Video Poker Guide

Learn everything there is to know about video poker. While poker is one of the most popular and recognizable casino games in the world, many gamblers don’t know its digital counterpart — video poker. This ultimate guide to video poker aims to answer many of the questions you might have about this casino game.

What exactly is video poker? Read on to understand how video poker differs from online poker and table poker.

video poker guide

Video poker is typically played on a physical game console, similar to an arcade machine. It may be around the same size as a slot machine, it’s fully digital, and unlike online or table poker, it is typically a one-player game against a computer with a random number generator. 

Video Poker Terminology


Full-pay video poker typically offers the highest percentage of return to the player (RTP) and is the variant that pays the highest.


Low-pay video poker often has a lower percentage of return to the player, due to the house edge being increased.


A form of gameplay in video poker that gives players the option to play with multiple hands of cards.


A feature that enables the game to choose which cards to hold automatically, only available in certain video poker games.

Game Denomination

The coin and card value in any given game of video poker.


Video poker rose in the 1970s with the rise of the first personal computers. When a machine version of Draw Poker was introduced in 1979, the popularity of video poker began to skyrocket, and it continued to gain velocity throughout the 1980s. Today, casinos will often have video poker games as an offering within the casino, and they are also popular on cruise ships, ferries, and even in shopping centers.


The typical gameplay structure for video poker machines is as follows:

  1. Insert your money or ticket voucher.
  2. Place your bet.
  3. Press the “deal” button.
  4. Assess your hand and decide if you want to discard any cards in exchange for new ones.
  5. Keep your original hand or exchange cards.
  6. Receive a payout if you win.

Besides the physical venue and addition of a machine component, the biggest differentiation between table poker and video poker is that in video poker, players are able to discard all five of their original cards if they so choose.


The payout is based on the specific video poker game’s pay table. Typically, this pay table is calculated by factoring in how rare certain hands are, the specific style of game being played, and any special rules or circumstances for the specific video poker console. Other than that, the winning combinations are typically even to traditional table poker. A typical pay table is structured to reward payout to:

  • Minimum hand for payout: A pair of Jacks (payout is even)
  • Deuces
  • Three of a kind
  • Straight
  • Flush
  • Full House
  • Maximum hand for payout: Royal flush

In addition to these typical hands, some video poker consoles offer unique card combinations or bonuses as well as progressive play bonuses. This is designed to reward players who continue gameplay on the same console or frequent the same game.

For games that do not have special bonuses or offer a wild card to increase payout odds, players can expect to be dealt four of a kind in their hand about one in every 500 games. The odds are more like one in every 10,000 for the maximum payout.


There is often initial concern about the regulation and testing of video poker machines to ensure a fair game. Typically, U.S. video poker machines are strictly regulated by poker agencies. This means that the machines are required to observe complete randomization in dealing and card sequence. Machines are required to be tested and go through a rigorous quality assurance procedure to confirm complete fairness for every player before being greenlit for public play.

Variations and Types

Just as in table poker, there are a wide variety of variations in video poker, each with a unique interface, rules, and method of gameplay. Some of the most common variations of video poker include:

Joker’s Wild

A video poker variation that embraces the use of a Joker as a wild card. In other words, the Joker is able to be used as a substitute for any card to give the player a stronger hand, increasing the probability for winning hands.

Deuces Wild

A video poker variation that allows all 2s to double as wild cards. This greatly increases the odds for a winning hand, and increases the probability of “four of a kind” to one in every 15 hands. As a result, the payout for this hand is responsible for around 33% of all payouts in this variation.

Anything’s Wild

A video poker variation in which the player is able to select a single card rank before gameplay begins to act as the wild card for the duration of their game.

Pay Schedule Modification

A video poker variation in which a hand that includes four Aces and a card that is a 4, 3, or 2 results in a higher payout.

Multi-Play Poker

A type of video poker in which the player starts off with being dealt a typical hand, but then has the option to continue with additional hands in play. For example, some versions include:

  • Triple Play
  • Five Play
  • Ten Play
  • Fifty Play
  • One Hundred Play

Online Video Poker

Video poker is most typically played on a console, or physical machine. However, through modern technology, it has become possible to play on these physically present consoles through online means. This is similar to online claw machine experiences, in which players virtually play a game that exists in a physical space, rather than many other online gambling games that are purely digital.

In order to play online, players must be of legal age and be physically present in the state in which the game is registered. Currently, video poker is available to be played online in the following states:

Full-Pay vs. Short-Pay Video Poker Games

“Full-pay” historically refers to the variety of video poker that has the highest return in terms of payout, and “low-pay” or “short-pay” refers to those video poker games with a lower return to player percentage. However, it is important to note that these terms should not be considered the end-all be-all of gameplay, as they were used to define console payout when video poker was first gaining traction, and now there are many more variants of gameplay that return more than these original definers.

These terms are specifically in reference to the percentage of payback that players can expect to gain as their return in the long-term as compared to their wager if the game is played flawlessly. Therefore, if a player wagers $100 and the payback percentage is 95%, they can expect to lose about $5 in the long-run. For reference, historically:

  • Full-Pay: Video poker games offering over 99% payback
  • Low-Pay: Video poker games offering under 99% payback

Something to keep in mind is that it is always a good idea to do your research of a particular game’s payback percentage because casinos or other locations housing video poker consoles typically do not publicize these rates. In addition, return is most often configured based on certain hands as well as the amount wagered. In this regard, players who wager the maximum amount are playing with a larger theoretical return.

Full-Pay Video Poker Games

Here is a list of some widely known full-play video poker games:


The full-play Deuces variations can offer a return of up to 100.8% and include some of the highest paying video poker games.

Joker’s Wild

A once-common version of Joker’s Wild known as Joker Two Pair is one of the highest return versions of video poker offered. However, the gameplay is very complex, which leads to this game losing traction.

Jacks or Better

Sometimes referred to as Draw Poker, Jacks or Better is the most commonly played version of video poker. Like the name suggests, payouts begin with a pair of Jacks in hand. Because the full house pay in this game is nine times the bet and the flush pay is six times the bet, this game is often referred to as 9/6 Jacks or Better.

Bally’s All American

This is a rare version of video poker based on Jacks or Better with one of the highest returns of any video poker game. However, it is also one of the most complex strategies and gameplays. This game offers an appealing increase in payout for players with flushes and straights 一 but the payout is reduced for full houses and sets of pairs.

Tens or Better

Similar to Jacks or Better in gameplay, strategy, and payout, this video poker variation offers payout with a pair of 10s instead of Jacks.

Sigma Flush Attack

Now a rare find, Sigma Flush Attack essentially combines video poker with slots. After a certain number of flushes, depending on the specifics of the machine, the player will experience a “flush attack,” in which the next played flush has a payout up to five times the usual payout.

Bonus Poker

This is essentially a game of Jacks or Better that features a better payout for hands that are four of a kind. It also typically includes additional bonuses depending on the specific hand played. This game can have a return of over 99%.

Double Bonus

Another variation of Jacks or Better that can offer a return of up to 100.2%. Gameplay is similar to the aforementioned, but it offers a bonus for a hand of four aces. However, the game is complex, and the highest payout is dependent on perfect strategy.

Double Double Bonus

As with Double Bonus, Double Double Bonus video poker is based on Jacks or Better, but with additional bonuses for hands containing four of a kind. However, rather than just four Aces, this version offers bonus payouts for different sets of four of a kind. The return is comparable, at a theoretical percentage of 100.1%.

Low-Pay Video Poker Games

Here are some well-known low-pay video poker games:

9/5 Jacks or Better

Simply a low-pay version of Jacks or Better with a reduced payout for a flush. However, the percentage is not reduced for all other payouts.

8/6 Jacks or Better

Another version of Jacks or Better that reduces the payout for a full house while the other payouts remain the same.

8/5 Jacks or Better

A version of Jacks or Better that cuts the payout percentage for not only a full house but also for a flush.

7/5 Jacks or Better

A variation that is similar 8/5 Jacks or Better, but with an even further reduced payout for a full house 一 cutting pay from nine times the bet to seven times the bet.

6/5 Jacks or Better

A variation that cuts the payout percentage even further from 7/5 Jacks or Better, reducing the payout for a full house from nine times the bet to five times the bet.

Progressive Jackpot Games

These are games that are expected to have a positive return only when there is a high progressive jackpot.

Not So Ugly Ducks (NSUD)

A well-known variation of video poker in which payouts are awarded specifically to five of a kind and straight flushes.