All About Video Poker
By: Randy Ray
Video poker is a casino game that has much in common with slot machines, but it is a slot machine game combined with the rules of five card draw poker in a very specific manner. Video poker is often considered by many experienced gamblers to be vastly superior to slot machines because of the effect that skilled play has on the potential payback of the machine. While slot machines are programmed to pay back a certain percentage of the money that is fed into the machine, video poker pays back a percentage that can be affected by perfect strategic play.
Video poker games first appeared in the 1970’s, but didn’t start enjoying widespread popularity until the 1980’s, when slot machine manufacturer IGT became involved in the production of video poker games. Many people in casinos who are nervous or intimidated by table games find video poker to be a lot more “friendly” than blackjack or live poker. This is probably because video poker combines the strategic thinking of a table game like blackjack with the solitary playing experience of a slot machine.
Video poker games are easily played. The player wages 1 or more coins in order to get dealt five virtual cards on a computer screen. (A smart player always plays the max bet, usually 5 coins, since the max bet triggers the bigger payoffs on the higher ranked hands.) The player chooses which cards to hold and then draws cards to replace his discarded cards. The final hand pays out based on the payout table for the particular video game.
Popular video poker games include deuces wild and jacks or better, both of which are often played either as single hands or in a multi-hand version, where the player gets to play 3, 5, 10, 50 or even 100 hands of video poker at the same time.
Depending on the payout schedule for the different poker hands on a certain machine, the payback percentage on a video poker can be very good indeed. Jacks or better with a “full pay”, or the highest standard payback schedule, pays back at 99.5% with perfect play. A full pay deuces wild machine pays back at 100.7% with perfect play. In actual practice, players who don’t play perfectly and make mistakes reduce the practical payback percentage on those machines by 6% or more, making video poker one of the most profitable games in the casino, especially since many video poker players play upwards of 500 hands per hour.
Learning how to play video poker with perfect strategy is not terribly hard to do. There are numerous video poker strategy guides available for sale, and Bob Dancer’s excellent tutorials and software teach video poker strategy through a series of both charts and lists of principles that will work effectively for different learning styles.
Practicing has become much easier also, now that free video poker games have become so prevalent online. Games like these allow you to play online with no download and no cost, and they’re played using the same rules as the video poker games found in traditional land-based casinos.
The author has been playing video poker for years, and he still isn’t tired of it.