Video Poker Rules & Strategy

For the player who likes a game of skill, a low house edge, the possibility of large wins, and the anonymity of playing alone there is nothing else that can compare to video poker. The rules of video poker are simple; you play 1 to 5 coins, the machine gives you five cards, you choose which to hold and which to discard, the machine replaces your discards and pays you off according to the value of your hand. The hands values are exactly like regular poker. See the Poker School for a lesson on poker hand values.

The number of variations of video poker is constantly increasing. Wild cards have been introduced, some games feature multiple decks, bonuses for certain four of a kinds are common, and payoff tables can vary from one machine to another. To have an edge the player must play correct or near-correct strategy appropriate to their game and payoff table. The player who picks a machine at random and plays by common sense is going to lose over the long run. Serious players trust in strategy that is the product of computer analysis and make the best play near or at 100% of the time. In general the more complicated and long a strategy is the closer to 100% accuracy it will come. Serious players also don’t just play any machine but are diligent about researching and finding ones that have the most generous payoff tables.

Basic strategies for all machines:

While there are many different strategies involved with each machine, there are a few points that should be followed for all:

  • Don’t hold four cards of an inside straight – an inside straight is one where the potential straight can be completed only one way. An outside straight is one that can be completed in two ways and so is twice as likely to be successful. The only exception to this rule is an ace-high straight.
  • Don’t hold three cards of a straight except for K-Q-J.
  • Don’t hold three cards of a flush – do not hold three cards of the same suit unless it is also a potential straight flush.
  • Don’t hold a kicker with any pair or with three of a kind – a kicker is a single high card (J,Q,K,A) that has the potential to turn into a winning pair. The pair or three of a kind should always be played and the kicker discarded.

Jacks or Better

When using the strategy tables, analyze every hand carefully, then select the first option on the list that applies to the hand you were dealt. Don’t rush – take your time, the machine will patiently wait for you to make your decision.

Hold all paying hands you’re dealt, except break up a lesser paying hand if you get four cards to a royal flush.

When you’re dealt non-paying hands, check for the following and hold accordingly:

Hold any four cards to a straight flush.

Hold any three cards to a royal flush.

Hold any four cards to a flush.

Hold any low pair (tens or lower).

Hold any four-card consecutive straight.

Hold any two high cards of the same suit.

Hold any three cards to a straight flush.

Hold J, Q, and K of different suites.

Hold any two high cards of different suites.

Hold J, Q or K with a Ten of the same suit.

Hold any single high card.

If you didn’t get dealt any of the above, draw five new cards.

Jokers Wild

If the hand you’re dealt contains the joker:

Keep all hands that are three-of-a-kind or higher, except hold four cards to the royal flush, even if it means discarding a paying hand of lower value.

(Always remember that the joker is part of the combination you’re looking for, for example two sevens and the joker equals three-of-a-kind).

Keep any four-card straight flush and a four-card flush if it includes K, A or both.

Keep three cards to a royal flush.

Keep a paying pair of high cards (King, Joker or Ace, Joker).

Keep any three cards to a straight flush.

Keep any four-card flush without King or Ace.

Keep consecutive four-card straights.

If you’re not dealt any of the above, keep the Joker only.

If you’re dealt a hand without the Joker:

Keep all paying hands, except hold a four-card royal flush.

Keep any four cards to a straight flush and any three cards to a royal flush.

Keep four cards to any flush.

Keep any pair of 2’s to Queens.

Keep any three cards to a straight flush.

Keep any four-card consecutive straight.

Keep two cards to a royal flush if one of the cards is a Ace or King.

Keep unsuited King and Ace.

Keep King or Ace alone.

Keep two suited royal flush cards lower than King or Ace.

If you’re not dealt any of the above, draw five new cards.

Deuces Wild

If you’re dealt:

Four Deuces – Hold all five cards, you can’t improve this hand.

Three Deuces – Keep a wild royal flush and five-of-a-kind. Otherwise hold the deuces only.

Two Deuces – Keep any hand that’s four-of-a-kind or better. Keep any four cards to a royal flush. Otherwise just the two deuces.

One Deuce – Keep all paying hands, with the exception of four cards to a royal flush. Keep four cards to a straight flush, three cards to a royal flush. Otherwise keep the deuce only.

 

No Deuce:

 

Keep all paying hands, except hold four cards to a royal flush, instead of a lesser paying hand.

Keep a four-card straight flush.

Keep a three-card to a royal flush.

Keep any one pair (keep two pair only if full house pays the same as four-of-a-kind).

Keep a four-card flush.

Keep a consecutive four-card straight.

Keep three cards to a straight flush.

Keep any two of 10, J, Q or K, if they’re in the same suit.

If you’re not dealt any of the above, draw five new cards.