VIDEO POKER GAMEPLAY AND HAND RANKS

In this section, we’ll look at video poker gameplay and what you should expect when you sit down at a machine. As noted in our introduction, there are countless variations of video poker found in online and land-based casinos. To keep things simple, we’ll start with the most fundamental of all games—JACKS OR BETTER—and deal with the variants down the road.

ONLINE VS. LAND BASED VIDEO POKER

As far as video poker variations and strategy is concerned there’s no difference between playing the game online and playing at a land-based casino. In fact, depending on where you live you might have an easier time finding a ‘player friendly’ rule set and pay table online than at nearby land-based casinos. Players in the major gambling destinations in Nevada still have it pretty good, however, and while the overall quality of casino play in the Silver State is in decline it remains the mecca for video poker, at least in North America. That being said, the same companies that design the software for the machines found in Nevada casinos also provide technology consulting to online gambling sites. For the most part, the gameplay, strategy and experience of video poker online is indistinguishable from land-based play.

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VIDEO POKER GAMEPLAY

So you’ve sat down at a ‘Jacks or Better’ machine in a Las Vegas casino. Twenty years ago, you would start by furiously shoving coins into the slot but times have changed. It’s almost impossible to find machines that use ‘real coins’ in Las Vegas any more (hint: try the Cannery on Boulder Highway and the El Cortez downtown). Now you’ll most likely put a bill in the bill acceptor slot (or alternately a payout ticket if you’ve come from another game). You’ll see the credits roll up on the machine and you’re ready to play.

Hit the ‘Bet Max’ button (we’ll explain why later) and the machine will deal five cards. The object is to use these five cards to make the best possible poker hand. You can keep all five, discard all five or keep just the cards you want. If you discard any (or all) cards the machine will deal replacements and payout on your hand if it’s a winner. If you’ve won, the credits will be added to your total. Win or lose, you can then cash out or more likely hit the ‘Bet Max‘ button again and keep playing.

RANKING OF HANDS

96payoutVideo poker pay tables are a topic unto themselves so for now, we’ll start with the rankings of the hands from top to bottom. If you’ve played poker of any type you likely know this already but there’s nothing wrong with a refresher. You want to reach the point where you don’t even have to think about these hand rankings:

Don’t forget that it’s essential to bet the maximum (almost always 5 coins) on every hand. Here’s a paytable from an actual video poker machine.

Notice the payout for a Royal Flush:

1 Coin 250
2 Coins 500
3 Coins 750
4 Coins 1000
5 Coins 4000

At four coins in on a 25 cent machine, a royal flush pays $250. With five coins in it pays $1000! The difference is not only $750 but is essential to your ability to play video poker profitably in the long term. If you can’t afford to play max coins in on a machine you need to drop down to a lower denomination.

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