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Video poker for seasoned poker players

For many years, playing video poker was the easiest and quickest way for a tourist to score a free drink in Las Vegas. Of course, the key was to play each hand as slowly as possible so you don’t lose your initial stake while waiting for the bartender to hand over your complimentary beverage. Otherwise, that freebie all of a sudden cost $20!

For a few slick high rollers in Las Vegas, high-volume video poker was their secret way to achieve the highest-tiered status for a particular casino player’s club (the equivalent of Diamond Club or Platinum Club). Even for the average punter or weekend gambler, video poker is fast-paced and fun, but it can also be a lucrative venture if you play optimal strategy and keep a cool head during any downswings.

Do not dismiss video poker as a mindless leisure activity or something to do while killing time at the Las Vegas airport. Snobby poker players often brush off video poker for its video game-like element, so sometimes it got a bad rep for being the favorite pastime of the likes of the legendary poker pro Allen “Chainsaw’ Kessler.

For over forty years, video poker has been one of the most popular games in Las Vegas and in casinos throughout the world. Thanks to the internet, video poker is only a couple of clicks away. You can even play on your mobile devices, so you no longer have to exclusively fly to Vegas to play it or struggle to find an empty parking space at your local casino.



Although the earliest ancestors of slot machines have been around since the 19th Century,  the first draw poker slot machine was introduced in 1901 by Charles Fey, also known as the “Godfather of Slot Machines.” The gambling world would have to wait another 70 years before they would be introduced to another earth-shattering innovation.

Video poker popped up in Las Vegas and Reno casinos when Dale Technologies introduced the first video poker machine in 1970, which demonstrated the latest advances in video screen and computer technology.

Si Redd, a slot machine distributor from Reno, teamed up with an engineer from Bally’s pinball machine company and adapted the new bourgeoning technology to create Keno, blackjack, and video poker machines. Si Redd’s first video poker machine, “Draw Poker”, debuted in 1979. In 1980, Si Redd founded International Game Technology (IGT), which became a giant in the gaming industry and has since expanded to offer business software suites as well. When he passed away, an L.A. Times newspaper obituary referred to Redd as “The King of Video Poker.”



So long as you understand the basic rules of poker, then playing video poker is simple – and don’t knock it until you try it.

The standard game of video poker is Five Card Draw (with or without a wild card). Each hand consists of five cards dealt to the player, who has the option to stand pat or draw cards. Depending on the final hand, the player is awarded a bonus for making specific hands. For rare hands (e.g. Royal flush or straight flush), the payouts are higher. Most video poker games only award payouts starting with a pair of Jacks or better, but every player is chasing the elusive Royal Flush.

Here are the standard single-coin payouts for Jacks or Better Video Poker:

  • Royal Flush: 250 to 1
  • Straight Flush: 50 to 1
  • Four of a Kind: 25 to 1
  • Full House: 9 to 1
  • Flush: 6 to 1
  • Straight: 4 to 1
  • Three of a Kind: 3 to 1
  • Two Pairs: 2 to 1
  • Jacks or Better: 1 to 1

Like any slot machine format, the payouts increase exponentially if you play more coins (up to 5) per hand. The payout for a Royal Flush with a 5-coin wager is a juicy 4,000 to 1, which is enough incentive for many players to play the maximum 5 coins on every hand.

Here are the standard payouts wagering five (5) coins for Jacks or Better Video Poker:

  • Royal Flush: 4000 to 1
  • Straight Flush: 250 to 1
  • Four of a Kind: 125 to 1
  • Full House: 45 to 1
  • Flush: 30 to 1
  • Straight: 20 to 1
  • Three of a Kind: 15 to 1
  • Two Pairs: 10 to 1
  • Jacks or Better: 5 to 1




Video poker varies from online poker or brick-and-mortar poker because of the wild card option. Similar to your home poker games in your kitchen with friends, you can also opt to play video poker with wild cards. The two most popular games – Joker Poker and Deuces Wild – offer an added layer of excitement with wild cards. Joker Poker includes the Joker as a single wild card in a 53-card deck, while Deuces Wild utilizes the standard 52-card deck but all four deuces in the deck are designated as “wild” cards. Payouts are slightly different than the standard Jacks or Better, mainly because the wild cards increase the frequency in which players make certain bonus hands.



In a live poker setting, there’s an added emphasis on recognizing physical tells, but with video poker the sole emphasis is on pattern recognition. One of the biggest and most expensive mistakes that beginners make can be attributed to poorly reading their hand. It’s a costly mistake if you fail to recognize potential straights and flushes, especially when playing specialty games with wild cards.

Consistently winning video poker players have their draw charts memorized. Like most forms of gambling, video poker also requires discipline, focus, and sharp attention to detail, which are three essential attributes that winning poker players often possess.

Advanced video poker players are similar to seasoned poker players because they know how to act in tough situations, which they learned from their own personal experiences. You can read all the strategy you want in books, but it doesn’t compare to what you learn in real-life situations. For example, when should you break up a pair and draw one card for a straight, or keep the pair and draw three cards instead?





Video poker is the smart way to go. Some poker players with opulent lifestyles have a weakness for action gambling, which is why they waste their time playing negative EV casino games. Playing optimal video poker, which is as simple as memorizing a chart, offers up one of the best-possible edges out of all possible casino games, including slot machines. Next time, ignore the haters and give video poker a whirl – you might be surprised, and you might find your regular poker skills improving as well.


References & Sources for Further Reading.

PokerStars Casino:  How to Start Playing Video Poker

Engineers Garage: Invention Story of Slot Machines

International Game Technology: Online Products & Services

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