of ruin. Here's a look at risk of ruin for a 9 / 6 Jacks or Better game:

9 / 6 Jacks or Better
Payback: 99.544%
Bankroll (1 unit = 5 coin max bet) Risk of Ruin
1 ($1.25) 99.94%
50 ($62.50) 96.88%
100 ($125) 93.85%
500 ($625) 72.81%
1000 ($1,250) 53.01%
2000 ($2,500) 28.10%
3000 ($3,750) 14.90%
4000 ($5,000) 7.90%
5000 ($6,250) 4.19%
7500 ($9,375) 0.86%
10,000 ($12,500) 0.18%

Even a $1,250 bankroll has around a 50% chance of busting in JoB. But the 1,000 betting units ensure that you'll be able to play for quite a while regardless.

Once you cross the $5,000 threshold, your risk of ruin declines significantly. Furthermore, you should win multiple royal flush payouts before you ever come close to your bankroll busting.

Keep in mind that JoB is one of the least volatile variations in video poker. Once you move to the more volatile bonus variants, your risk of ruin increases.

This is why you want to do a separate bankroll calculation for each new game that you move to.

Tip #12: Visit Forums

Have a burning video poker question that you want answered? The best place to do this is at video poker forums.

Many forums are loaded with threads that discuss strategy, casinos, comps, training programs, and where to find the top games. You can also enjoy fun topics that have little or nothing to do with video poker.

Of course, nothing beats trainers or strategy charts when it comes to learning strategy. But like hand calculators, forums are a specialist tool that can help you find the highest paying games and comp programs.

Tip #13: Read Articles & Books

Books are one of the oldest ways to improve your video poker game. Here are a few that we find helpful and / or entertaining:

  • Frugal Video Poker (2006) by Jean Scott.
  • The Video Poker Edge, Second Edition: How to Play Smart and Bet Right (2006) by Linda Boyd.
  • Million Dollar Video Poker (2003) by Bob Dancer.
  • The Video Poker Answer Book (2000) by John Grochowski.

Video poker books are nice for players who enjoy reading and picking up strategy. But the problem is that many books are outdated and / or not worth buying thanks to all the information available on the internet.

This brings us to another helpful strategy tool in online articles. Simple Google searches will yield countless articles that you can read to improve your play.

The benefit to video poker articles is that they're quick and easy to find. The biggest drawback is that articles can run together because video poker websites rehash the same subject matter.

Tips on Finding the Best Games

Earlier, we covered the importance of looking for thebest paying games in video poker. But how do you find the top games?

Let's briefly discuss where you can find quality video poker games, and if +EV machines can help you become a pro.

Tip #14: Use vpFREE2 to Look Up Land based Video Poker

Tens of thousands of video poker machines are scattered throughout North America. And this makes it extremely difficult to know where the best games are.

This is why you should use the website vpFREE2.com because it lets you search for video poker machines across both Canada and the United States.

Here's how it works:

  • You visit the "Casinos" tab at the top of the homepage.
  • Use the filters to search for video poker / casinos in each region.
  • Look through the different video poker games offered at each casino.

The one thing to note is that vpFREE2 uses abbreviations for games. But you can quickly learn what these mean by visiting the "Pay Tables" tab.

As for the results, you'll find which casinos offer the highest paying video poker machines. You'll also see what denominations are available for each machine.

The denominations are a great help when you find +EV video poker and want to maximize your profits. Here's an example that we noticed from our vpFREE2 search:

  • Aliante Casino offers $1 denomination 10 / 7 / 5 Double Bonus (100.17% payback).
  • Circus Circus offers $0.50 denomination Aces and Eights (100.25% payback).

The game at Circus Circus appears to be the best from a payback perspective. But let's look at the hourly rate you'd earn with perfect strategy on each game:

  • You bet$1,000 per hour on the $1 DB game = $1.70 hourly profit (1,000 x 1.0017)
  • You bet $1,000 per hour on the $0.50 A&8 game = $1.25 hourly profit (500 x 1.0025)

Despite having the higher payback, Circus Circus' Aces and Eights game pays less because you can only bet $0.50 per hand.

Long story short, vpFREE2 is the ultimate tool for researching casino video poker in Las Vegas and beyond.

Tip #15: Look Up Online Video Poker Games by Software Providers

Finding the top video poker games in online casinos works differently because there's no vpFREE2.com site to rely on. Instead, your best chances involve looking up information on the software providers.

This begins with knowing some of the prominent software companies. We've listed a few below:

  • Betsoft
  • Microgaming
  • Net Entertainment
  • Realtime Gaming

All of these companies provide video poker games, and you can research them to see what their top paying video poker games are.

Using Realtime as an example, they offer an Aces & Eights game with 99.78% payback. Microgaming does one better by featuring an All Aces game with 99.92% payback.

Once you find out what type of video poker software a provider offers, you can check out what casinos they supply.

One more thing worth noting is that many high paying online games don't feature common strategy. And if you want to practice a game like Microgaming's All Aces, you'll need to buy training software and create your own customized pay table to train.

Tip #16: Becoming a Video Poker Pro is Hard

Even when you practice video poker and find the right games, winning long term profits is difficult. Furthermore, professional video poker is a tough gig that comes with a number of concerns.

First and foremost, you need to worry about finding +EV machines. Las Vegas is the only place where you can do this on a consistent basis, so you'll have to live here.

Another dilemma is that casinos offer less lucrative video poker promotions than they did in the past.

Pros like Bob Dancer and Jean Scott used to make serious money off of promos alone. Now, you're lucky if some casinos even have decent offers on holidays.

This brings us to another point in that you'll need to play video poker on holidays and busy weekends if you hope to be a pro. That's because many casinos offer their best video poker deals on these days.

You also have to worry about your hourly rate as a video poker pro. Let's look at an example:

  • The game is full pay Deuces Wild (100.76% payback).
  • You make max bets ($1.25 per hand).
  • You play 1,000 hands ($1,250) per hour, which is extremely fast.
  • You also take advantage of a double points promotion.
  • Your comp rate is 0.2%.
  • Your hourly rate from playing alone is $7.60 per hour [($1,250 x 1.0076) - $1,250].
  • Your earnings from comps are $5.00 per hour [($1,250 x 0.002) x 2].
  • Your total earnings are $14.50 per hour ($9.50 playing + $5 comps).

Keep in mind that you need many things to go right just to earn this amount. Your strategy has to be perfect, you need 2x points, and you have to play at a blazing speed.

Is this worth it to most players? No, you'd be better off getting a normal job.

Our point isn't to discourage you, but rather to point out the realities of making it as a video poker pro.

On the positive side, making this kind of money from a game or hobby is an excellent way to supplement your income.

Getting Video Poker Comps

Players love picking up comps and cashback. But some miss out on these rewards because they don't know anything about video poker comps and the players club.

That said, let's discuss what you need to do to ensure that you're in line to pick up freebies through your video poker play.

Tip #17: Sign Up for the Players Club

In brick and mortar casinos, you need to sign up for the players club (a.k.a. slots club) before you're eligible to receive rewards.You can either do this through a casino's website or inside the casino.

Once you sign up, you'll become comped a certain percentage of your bets. In most casinos, you receive between 0.1% and 0.3% back on your video poker action.

The amount can depend upon the casino and game you're playing. You might consider jumping on some video poker forums in hopes of finding the best comp rates.

It's best to avoid any casino that drastically reduces comps for machines that pay back over 99%. We've seen casinos that cut comps down to 0.01% if you're playing a game with over 99% payback.

Tip #18: Research Online Casino Comps

You don't have to sign up for anything when seeking comps at internet casinos. But you should look at a casino's loyalty program to ensure that video poker players are rewarded.

Some casinos cut video poker players out of the slots club and / or exclude their play from earning deposit bonuses.

Obviously you don't want to play anywhere like this, so it's important to ensure that you're drawing rewards and bonuses from your play.

Understanding Video Poker's Legal Side

Thanks to the growing number of casinos around the world, most people will find legal video poker options in their area. Nevertheless, it still pays to know the legal side of video poker, which you can read about below.

Tip #19: Know the Video Poker Laws for Your State / Country

Nobody wants to get in legal trouble for playing video poker, which is why it's crucial to know what the laws are in your state / territory / country.

One way that you can figure this out is by looking online at your local government's gambling penal code. In the US, you can find out what's legal and illegal by checking out your state's penal code.

A good rule of thumb is to stick to playing video poker in licensed and regulated casinos.

As for online video poker, this is still a grey area in some countries.

Canada and the US haven't regulated or banned online gaming on a federal level. This leaves it up to the state / provincial government to decide whether or not they want to regulate ban the activity.

Given that most states and provinces haven't taken action, Canada and the US are served by dozens of offshore casinos. And it's not illegal to play at these casinos in most states and provinces.

Tip #20: Know what to Report regarding Video Poker Taxes

Casinos are mandated by law to have players fill out W 2G tax forms for any win exceeding $1,200.

This creates an advantage with video poker and taxes in that most wins are worth less than $1,000. That's because the standard royal flush payout is 4,000 coins, and the most common denomination is $0.25 (4,000 x 0.25 = $1k).

This means that you can get away with not reporting video poker income in most cases. But if you play progressive video poker, there's a chance that you'll win a jackpot worth over $1,200, at which point you must fill out a W 2G.

In this case, it helps to have both your winnings and losses logged so you can report them on your 1040. This way, the government can't tax you for the full $1,200 plus amount, with no losses to report on the other side.

The best way to be safe is to log your gambling sessions so that you'll have this info on hand in case you do win big.

Video Poker Etiquette

One reason why some players choose video poker is because it's not filled with etiquette and unwritten rules like table games. But there are a few etiquette rules you should note, and we'll discuss these below.

Tip #21: Tip Cocktail Waitresses and Hand pay Attendants

Video poker doesn't have a dealer, meaning you don't have to worry about tips here. But what you do need to think about regarding video poker and tipping is the cocktail waitresses and hand pay employees.

It's customary to give waitresses a dollar every time that they bring you a free drink. If you're not prepared to tip the cocktail waitress, then it's best to decline the drink.

You should also tip the employee that comes over to deliver your hand pay following a big win. In most cases, this situation arises when you win a royal flush, although straight flushes can sometimes be hand pays as well.

Unlike waitresses, there's no guideline for tipping the hand payer. Some players might offer $10 for every $1,000 they win, while others will give $20 - both of which seem fair.

If you want an enormous progressive jackpot worth over $200,000, you might consider giving more like $100 $200.

Tip #22: Make 100% Sure a Seat Isn't Occupied

One of the most common video poker superstitions is that somebody can "steal" a royal flush payout by taking your machine.

This is a complete myth because video poker machines operate through random number generators, which determine hand results within milliseconds.

Regardless of the truth, many players believe that you can potentially steal their royal flush by taking their seat.

This is why you need to check for every possible sign that somebody could be sitting at a machine. After all, you don't want any unpleasantness to arise from taking somebody's seat.

Tip #23: Don't be a Nuisance Yourself

Odds are that you're not the player who drinks too much and / or talks too much around players just want to left alone.

But it's still worth mentioning that you should be as respectful as possible to others in your vicinity.

Video poker players come to the casino to relax and have fun. And the last thing they want to do is sit next to somebody who's berating the machine for not having paid much for the past 2 hours.

Conclusion

Video poker is an enjoyable game that gives you the chance to win big payouts like a royal flush, straight flush, and quads. And this game is all the more enjoyable when you know proper strategy and improve your chances of winning.

It all starts with the basics, including making the max bet, knowing pay tables, and looking for high paying games.

Once you understand these concepts, you can move on to tools that'll improve your chances of winning.

Our favorite place to begin is with a strategy chart, before moving to video poker training and a bankroll calculator. If you enjoy reading, then you might check out some articles and books on the subject too.

Another big thing that you want to do involves researching where the best games are.

If you're a casino video poker player, you'll want to consult vpFREE2.com. As an online video poker player, you want to research different software providers to see what games they offer.

Obviously it's time consuming to undergo all these steps in the pursuit of improvement. But if you really like video poker, then you'll enjoy the process - especially when it results in more winnings!

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