Video poker has a large following. Video poker players like the game because it has:

  • A low house edge.
  • Player’s decisions make a difference in the outcome.
  • There are opportunities for jackpot-sized wins.

This article explores video poker player goals when playing this popular casino game.

Video poker player goals

While the reasons for playing video poker are similar for all players, the goals from their play can be quite different.

Newer players and very casual players might enjoy playing a game that requires some thought and has a low house edge. These players are playing for the fun of playing the game.

The goal of most serious players, those who know the proper video poker strategy and play several times a year, is to take as much from the game as possible. They are playing for the highest possible return from the game.

Some seasoned players who have knowledge of proper strategy might play for the thrill of hitting a royal flush or four aces with a kicker. They are not so concerned with playing the exact proper strategy when it might spoil a shot at a big win. These players are playing for the “big hits.”


Playing for fun

Most gamblers go to casinos, as well as online at sites like 888casino, for entertainment. They have a certain budget to spend and fully expect to spend the entire amount. They are there for fun.

Many of the casual gamblers enjoy playing video poker. Some are intimidated by table games where other players might critique their play. They have tried slot machines, but find they lose their money quickly and play can be boring.

video poker machines

They know video poker is slower to play than slot machines. They also know that video poker has a higher return than slot machines.

They play for fun. They will play any video poker game that is open, even though they do not know the return, variance, or strategy. If they do know about playing strategies, they do not want to take the time and effort to learn them.

This type of play is fine – if the player has a set budget and discipline to adhere to it. They get what they came to the casino for – fun. Sometimes they can even hit it big and go home a winner.

Playing for the highest return

These players are serious about their casino play. They tend to visit casinos once a month or more. They play hundreds or thousands of hands each trip and can play hundreds of thousands of hands in a year.

They tend to play the highest return and lowest variance games available. Games such as Jacks or Better, Bonus Poker, and Deuces Wild are the games they favor.

They want to get every last penny possible when playing in a casino. They know that over the long haul, maximizing the return from each hand will produce the best result year after year.

For these players, learning and practicing the proper playing strategies means more money in their pockets. They know it is worth the time and effort.

Playing for big hits

The video poker players in the final category are also serious players. They know the proper playing strategies well and generally play by them. But their main goal is to get some big hits.

They tend to play games such as Double-Double Bonus which have more frequent jackpot-sized wins. These games also have a higher variance and almost always a lower return than the game preferred by the previous class of player.

Periodically, I publish video poker strategy quizzes. The quizzes are almost always for a low variance, high return game such as Jacks or Better. The correct answer to the quiz is the hold that has the highest overall return – the choice of the player who wants to maximize the return.

A recent quiz was for a full-pay (9/6) Jacks or Better game had this hand: King of hearts, 10 of hearts, 9 of diamonds, 4 of hearts, 3 of clubs

The two holds with the highest return are: King of hearts, 10 of hearts - >>>>>>>>>> which returns 2.2911 credits for five credits played and King of hearts - >>>>>>>>>> which returns 2.2988 credits for five played.

A reader adamantly disagreed with this answer, writing:

“I must disagree big time on this one. Yes, dumping the 10 gives you a tiny bit higher outcome overall, but that's because now you're drawing four cards as opposed to three, so there are more chances of getting two Kings.

“Two Kings is simply a break-even. It's meaningless if you're playing hundreds of hands over hours of time. No one in the world stops playing if they simply get Jacks or Better. (Sure, there's a rare chance you'll get four Kings, but you could also potentially still do that holding the 10.)

“But giving up the matching suit 10 means you now have no chance of a straight flush or a royal flush – the hands worth playing for. These are hands that might make you a real winner.”

This player is clearly out for the big win – even though it means losing more in the long run. When he hits a big hand, he considers stopping play. In a negative expectation game, looking for a reason to stop play is a good thing. Less play means less money lost.

The difference in return is 0.0077 credits per five credits played. That amounts to under a penny a hand for a quarter game ($1.25/hand) and under a nickel a hand for a dollar game ($5/hand). For this reader, it may not make enough difference, but for players who play hundreds of thousands of hands a year, it adds up.


There are three major classes of video poker players. They play for:

  1. Fun
  2. Maximum return
  3. Big hits

Each of these classes of players can achieve their goal if they have an adequate bankroll and proper discipline. Video poker can be enjoyable for all classes of players.

Which class of video poker are you?

Jerry “Stickman” has been involved in casino gambling for nearly 30 years. He is an expert in blackjack, craps, video poker and advantage slot machine play. He started playing blackjack in the late ‘80s, learned several card counting systems and used these skills to become an advantage blackjack player and overall winner of this game. He also acquired the skills necessary to become an overall winner in the game of craps, accomplishing this by a combination of throwing skill and proper betting techniques. Stich is also an overall winner playing video poker.