You will find video poker in casinos across Canada. It is available via bar top consoles, on the casino floor and via video lottery terminals. While slots have changed massively over the years, classic video poker variations are still the go-to for fans of this game. They combine strategy, the potential for big wins and even progressive jackpots with enjoyable gameplay.
Online video poker variations include games with wild cards, bonus pay tables, multi-hand games and newer versions with bonus side games. Strategy for knowing the optimal cards to hold and draw for each variation is important as you try out this game with a relatively low house edge.
This guide covers all things related to real money video poker for Canadian players. You will find the game variations and what to look for in pay tables, house edge, money management and bonuses/comps below.
How to play video poker online
If you are an experienced player looking for the best returns, then you will find information in the sections below. This section is for players new to video poker. It explains how the game mechanics work.
Jacks or Better (also called JoB) is the standard format. You win with a pair of jacks or higher, and lose your stake with any final hand lower than this.
Before any cards are dealt, you need to choose how many coins to play. In live casinos, denominations start at 25 cents per coin. It is important to bet the maximum five coins every time. Any fewer means you are giving the house a bigger mathematical edge. Checking the pay table will show a significantly higher return for a royal flush for five coins compared to four.
To play, click the “deal” button. You will receive five playing cards. You now decide which ones to hold, before drawing. Any cards you do not hold are replaced when you hit the draw button. The game then calculates your final hand versus the pay table.
If you got a pair of jacks or better, you get paid. If not, the game ends and you lose your stake for that hand. The better your poker hand, the more money you receive.
Video poker pay tables
Video poker pay tables differ according to the game variant being played. Here, for example, is a typical pay table for Jacks or Better video poker:
- Pair of jacks+: 1:1
- Two pair: 2:1
- Three of a kind: 3:1
- Straight: 5:1
- Flush: 6:1
- Full house: 9:1
- Four of a kind: 20:1
- Straight flush: 40:1
- Royal flush: 800:1
With bigger payouts for hands such as straights and flushes, many beginners wonder when to “break” hands such as pairs to try for that bigger prize. This depends on differences in pay tables and game variations that include wild cards. This makes it advisable to learn a single game thoroughly. You can then use this as a base, understanding when you adjust your strategy to take advantage of any differences.
Classic video poker variations
A few classic variants dominate video poker. As you will see, there are now many exotic options, which include bonus games involving dice, redraws or win multipliers. That said, most fans of this format go for one of the classic video poker options below.
- Jacks or Better: The original video poker game. You get a single drawing round and will get paid for every hand where you hit a pair of jacks or a stronger poker hand.
- Joker Poker: A 53-card deck that includes a joker that can substitute for any other card. This makes hitting strong hands slightly easier.
- Deuces Wild: You use a regular deck in this game, with the two-value cards able to substitute for any other card. With four “wilds,” strong hands are common, including five of a kind.
- Bonus Poker variations: Bonus Poker pay tables are “top heavy.” Prizes for lower ranked hands are smaller, balanced by big prizes for hands like quads with a small card kicker.
- Multi-hand variations: Any game can work in multi-hand format. You get dealt one hand, hold cards then draw for anything from three to 100 other hands.
Video poker variations with bonus games
If you play video poker online, then the possibilities explode. You’ll also find exotic variations in live casinos. The most common live game is Ultimate X Poker. What these games have in common is an extra coin. You play six coins instead of five. In return you get bonus features that can add big prizes — or give you a second chance at saving an otherwise losing hand.
- Ultimate X Video Poker: This popular live casino game adds random win multipliers of up to 10x to your hands. Hit a highly ranked poker hand when the random multiplier arrives, and you could be looking at a huge prize.
- Hot Roll Poker: If you thought that video poker was cards-only, this game will have you rethink. Hot Roll Poker is an online game from IGT that has a dice-based bonus feature.
- Peek and Play Poker: This version of Jacks or Better from IGT shows you what your first drawn card will be in advance. You will need to bet seven coins instead of five to get this valuable strategy information.
- Gamble After Win: Many NetEnt online video poker games have an additional opportunity to boost your wins after a hand.
- Spin Poker: IGT creates games that combine slot and video poker gameplay under the Spin Poker brand. You see three rows of five cards and can choose from between one and nine win lines to make poker hands each spin.
How video poker pay tables and payouts are linked
The prize for the top hand in video poker (a royal flush with no wild cards) is always proportionally higher when you play five coins compared to a lower number of coins. A typical Jacks or Better pay table will pay 250 coins for one coin, rising to 500, 750 or 1,000 for two, three or four coins. When you hit five coins, the prize jumps to 4,000 coins (instead of increasing linearly to 1,250).
This makes a huge difference to the long-term returns from a game. If there is one golden rule for video poker, it is to always play the maximum five coins.
Prizes for full house and flush hands are also critical. Checking the prizes for these can help you spot the good games with high returns and avoid those with a higher house edge.
What you are looking for is 9:1 on a full house and 6:1 on a flush. This is known as a 9/6 payout. Video poker games with this setup can have a return-to-player rate as high as 99.5%. Poor games have 7/5 prizes (RTP is typically around 96%) or 8/5 (98%).
Realizing this house edge will require you to make the correct decisions for each hand you are dealt. When you start with the best possible pay table, you are giving yourself the best possible returns from the games you play.
Which video poker games have the lowest house edge?
Some video poker games have a naturally lower house edge than others. Keep in mind the information on pay tables that we went over above. Even the best game listed below can have a bad house edge if prizes for flushes or full houses are on the lower end.
It is possible for video poker games to have a return of 100% — with perfect play you will not lose money in the long run. These are rare. Even more rare are games with returns over 100%. This normally happens when a jackpot goes over a certain threshold. While scooping a progressive for a royal flush is rare, the big prize when this happens gives the game a positive expectation.
Here are some of typical available house edges in video poker variants, keeping in mind that the pay tables make a massive difference:
- Deuces Wild: 100.76%
- Joker Poker: 96.07%
- Jacks or Better: 99.54%
- Bonus Poker: 99.17%
- Ultimate X Poker: 99.2%
Strategy: Which cards to draw in video poker
There are some rules of thumb that will cover almost all video poker hands. That said, to get the maximum edge, you need to make sure you know those rare cases for the individual variation you are playing.
In a Jacks or Better game, breaking any hand over jack-jack is vanishingly rare. There is no need to break that winning pair, even if you have four cards to a regular flush or straight. Your only exceptions are four cards to a straight flush or royal flush. Even smaller pairs are rarely broken. The default play is to keep pairs under jacks, in the hope of hitting a trips or better hand. Here you would favour four suited cards or a draw to an outside straight.
If you do not hit any pairs, then holding high cards is the default in jacks or better. If you have a choice, hold the high cards of the same suit. Even though your chances of hitting a royal flush are tiny, the big prize when this does happen makes all the difference to the long-term results.
For games with wild cards, there are no times when you would draw without that wild.
Some players will tell you they favour going for a royal flush — even when the mathematically correct play is to hold the high pair. This does increase the take of the casino, though if it gives more enjoyment (and you know the odds), then the thrill of that rare royal flush may balance things.
Simple chart for Jacks or Better video poker
This is a basic way to memorize which cards to draw and which to hold in Jacks or Better. To use this, simply go down the line; if you match any description, that is how you play. If you fail to match any, you get to the bottom of the list — which is simply to draw all five cards and hope for the best:
- Hold a royal flush, straight flush or any quads (four of a kind).
- Hold any four cards to a royal flush (break high pairs/flushes here).
- Hold a full house, made flush, straight or three of a kind.
- Hold four cards to a straight flush (but do not break a made flush).
- Hold two pair.
- Hold a high pair (jacks or above).
- Hold three cards to a royal flush.
- Hold four cards to a regular flush.
- Hold any low pair (twos through 10s).
- Hold four cards to an outside straight.
- Hold two suited high cards.
- Hold three cards to a straight flush.
- Hold any two unsuited high cards.
- Hold any one high card.
- Draw all five cards if none of the above applies.
Can I play video poker online in Canada?
There are three ways to legally play video poker online in Canada. The first is for residents of provinces with online gambling options via their lotteries. Examples are the PlayNow portal in British Columbia and Manitoba, EspaceDeux in Québec, the ALC portal in the Atlantic provinces and the OLG portal in Ontario.
You can also legally play casino games like slots, table games, keno and video poker via sweepstakes casinos. These legal apps turn games into short sweepstakes contests, using a dual currency model to offer real money games for “free.”
Finally, there are demo games and opportunities to try out video poker for free. These options will help you find the variation you enjoy the most, learn the correct strategy and get to know the ins and outs of the pay tables and returns.
Video poker and casino bonuses/comps
The lower house edge of video poker does count against them when it comes to casino bonuses. That said, you should always sign up for a casino loyalty program and track your play. You get a card, which works with the video poker machine to track your play. The casino then uses this to calculate free play and give you access to promotions such as drawings or birthday bonuses. Those same cards will also get you discounts at restaurants, bars and stores in some resorts.
Fans of video poker machines can also take advantage of online casino bonuses. These include matched welcome bonuses, reloads, loyalty rewards and many variations of one-off promotions. You need to check how each casino “weighs” video poker for bonus clearing before you play. Some Canadian online casino sites will give it a 10% weighting; others will completely exclude it. You can still benefit from these bonus offers. A good strategy is to use the bonuses for slot play, then use what you won after clearing the bonus on video poker.
Video poker bankroll management
Some casino games are highly volatile. This means you will experience big wins, long spells of losing and very few break-even sessions. Video poker is the opposite. This game has many sessions that are close to break-even, a few unlucky ones where you can’t hit a hand — and only the rare royal flush-sized win.
Compared to casino poker games or craps, your overall bankroll for video poker can be smaller. As with all forms of gambling, you should only bet with money you can afford to lose. Setting stop-loss limits for losing streaks will also help you stay in control. If you do find yourself with gambling problems, then live casinos have leaflets with numbers and URLs for places that can help.
Wrapping up: Video poker games in Canada
Video poker has a lot of fans. While game creators like NetEnt and IGT try innovative new games to keep things fresh, many video poker fans prefer the classics. Games like Jacks or Better, Deuces Wild and Joker Poker have been around for decades. They are still go-to options for people seeking low-house-edge games with a strategy element. The chance of that big win is key.
If you are new to video poker, playing five coins, plus checking for the best pay tables, is important to getting value. If you find a 9/6 game and follow the right video poker strategy, your returns could be over 99%. When you account for casino comps, promotions and free play, you get more bang for your bucks with video poker than nearly any other slot or casino table game.