How to Play Video Poker: A guide

Casinos have been offering video poker since the 1970s. What was then the height of gambling innovation would now be considered primitive: the technology combined a processing unit and a television screen to allow customers to play poker away from a poker table for the first time.

A decade later, video poker was becoming more popular – drawing more players away from physical tables and towards machines where they could enjoy playing poker on their own. For some players, it saved them the social awkwardness or intimidation of playing face-to-face with people they didn’t know and allowed them to enjoy the game in solitude.

It was on these machines that gambling technology first began. From here it snowballed, and would eventually lead to a groundbreaking change in an industry that’s largely unrecognizable from what it used to be – largely due to the faded glory of bricks-and-mortar casinos.

Let’s take a look at how video poker has developed alongside advances in technology – and see how you can get the most out of playing the game yourself.

How is video poker regulated?

One of the biggest worries about video poker, when it was first introduced, was that gambling providers would heavily weight the odds in their favor. However, video poker is heavily regulated to prevent this from happening.

For example, in US casinos all providers must ensure that their virtual decks of cards are powered by random number generators to give users a fair chance of success.

This is based on a Nevada Gaming Commission regulation adopted by other states with a gaming authority. All video poker machines in the US must be tested to see that they comply with this requirement before being offered to the public.

How can I win at video poker?

Firstly you’ll need to properly research the game that you’re playing. A basic understanding of poker simply won’t cut it. There are differing pay tables for every single game variation and sometimes for different betting providers, so make sure you know what you’re playing with before you get started.

A good place to start is by learning the layout and importance of the paytable – and understanding payback, return and house edge. They’re all quite simple concepts to master – and you’ll find out everything you need by reading this comprehensive guide on how to play video poker.

Secondly, be prepared to quit. Just like slot machines, the tide can quickly turn against you and the video poker game you’re playing can become volatile. If you notice massive swings in your bankroll, make sure you quit whilst you’re ahead and move on to another machine.

Thirdly and finally, remember that video poker games are completely random and as such, there will be no patterns for you to learn or spot. In real poker, you can scope out your opponents and learn their betting style – but that’s not possible in video poker, which is powered by a random number generator.

What variations of video poker are available?

The first video poker games that were introduced to the market were high-paying variants called “full-pay” machines. These roughly offered a 99% gambling return if every hand was played correctly. There were also short-pay games that offered gamblers slightly lower returns for their money.

However, those were just the two early variations of video poker. Today there are a huge number of variations, of which these are the main three:

  1. Deuces Wild: All of the twos in the deck act as a wild card.
  2. Joker’s Wild: Similar to Deuces Wild, Joker’s wild operates on the same premise just with jokers rather than twos.
  3. Multi-Play Games: Possibly one of the most popular game variations, multi-play sees players take an extra pair of cards from a different pack as every hand is played.

In addition to these most popular forms of video poker, there are also many other variations including Jacks or Better, Bally’s All American, Tens or Better, Bonus Poker, Double Bonus, Double Double Bonus, Sigma Flush Attack, 9/5 Jacks or Better, 8/6 Jack or Better, 8/5 Jacks or Better, 7/5 Jacks or Better and 6/5 Jacks or Better.

Depending on which country you live in, you can also play video poker online. This option is available in certain US states including Delaware and New Jersey – but in the UK, is open to everyone.

Is video poker just like slot machines?

People who love playing video poker will deny any comparisons with slot games – and while they do look similar, they differ greatly in terms of player involvement.

For example, slot games generally require less skill – while poker is a game where you need a solid strategy in order to win. In poker, you can select the card you hold, and the hand you’re trying to build, while slot games select their winners using random number generators.

Luck can come to anyone in a slot game – but in poker, it tends to favour informed players who are well-versed in the need to approach this game with calculated moves and patient tactics.

Is video poker better than real poker?

Wherever you choose to play poker is a matter of personal preference. You might prefer the option of interacting with other players – or you might get more enjoyment from plugging away at the game in a solo pursuit.

Traditionally, one of the biggest draws of poker is the ability to interact with other players, to pull off amazing bluffs and see off adversaries. None of these things can really be achieved when playing video poker – but it does make the game more accessible for people who are intimidated by the exclusivity and bravado of more traditional forms of poker.

Alternatively, the two forms of poker can work together. Some gamblers prefer to use video poker as a way to get their game up and practice in for playing real-life poker at high-stakes tables. So the two forms of the games aren’t always mutually exclusive.


Video poker is almost a different discipline of poker, the equivalent of Rugby League to Rugby Union. Whilst the main principles remain the same, the rules and parameters are completely different. If you fancy giving it a go, make sure you read up properly about the video poker variation you’ll be playing before you rush in and lose a lot of money.

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