Video poker has a huge following. You can play this at commercial casinos in most provinces, as well as via video lottery terminals. The basic video poker format has evolved into entertaining variants. Some have wild cards, others multiple hands and still more variations include win multipliers or progressive jackpots.
Compared to other casino games for real money, video poker has a low house edge. This can be as small as 0.5% for some games. To realise this edge, you need to know the correct strategy. This involves which cards to hold and which to draw. The rules, paytable, and jackpots all influence this. You can improve your chances by choosing the games with the best pay tables, and by taking advantage of comps and bonuses offered by casinos.
This page has you covered for winning at video poker. While you can’t beat the house edge over the long run, after reading the guide to the house edge, strategy, and bonuses below, you will be able to get the maximum play for your bankroll – giving you extra chances of hitting that big-money royal flush.
Popular video poker variations
There are hundreds of variations of real money video poker. They range from classics such as Jacks or Better, Deuces Wild, and Joker Poker to complex games with bonus features and jackpots. Some variants let you play multiple hands at a time.
Luckily, learning how to play online video poker is straightforward. That’s because the gameplay is simple for all variants. You are dealt 5 cards and choose whether to hold them or draw (replace) one or more. Your final hand is then compared to the paytable – with big prizes for the strongest poker hands.
Furthermore, our recommended casino sites will allow you to play video poker online for free before trying out the real money versions.
Here are the video poker standards:
- Jacks or Better: You need a pair of jacks or a better poker hand after the draw to be paid in this game. This is the ‘standard’ of video poker games. Some games come with progressive jackpots for a royal flush.
- Joker Poker: This popular variant adds the 53rd card in the form of a joker, which can substitute for any other card. This makes 5 a kind hands possible, as well as royal flushes with or without the joker.
- Deuces Wild: All of the 2s in the deck are wild in this variation. This makes hitting big hands while playing Deuces Wild online much easier. You will need to hit 3 of a kind or better to trigger a win.
- Bonus Poker: This variation uses jacks or better rules, with a different paytable. You get big prizes for 4 of a kind hands using small cards, with smaller prizes for lower-ranked poker hands to balance the prize distribution.
Casino game designers are coming up with new and interesting video poker variations all the time. Here are some of the directions which the games can take:
- Ultimate X Video Poker: Here you add a 6th coin – and get a random multiplier on some hands. If you combine this with a lucky strong hand, you get a chance to win big.
- Multi-Hand Video Poker: You play a single base hand, with up to 100 hands in total completed after the draw. Spreading your stake in this way will reduce the variance and give you a shot at hitting 100 royal flushes!
- Bonus Features: Games with bonus features include Destiny Poker, which gives you a second chance to draw if you get to a flush. Other games add picks style bonuses – bringing video poker closer to a slot machine experience.
Video poker games with the lowest house edge
The house edge of video poker games is determined by the paytable. Video poker is simple enough to be ‘solved’. This means there is a mathematically correct play for every variation of dealt cards. With perfect play, you can achieve a small house edge – giving you returns that slot players and roulette fans simply can’t achieve.
Using Jacks or Better as an example, the prizes for full houses and flushes are key to getting the best returns. You should look for 9/6 for a 99%+ return. If you only get paid 6/5 then the long-term house edge can be 10x that of the best paying games.
You should always play the 5th coin, whatever variation of video poker you enjoy. Games have a bigger payout for a royal flush when you add that 5th coin. While this hand is rare, it makes a significant difference to the long-term house edge. If you play for between 1 and 4 coins, you could be giving up to 5% extra to the house in the long run. Those are odds that all experienced gamblers will avoid.
Some games have progressive jackpots – these replace the big coin prize for a royal flush. Again, you will need to bet 5 coins to give yourself a shot at winning these. A simple strategy where there are multiple progressives is to choose the machine with the biggest prize. Advanced players will know that progressives can tip the overall edge in favour of the player once they reach a certain size.
Essential video poker strategy and tips
Whichever game you play, betting the maximum of 5 coins is a must. Any other bet boosts the house edge – you are gifting the casino money. This is even more important when there is a progressive jackpot involved. If you can’t afford 5 coins at one denomination, then it is always better to move down stakes. For example, playing 5 quarters is better than playing a single $1 coin per game.
Your exact strategy will depend on which variation you are playing. Breaking hands that are already winning is rare. For example, if you hit a pair of jacks on the first deal, you would only ‘break’ this if you have 4 to a royal flush. Breaking a high pair when you have 4 to a straight or a non-straight flush is a mistake. This will cost money over time. Some players choose to do this even after understanding the numbers. The reason that the excitement of a big poker hand is worth that small increment to the house edge.
Playing progressive video poker games
If you are playing video poker games with progressive jackpots, then playing all 5 coins goes from smart strategy to mandatory. Jackpot prizes require a royal flush and max coins. You should also check that a minimum denomination – for example, a terminal with a jackpot – might require bets of $1 per line.
Sometimes, jackpots will get large enough that the overall house edge of a game moves into positive territory. Keep in mind that royal flushes are rare. This positive house edge will come with extremely high variance.
A rarer form of video poker will pay an even bigger jackpot for a sequential royal flush. This is 10, J, Q, K, A in the right order across the screen.
Beat video poker with casino comps
Real money casinos in Canada have loyalty programs. You get a card that tracks your play, awarding comps and discounts – and unlocking promotions. Some schemes are venue-specific – others work in multiple casinos in each province.
Many schemes give you an instant $10+ in free play simply for signing up. With a low house edge, video poker games will accumulate points towards further free play slower than slots or keno games. You will be surprised how quickly those points add up.
Online casino bonuses for video poker games
Online casino bonuses come in different formats. Many casinos offer free play simply for downloading casino apps and registering an account. The most common form of video poker bonus matches your first deposit – giving you double the funds to play with.
Like with live casinos, the low house edge of video poker games needs to be accounted for in your bonus calculations. Online casinos require that you play-through bonus credits a set number of times. Once you complete your play-through, your bonus is considered cleared – and you can withdraw any profits.
You should check how each casino applies ‘weightings’ to their video poker games. This describes the percentage of your bets that count towards clearing your bonus for different games. While slots games are 100% weighted, video poker can be 25% or even less at some casinos. When you compare the play-through and weightings at different casinos – you will quickly see that some casino bonuses are easier to clear than others.
Casino welcome bonuses are only part of the rewards on offer. Look out for loyalty schemes (which often have tiers), reload bonuses, free spins bonuses, and promotions. The best Canadian online casinos work hard to keep their loyal players rewarded – on top of their deposit bonus offers.
Money management for video poker
Most gamblers are familiar with the ‘golden rule’ that you should only ever gamble with money you can afford to lose. Bankroll management is the art of taking your gambling budget – and getting the best from it.
This will involve betting at a level where your wins will be meaningful – a necessary step to make the games enjoyable. At the same time, you need to hit a betting level that means a short bad run of cards does not burn through your money too quickly.
A good starting point is to make each 5-coin bet 1/200th of your overall total. If you have $250 to play with, a 25c/coin ($1.25c) bet would fit perfectly. If you hit a terrible run, you can always drop down to 10c a line – at least until you can top up that bankroll.
Wrapping Up: How to Beat Video Poker
Video poker is a simple game, which works perfectly in a social setting via bar top consoles. The standards such as Jacks or Better have been developed into multiple variations over the years. They include multi-hand games, progressive jackpot video poker, and games with slot-like bonus features. You will find these variants in casinos around Canada, including via VLTs.
With a low house edge, your chances of a winning session are higher than with most casino games. But how do you win at video poker? You need to bet 5 coins to keep the house edge small. You also need to know the correct strategy for the variation you are playing – especially when it comes to breaking made hands.
While casino bonuses help with long-term profits, the low house edge of video poker games does make it more difficult to clear them. Taking advantage of no deposit bonuses, promotions, and loyalty reward schemes will certainly help reduce the casino edge – giving you more bang for your buck when it comes to enjoying video poker games.