An Overview of Video Poker Variations and Strategies

video poker variations

Video poker stands as a beloved game in casinos worldwide, offering a unique blend of poker’s strategy and the solitary play of slot machines. This blog post delves into the various video poker variations and strategies, guiding both newcomers and seasoned players through this engaging world.

Introduction to Video Poker

Video poker, emerging in the 1970s, quickly established itself as a casino staple, skillfully blending the excitement of poker with the straightforward play of slot machines. Unlike the purely luck-based slot machines, video poker introduces an element of skill and strategic decision-making, allowing players a significant degree of control over the game’s outcome. The essence of the game lies in its simplicity and strategic depth: players aim to construct the strongest possible five-card hand, based on traditional poker hand rankings. This fusion of chance and strategy not only makes video poker a captivating game for a wide range of players but also allows for a more interactive and engaging gaming experience compared to other casino games.

Popular Variations of Video Poker

1. Jacks or Better

The most common and perhaps the simplest form of video poker is Jacks or Better. The game begins once a player is dealt five cards. The player decides which cards to keep and which to discard. New cards replace the discarded ones, forming the final hand. Payouts start at a pair of jacks, hence the name.

2. Deuces Wild

In Deuces Wild, all twos (deuces) are wild, meaning they can substitute for any card to create a winning hand. This variation offers increased odds of hitting a winning hand but typically requires a three-of-a-kind or better to win.

3. Joker Poker

Joker Poker adds a joker to the deck, serving as a wild card. This inclusion increases the chance of forming a strong hand, with the trade-off often being a higher minimum winning hand.

4. Bonus Poker

A derivative of Jacks or Better, Bonus Poker offers higher payouts for specific four-of-a-kind hands. The exact bonus payouts vary depending on the machine.

5. Double Bonus Poker

Building on Bonus Poker, Double Bonus Poker provides even larger bonuses for four-of-a-kind hands, especially four aces. This game demands a more aggressive strategy due to the enhanced payouts.

Basic Video Poker Strategy

Video poker strategy can be complex, but there are basic guidelines to enhance your chances of winning:

Know the Pay Tables

Each video poker game comes with its own set of pay tables, which dictate the payouts for various hand types. Familiarizing yourself with these tables is essential, as it enables you to identify the most profitable games to play, thereby maximizing your potential returns. Understanding the nuances of different pay tables can also help you tailor your strategy to each specific game, enhancing your chances of winning.

Understand the Game Variation

Video poker boasts a multitude of variations, each with its own set of rules and optimal strategies. What might be an effective approach in a game like Jacks or Better could prove less successful in Deuces Wild, due to the latter’s use of wild cards. Therefore, understanding the specific strategies and nuances of each variant you play is critical for making informed decisions and improving your overall performance.

Hold vs. Discard

One of the key skills in video poker is discerning which cards to hold and which to discard. Generally, it is advisable to hold onto strong hands, such as straights, flushes, or four-of-a-kinds, as they offer higher chances of securing a win. Conversely, with weaker hands, the best approach often involves keeping high-value cards and pairs while discarding others, increasing the likelihood of forming a stronger hand upon drawing new cards.

Practice Makes Perfect

The proliferation of online gambling platforms has made it easier than ever to practice video poker without financial risk. Many of these platforms offer free video poker games, providing an excellent opportunity for players to refine their strategies and gain experience. Regular practice in these risk-free environments can greatly enhance your understanding of the game and improve your decision-making skills, ultimately preparing you for real-money play.

Advanced Strategies

For those looking to delve deeper, advanced strategies can further enhance winning odds:

Learn the Specifics

It’s crucial to understand that different video poker variations require unique strategies. To improve your chances of winning, study detailed strategies specific to each game type, utilizing resources like strategy charts and online tutorials which can provide invaluable guidance and insights into the nuances of each variant.

Manage Your Bankroll

Effective bankroll management is essential for sustainable gambling. Set clear limits on your losses and winnings to ensure you maintain a healthy bankroll. This approach helps in preventing the common pitfall of chasing losses or getting carried away after a win, thereby ensuring that your gambling remains both fun and financially responsible.

Look for Progressive Jackpots

Some video poker machines offer progressive jackpots, which grow over time until someone hits them. These can be especially lucrative, offering the potential for large payouts. However, it’s important to time your play right, as the odds of winning these jackpots can vary. Keeping an eye on the size of the jackpot and understanding the odds can help in determining the best time to play for these bigger wins.

Video Poker Myths

It’s important to dispel common myths:

“Machines are Due for a Win”

The belief that a machine is ‘due’ for a win is a common misconception in video poker. In reality, the outcomes of video poker games are determined by Random Number Generators (RNGs), ensuring that each hand is completely independent of the previous one. This means that the machine has no memory of past games and does not operate on a cycle that can predict when it will pay out next.

“Playing Faster Increases Chances of Winning”

Contrary to some beliefs, playing faster does not increase your chances of winning in video poker. The RNG ensures that each hand is a random, independent event, unaffected by the speed of play. Therefore, it is more beneficial to take your time to carefully consider each decision, ensuring that you are making the best possible choices based on your strategy and knowledge of the game, rather than rushing through your hands.


Video poker offers a compelling blend of luck and skill, with numerous variations to keep the gameplay fresh and exciting. By understanding the basics, familiarizing yourself with different games, and employing solid strategies, you can greatly enhance your enjoyment and chances of winning at video poker. Remember, responsible gaming is paramount, so always play within your means and enjoy the experience.