Video Poker Chapter 3


As you have seen from the previous chapters, video poker started small. Initially there was only one game that was available. It was based on Draw Poker (and in the earlier video poker games it was called “Draw Poker”) and the lowest winning hand was a pair of Jacks or Better.

Since those early days, video poker has steadily grown, until it is now available in virtually every casino where Las Vegas style gaming is allowed. What started as a single game has multiplied into what now is dozens of dfferent variations of the game. They can be grouped into several basic categories.

In this chapter you will learn the different categories of video poker. You will learn what features of the game put them into those categories. You will also learn some of the positives and negatives of each category of video poker

Ready? Good, here we go.

Video Poker Game Categories

Video Poker Separator

Chapter 3.1


The Jacks or Better category is named for the lowest paying winning hand – a pair of jacks or better. Each game in the Jacks or Better category has a pay table with all the same winning hands as the original Si Redd produced game. They are the royal flush, straight flush, four of a kind, full house, flush, straight, three of a kind, two pairs, and a high pair of jacks or better. The games also all play similar to the table game of draw poker, that is, five cards are dealt, the player can discard any or all of them and the discards are replaced with new cards.

Let’s look at the original game which is now called Draw Poker or Jacks or Better. Shown below is the maximum credit column of the pay table for full pay Jacks or Better. This game has a payback of 99.54 percent and a variance of 19.5.

Jacks or Better
Advantages of this game


Tick keysThe payback is high at 99.54 percent. For every $100 played through this game, the player will lose only 46 cents on average.

Tick keysThe variance is a low. At a mere 19.5, this variance is among the lowest of any video poker game commonly available today. The bankroll swings while playing this game are relatively gentle which means, again, that bankroll requirements are modest.

Tick keysThis game has a simple playing strategy. This may not be obvious from the pay table, but the playing strategy for Jacks or Better is among the most basic. It has fewer lines than almost any other game.



TickBecause of the fact that there is really only one high paying winning hand in the pay table, the play can become pretty boring. The bankroll will drift up and down a bit, but it is not until a royal flush occurs that there is any real excitement.

Video Poker - Hand
Video Poker Separator


In order to improve the excitement factor and appeal to additional players, video poker game manufacturers decided to add a bonus to the Jacks or Better game. This game was understandably called Bonus Poker. Presented below is the Maximum credit column of the full pay Bonus Poker pay table. The modified pays are highlighted.

Bonus Poker-Aces

Rather than pay 25 for 1 for every four of a kind, Bonus Poker paid a large “bonus” for hitting four aces and a smaller bonus for hitting four 2’s, 3’s, or 4’s as indicated in the rows highlighted in yellow. To pay for the bonus four of a kind hands, the pays for full house and flush were reduced by one credit each per credit played.

Bonus Poker - Arrives on the scene


Advantages of the game are

Tick keysRelatively high payback of 99.1

Tick keysRelatively low variance of 20.9

Tick keysMore high paying winning hands

Disadvantages of the game are

TickA lower payback than jacks or better

TickWhile there are more high paying hands, they do not provide enough excitement for a lot of players.

Video Poker Separator


In order to continue to grow interest in video poker, manufacturers once again tweaked the pay table and produced Bonus Poker Deluxe. Here is the pay table with the change highlighted.

Bonus Poker Deluxe - 4 of a kind

This version of the game pays 80 for 1 for any four of a kind. The payback is 98.49 with a variance of 32. To pay for the high pays for four of a kind, the pay for two pairs was reduced to 1 for 1.

Because of the lower payback and especially because of the 1 for 1 pay for two pairs, Bonus Poker Deluxe was not that well received. A pay of 80 for 1 for a four of a kind was simply not enough to overcome the 1 for 1 pay for two pairs.

Bonus Poker Deluxe



Tick keysHigher paying winning hands

Disadvantages of the game is

TickPayback under 99 percent with higher variance

Video Poker Separator


Double Bonus Poker was the answer to the lukewarm response to Bonus Poker Deluxe. The game still paid just 1 for 1 for a hand of two pairs, but it compensated by offering some great pays for certain four of a kind hands.

Here is the pay table at maximum credits with the changes highlighted.

Double Bonus Poker - 4 aces

The payback for the full pay game is 100.17 percent. Yes, the player has an edge over time with proper play strategy! The variance of 28.3 is actually less than the 32 of Bonus Poker Deluxe.

Double Bonus Poker


Advantages of the game are

Tick keysHigher paying winning hands; 160 for 1 for four aces, 80 for 1 for four 2’s, 3’s, or 4’s and 50 for 1 for any other four of a kind.

Tick keysOver 100 percent payback with proper play.

Disadvantages of the game is



TickHigher variance than Jacks or Better and Bonus Poker means a larger bankroll is required.

TickThe playing strategy is fairly complex.

Video Poker Separator


Double bonus poker was very successful. In order to draw more players and increase the excitement factor, manufacturers needed to come up with something even higher paying than in Double Bonus Poker. Their answer was to add two lines to the pay table that introduced the concept of a kicker. With a hand of four aces, the kicker is a 2, 3, or 4. With a hand of four 2’s, 3’s, or 4’s; the kicker is an ace or a 2, 3, or 4. Here is the maximum credit column of the Double Double Bonus Poker pay table with changes highlighted.

Double Double Bonus Poker - Hand

This full pay game has a payback of 98.98 percent with a variance of 42.

Double Double Bonus Poker Introduction




Tick keysHigher paying winning hands; 400 for 1 for four aces with a kicker of a 2, 3, or 4, and 160 for 1 for four 2’s, 3’s, or 4’s with a kicker of an ace or a 2, 3, or 4.

Disadvantages of the game is


TickLower payback and higher variance than Jacks or Better and Bonus Poker means a larger bankroll is required.

TickThe playing strategy is fairly complex.

Video Poker Separator


Casinos are never content to leave things status quo. They are always looking for something more to draw the gambling crowds. And so it was – and is – with video poker. Periodically new Jacks or Better based games are added with one or more higher paying hands. Games with the names Super Double Bonus Poker, Super Double Double Bonus Poker, Triple Bonus Poker, Triple Bonus Plus Poker and Triple Double Bonus Poker are currently all a part of the current gaming landscape. While each of these games is based on the original hand hierarchy and play format of the table game of Draw Poker, each is also unique in the strong and weak points it offers the gaming public.

Poker - Higher paying hands
Video Poker Separator


Keys TickEach game of the Jacks or Better category has the same hierarchy of hands, is played similar to the table game of Draw Poker, and has a hand of a pair of jacks or better as its lowest paying hand.

Keys TickIn order to either hold on to current players or to draw new players to the game, manufacturers continue to tweak the pay tables in an effort to produce more exciting games.

Keys TickEach different version of a Jacks or Better category game has its unique set of strong and weak points for the player.

Video Poker Separator
Chapter 3.2


Each card in the Jacks or Better category has a distinct value. A 3 can only count as a 3, a king can only count as a king, and so forth. The lone exception is the ace which can count as the lowest or highest card in a straight or straight flush. Each game in the Wild Card category has one or more cards which can count as a card of any rank or suit. They are called wild cards and hence the name of the category. In the game called Deuces Wild, each deuce (2) is wild. Each can be used as any other card in the deck when it is advantageous to do so. In a Joker Poker video poker game, the joker is the wild card.

Video Poker - Deuces Wild


Video Poker Separator


Obviously, having wild cards that can be any card possible means there are more paying hands. More paying hands means that pays for those winning hands is lower than in Jacks or Better category games. In fact, some of the lower paying hands such as two pair and high pair are eliminated from the pay tables.

Wild Card - Lower Pays


Video Poker Separator


There is also a new type of hand – the “wild” hand. A wild hand is any hand that contains a wild card. For example, in a deuces wild game a wild royal flush would have one or more 2’s in the hand. Because it is not an natural royal flush, the wild royal flush has a much lower pay than a royal flush formed without a wild card. Not all hands that contain a wild card are called “wild” hands, however. Many times the pay table does not differentiate between wild and non-wild hands. In those cases, the pay is the same whether or not the hand contains a wild card.

Because wild cards can substitute for any other card, it is possible to have more than four of a kind. Since there are five cards in a hand, five of a kind hands are possible if they contain one or more wild cards.

Poker- Different hands


Video Poker Separator


Having a wild card dramatically changes the dynamics of the game compared to a jacks or better based game. There are just so many more possibilities with wild cards that the strategy for playing a wild card game dramatically changes. Since the wild card is the most important card, it takes precedent in determining play. Rather than simply listing hands from best to worst, the plays are grouped by the number of wild cards that are in the originally dealt hand. This can simplify the strategy, since the more wild cards that are dealt, the less other things matter. Only when you are dealt zero wild cards does the strategy become a little complex.

Most wild card video poker games have at least one other jackpot type hand – such as four deuces. Because there are two high paying hands, variance is a bit higher in wild card games.

Poker- Different play strategy


Video Poker Separator


Deuces Wild video poker is hands down the most popular wild card video poker game. Here is the maximum credit column of a full pay deuces wild game. The modified rows (from a jacks or better category game) are highlighted.

Deuces Wild-hand

Deuces Wild Cards


Notice the high paying four deuces, the wild royal flush, 5 of a kind. These are all hands that do not exist in a jacks or better category game. Also notice the low payback for most of the other hands and that the lowest paying hand is 3 of a kind and it only pays 1 for 1.

This particular game has a payback of 100.76 percent. Yes, that is correct. This game will add to the player’s bankroll over time with proper play. Because of that, deuces wild games with this pay table have all but disappeared. However, all the lower paying versions have very similar pay tables so we can use this pay table as an example. The variance of this game is 25.8.

There are many different versions of Deuces Wild video poker games available today. Unlike Jacks or Better category games where only one or two lines of the pay table tend to be changed, almost any line of a deuces wild pay table can and has been changed. For this reason, we do not tend to use a couple of numbers such as 9/6 to define the different paying games. Instead actual names have been given to deuces wild games with specific pay tables. The names include:

Full Pay Deuces Wild


Advantages of Dueces Wild Card

Tick keysPotential of a high payback game with a relatively low variance.

Tick keysTwo high paying hands: royal flush and four deuces.

Tick keysSimplified strategy because the strategy is organized by the number of deuces in the originally dealt hand.

Disadvantage of the Deuces Wild Card

TickStrategy is quite a bit different than that for Jacks or Better category games.

TickHard to identify how good the game is because almost any line of the pay table could be altered.

Deuces Wild Video Poker-Hand


Video Poker Separator


While deuces wild is by far the most popular wild card video poker game, there is another – Joker Poker. In this game the joker is the only wild card. Here is the pay table.

Other wild card

Joker Poker


This game has a payback of 100.65 percent and a variance of 26.2. This game is very hard to find. The more commonly available games pay only 18 for 1 for a four of a kind rather than 20 for 1 and have a payback of 99.29 percent with a variance of 33.1

Because there is a wild card, the additional hands of five of a kind and wild royal flush are a part of the pay table. But notice the lowest paying hand. It is a pair of kings or better, not three of a kind used by Deuces Wild. Actually there are two versions of Joker Poker. The other version has two pairs as the lowest paying hand. In either case, however, the lowest paying hand is lower than in deuces wild.

Kings are better


Advantage of this game are

Tick keysA wild card game that pays and plays similar to a jacks or better category game.

Tick keysCan have a positive payback.

Disadvantage of the games are

TickThis game is not all that common.

TickThe variance is relatively high.

Video Poker Separator


Keys TickVideo poker games that have a wild card also have two additional paying hands in the pay table; a Wild Royal Flush and a Five of a Kind.

Keys TickBecause wild cards make hands easier to obtain, payback for winning hands goes down.

Keys TickStrategy for playing wild card video poker is different than jacks or better category games. The primary consideration is the number of wild cards you are dealt.

Video Poker Separator
Chapter 3.3


When this category of video poker game was first introduced, the game was called Pick‘em Poker. This game enjoyed a reasonable run for many years and then slowly faded. Today there are only a few places where you can find a video poker game called Pick-‘em Poker.

However, some of the newer multiple game machines do include a game called Pick a Pair Poker.

It may be called by a different name, but it is the exact same game as Pick’em Poker.

Pick'em Poker


Video Poker Separator


Pick-‘em Poker is played totally different than other video poker game. Rather than dealing five cards and then allowing the player to hold or discard each individual card, Pick‘em Poker deals two cards face up plus two piles of three cards each with the top card on each pile face up. You must pick only one of the two piles of three cards to go with the two face up cards to complete the five card hand. You can see four cards and you must discard one of those cards. One pile of three in the originally dealt cards must remain in your hand. This can be particular annoying when your visible cards make a great hand such a four of a kind and you must break it up. Think of it. You have been dealt a great hand. You can see it, but you cannot form that hand by the rules of the game.



Video Poker Separator


On the plus side, Pick’em Poker has a decent pay table with a good return, and low variance.

Here is the complete pay table information for the full-pay version of Pick’em Poker / Pick a Pair Poker.

Pick'em Poker Cards & Coins

Pick'em Poker


Pick'em Poker-Hand

The payback of this game is 99.95 percent. This is a great payback which costs the player only five cents for every 100 dollars he runs through this game. In addition, the variance is only 15. This is about as low as it gets. The previous best we have seen is the 19.3 variance for an 8/5 (8 for 1 for a full house and 5 for 1 for a flush) Jacks or Better game.

As the table shows, the royal flush is paid at a rate that is 50 percent higher than the standard jacks or better based game pays. There is also a 1,000 credit bonus for hitting a royal while playing five credits. As you might expect by the significantly higher royal flush payback, it is harder to get one. While the pay for a royal flush in Pick’em Poker is 50 percent higher, it is in actuality 10 times less likely to occur. A lot of that reduction is due to the fact that you may have to throw away cards that would complete the hand. This leaves fewer cards remaining in the deck that could complete a royal flush.

Another interesting feature of this pay table is the last line. The lowest pay is 2 for 1, not 1 for 1 like all other jacks or better based games. Not only that, the pay is for a pair of 9s or better, not jacks or better. Moving up the Pick’em Poker pay table, let’s look at other pays. The table below compares the Pick’em Poker pays to the 9/6 Jacks or Better pays.

Hand and Pick'em Pay

Pick'em Poker-Tax

Because of the high payback, the low variance and the simple playing strategy, Pick’em Poker is a great game for the casual video poker player. The only real problem may be locating a game in the casino.

Advantage of this game are

Tick keysThe game has a decent payback and a low variance that is even better than full pay Jacks or Better.

Tick keysThe playing strategy is among the simplest making it relatively easy to play at the optimum level even if you are a casual player.

Unique Pay Table

In each and every instance, Pick’em Poker pays more than full pay Jacks or Better. There is also one slight anomaly in the Straight Flush pay line. It pays 1199 credits for a five credit bet. Why 1199 and not 1200? The dollar limit where a casino must file a W2-G for slot type games is $1200. If you are playing a dollar game and hit a straight flush, by reducing the pay by one dollar, the casino and player were both spared the paperwork hassle. The strategy for Pick’em Poker is also different from jacks or better or wild card based games. This is because you must always save exactly three cards that you can see – plus the two you cannot see under the pile of three that you select. For that reason there are no four- or five-card hands listed in the strategy. The strategy for playing Pick’em is among the most straightforward of all strategies.

Disadvantage of the games are

TickThis game is not all that common. It may be dicult to locate in the casino.

TickThe frustration of having to throw away a card that would have completed a winning hand because you have to discard one of the two piles of three cards.

TickThe extremely rare occurrence of the royal flush (once every 351,817 hands) and straight flush (once every 38,450 hands) makes this a somewhat boring game to play.

Video Poker Separator


Keys TickPick’Em Poker / Pick a Pair Poker is totally different from every other video poker game.

Keys TickIt has a relatively simple playing strategy allowing a casual player the opportunity to play the optimum strategy.

Keys TickThere is a very long time between royal flushes and straight flushes.

Keys TickThere can be a good deal of frustration when you are required to throw away a card that would have completed a nice winning hand.

Pick a pair poker


Video Poker Separator
Chapter 3.4


So far we have only learned about single play video poker games. You bet your credits, you push the deal button and one hand is dealt. You decide which cards of that hand you want to hold and press another button. New cards are dealt to replace the discards. You are now ready to play the next hand. These games are called single play games because you play one hand at a time.

Single play games are not the only kind of video poker games that are available. Scattered throughout the casino floor are video poker games where you can play three, five, 10, 50 and even 100 games at one time. These games are called multiple play or multi-play for that reason. When you play a multiple play game you bet enough credits for all the lines (plays) you wish to play at once. When you hit the deal button, the exact same hand is dealt to every line you have in play. That can be up to 100 repeats of the exact same hand. The cards you choose to hold are held in all of the lines you are playing. When you hit the Draw button each line has the discards replaced by cards from a different (virtual) deck having the originally dealt five cards missing from it.

Multiple play video poker


Video Poker Separator


One thing I should mention at this point, playing strategy does not change at all when you are playing multiple play video poker. The strategy that is proper for the single play game – whether it is Jacks or Better, Double Double Bonus Poker, Deuces Wild Poker, Joker Poker, or whatever – is exactly the same as the strategy used for the multiple play version of that game.

What is different is the impact of the originally dealt hand. Imagine your excitement if you are dealt four of a kind. You are guaranteed a four of a kind on each line you play. Imagine your excitement and anticipation when you are dealt four cards of a royal flush. If you are playing 50 plays, you will complete at least one of them in the long run in those 50 hands. This is because there is a one on 47 chance of completing a four card royal flush. You will complete two of them in the long run if you are playing a 100 play game.

If you are dealt a good initial hand, you can make a lot of money in a very short time. But what if you are dealt a very poor hand? In that case you stand to lose a lot of money very fast.

Standard playing strategy

Why am I bringing this up?

When playing multiple play games, whatever results you can expect from the initially dealt hand are multiplied by the number of hands you play. Because of this, the variance, which is the intensity of bankroll swings both plus and minus, for multiple play games is higher than for single play games. Put simply, you will need a bigger bankroll in order to play multiple play games of the same denomination than you need for single play games.

Video Poker Separator


What determines variance in a single play game is the amount of payback that is tied up in a few high paying hands. For example, the game of 9/6 Jacks or Better, where a full house is paid at 9 for 1 and a flush is paid at 6 for 1, has only one very high paying hand. That is the royal flush. The variance for this game is 19.5. Bonus Poker pays a bonus for four aces and four 2’s, 3’s or 4’s. Payos for a full house and a flush are reduced to make up for the higher payos on the four of a kind hands. The variance for Bonus Poker is 20.9 which is a seven percent increase over Jacks or Better. Double Bonus Poker increases the bonus on four aces to 160-for-1, the bonus on four 2s, 3s, or 4s to 80-for-1, and the bonus on 5s through kings to 50-for-1. The pay for a hand containing two pairs is reduced to 1 for 1 to compensate for the increased pays on the four of a kind hands. The variance on a Double Bonus Poker game soars to nearly 28.3; a 48 percent increase from Jacks or Better.

In multiple play games, the variance increases as the number of plays increase. This is not because more money in concentrated in fewer high paying hands, but because the strength of each hand is determined by the initial five cards that are dealt. If those five cards make a strong and, each play will have a strong hand. However, if those five cards make a weak hand, each play will have a weak hand.

How about looking at some specific games, plays and variances?

You learned earlier in this guide that the variance for single-play Jacks or Better is 19.5. If instead you play a three play Jacks or Better game, its variance is 23.4; or a 20 percent increase. If you are playing a five play version of Jacks or Better, the variance now becomes 27.3 which is 40 percent greater than playing single play. 50 play Jacks or Better has a variance of 115.8 and the 100 play version has a variance of 214. This is a whopping 997 percent greater than the single play version of the game.

Higher variance

That is a pretty big increase for a low initial variance. Now let’s look at a game with a higher single play variance.

Double Bonus Poker has a single play variance of 28.3 which is 48 percent higher than single play Jacks or Better. Using the same benchmarks as we did with the Jacks or Better example above, the three play version of Double Bonus Poker has a variance of 35.0 which is a 24 percent increase from the single play version. Five play Double Bonus Poker has a variance of 41.8 which is 48 percent higher. The variance on a 10 play game is 58.5 which is a full 108 percent higher. The variance for the 50 play version is 194.4; 588 percent higher. Finally the 100 play version has a variance is 364 which is 1188 percent higher!

What do these very large numbers mean to you as you learn to be a skillful video poker player?

Video Poker Separator


It is simple. If you are planning to play multiple play video poker you will need to bring a larger bankroll in order to play as long as could on a single play game. Even on the relatively low variance Jacks or Better games, the variance of the 100 play game is 10 times that of the single play game. This means that even if you were to play a lower denomination multiple play version of the game you still may need a larger bankroll.

If you normally play single play Jacks or Better at the $1 level, it may seem logical that you could play 100 play Jacks or Better at the 1¢ level and that the same bankroll will be sucient. At maximum coin in you wager five dollars on each hand in either game. The increased variance for 100 is 10 times that of single play. However, because that 10 times variance is only working against a penny base bet the same bankroll will be more than enough.

Smaller denomination game


Advantages of multiple play poker

Multiple play coins

Tick keysThe potential of hitting some big winning hands on each play of the multiple play game.

Tick keysThe playing strategy is exactly the same as for the single play version of the same game.

Disadvantage of multiple play poker

TickMuch higher variance which causes larger bankroll swings that require a larger bankroll to play the game.

Video Poker Separator


Keys TickMultiple play video poker allows you to play several hands at once. Each hand starts with the same five cards.

Keys TickWhile you could win big on some hands, you will also lose big on other hands.

Keys TickBecause of the higher variance caused by multiple play video poker, you will require a larger bankroll to play the game.

Video Poker Separator
Chapter 3.5


In each of the games you have seen do far in this guide, each line of the pay table has only one value and that value ever changes. For example:

  • A pair of jacks or better pays 1 for 1
  • A straight flush pays 25 for 1
  • A royal flush always pays 800 for 1 with maximum credits played.

Progressive video poker on the other hand has a jackpot that normally starts at the same value as the non progressive game and slowly increases as the game (or a bank of games) is played. The most common progressive jackpot is for the royal flush, but there are also games that have progressive jackpots for other hands such as a straight flush or certain four of a kind hands.

Jack or better pocker


Video Poker Separator


In every case of which I am aware, progressive games have lower payouts for some of the lower paying hands such as the full house and flush. A very common example is a 9/6 Jacks or Better non progressive game that would become an 8/5 of even a 7/5 game when it is a progressive. By lowering only these two pays by just one credit per credit played, the overall payback of the game is reduced by about 2.25 percent to 97.3 percent from 99.54 percent.

Progressive games start o with a worse return than standard non progressive video poker. But there is a plus side. As the progressive jackpot climbs, the house edge decreases. If the jackpot amount gets high enough, the game can match the payback of a non progressive version. It can even eventually pay back more than 100 percent, becoming favorable for the player.

Progressive Video Poker


Video Poker Separator


With a Jacks or Better game, for each additional 1,000 credits in the progressive jackpot, the return improves for the player by about 0.5 to 0.6 percent. Here are several jackpot values and corresponding returns and variance for an 8/5 Jacks or Better game.

Progressive Jackpot Amount

As the table shows, the return improves about one half percent for each 1,000 additional credits until it matches the increasingly hard to find full pay 9/6 jacks or better games when at about 8,000 credits. The game ultimately returns 100 percent with proper play at about 8,670 credits.

While the return for the progressive game may be the same as a full pay non progressive game with the royal flush progressive at 8,000 credits, all is not equal between the two games. As we learned earlier, as more of the total return is concentrated in the royal flush jackpot, the variance rises. As the above table details, the variance increases form 19.3 at the reset value of 4,000 credits to 95.6 when the return reaches 100 percent.

Progressive game payback


Video Poker Separator


What this means for the player is, as the variance goes up, so too does the bankroll size requirement. In the above example, the variance increases by 495 percent between reset value and 100 percent return.

In addition to needing a large bankroll, your playing strategy will also have to change.

Why, you ask?

Because of the rising value of the royal flush, saving for it will become desirable in more and more instances.

As an example, when the jackpot is at the reset value of 4,000 credits, optimum strategy tells you that saving four of a kind will return more in the long run that saving four of a royal flush, and therefore the proper play is to hold four of a kind. But when the jackpot is 8,000 credits, that is, when it is worth twice the normal, reset amount, the average return for four cards of a royal flush is more than the average return for four of a kind. In this case, saving for the royal flush is a better move.

Here is another example. At the reset value of 4,000 credits it is favorable to save a high pair of jacks through aces over saving three cards of a royal flush. If you are at the same 8,000 credit progressive jackpot again, it is now favorable to save the three cards of a royal flush over saving the high pair. These are just two examples, but there are many more and they become more drastic as the progressive amount climbs. As the jackpot increases the player will increasingly choose to save for a royal flush over other plays that would win some smaller sum of money.

Here is another fact that you may not have considered. Saving for a royal flush more often causes the frequency of hitting a royal to increase. At 4,000 credits for a royal flush on an 8/5 Jacks or Better game, if you use optimum playing strategy you will hit a royal flush every 40,170 hands on average. When the jackpot for a royal flush climbs to 8,000 credits on the same 8/5 game, and if you play the optimum strategy that has been modified for the 8,000 credit jackpot amount, you should hit a royal flush every 32,644 hands on average. That is a 20 percent increase. As you may have already surmised, the percentage of overall payback contributed from hitting a royal flush also increases as the jackpot climbs from its reset value. It climbs to 4.90 percent at 8,000 credits from 1.99 percent at 4,000 credits which is almost two and one half times as much.

You may not want to play progressive video poker if you have other, lower variance games available. But if the only game you can find that gives you a decent return is a progressive game, and very importantly, if you also have an adequate bankroll, you may want to consider playing progressive video poker when the jackpots are high enough to make it worthwhile.

Change poker playing strategy

If you are planning to play a progressive video poker game, you want to play the best strategy. If you have video poker strategy software or an app to generate strategy, you should generate several different strategy charts. Make the first chart with the progressive jackpot at the lowest level you would consider playing the game. Then run a strategy chart with the progressive jackpot increasing at 1,000 credit intervals. While you are playing the game, simply use the strategy chart which has the progressive jackpot that is closest to the actual jackpot. This way you know that you are playing very close to perfect strategy.

Jackpot winning
Advantages of progressive video poker

Tick keysIt is possible to win more than you would on a standard video poker game due to the progressive jackpot amount.

Tick keysYou can actually play with an edge (over 100 percent payback) if the progressive jackpot is high enough.

Disadvantages of progressive video poker

TickThere is a lower payback until the progressive jackpot gets very high.

TickA progressive game with a similar payback as a standard game will have a much higher variance.

TickAs the progressive jackpot climbs, playing strategy must change in order to maximize results.

Video Poker Separator


Keys TickProgressive video poker games, when at the reset value, pay back less than the non-progressive video poker games.

Keys TickIf the progressive jackpot goes high enough, the game can have a better than 100 percent payback.

Keys TickA higher variance requires a larger bankroll.

Keys TickThe strategy changes that are required to skillfully play progressive video poker make the game more diffcult to play properly.

Keys TickPlaying a progressive game with a high progressive jackpot may be preferable to playing other games if all of them have a low payback.

Video Poker Separator
Chapter 3.6


So far in this guide you have learned about several different types of video poker game. No matter what the differences in these games, they all had one thing in common – in each and every instance it was the player against the casino. Tournament video poker play no longer matches you against the casino. Rather, it is you against other players in the tournament. Video poker tournaments are entered by “buying in” for a fixed amount per tournament entry. In most cases you can buy in more than once in order to better your chances of winning. Not all tournaments require a buy in, however. Many of them give free entries to certain players based on their past play at the casino. Because of the buy in or free play component of tournament video poker play; the number of credits or time played is not directly tied to the player’s bankroll. They are the same for everyone. In tournaments where players buy in, the size of the winnings is usually determined by how much is collected from the buy-ins. If it is a free promotional tournament, the winning amounts are determined by the casino because they provide the purse. Usually the top 10 to 25 percent of player’s scores will win something. There are two major types of video poker tournament. The first type gives each participant a fixed number of credits to play until they are all gone. For example, the credit meter may be set at 1,000 credits. Each hand played will use five credits if the participant plays maximum credits. In this example each participant has 200 hands in which to produce a winning score.

Tournament play video poker

The second type gives each participant a fixed amount of time, during which each player attempts to win as much as possible. Usually a timed tournament player will get 10 to 15 minutes. Each player has 10 to 15 minutes to play as many hands as possible hoping to snag a few big winners during that time.

If, on the other hand, it is a timed tournament, your best strategy is to play as many hands as possible in the allotted time as this will give you the best chance to pad your score by hitting a royal flush or other high paying hand.

The exact strategy is not nearly as important as getting in as many hands as possible before time runs out.

A few minor strategy errors are more than offset by the added possibilities of hitting a big score.

Most video poker machines have a speed setting that can be set by the player. Machines used for tournament play are normally set for the fastest speed in order to help players get in as many hands as possible.

In standard video poker play, there is only one meter for credits. It goes up after hitting a winning hand and is reduced by five credits each time a new hand begins. When set for tournament play, most machines have separate counters for credits to play and to accumulate the win amounts. This way additional play will not diminish the win meter. The win meter can only go up.

In some instances the amounts paid for winning hands is increased in an eort to add excitement to the tournament. Rather than having total scores in the 3,000 to 4,500 range, you might see totals well over 10,000. The actual score is unimportant since it is not the actual score that matters, only how well you did compared to others in the tournament. But, a five figure score sure sounds better than a low to middle four figure score. One thing to consider when playing a modified pay table; if the pay for a royal flush remains at 800 for 1 and some lower paying hands have dramatically higher pays than normal, playing strategy changes might be in order. If you know the pay table that will be used in a video poker tournament beforehand and you have video poker strategy software, put the tournament pay table into the software and see what strategy is generated. Depending on the magnitude of the changes, the strategy could be quite different.

Each player’s tournament strategy can vary dramatically. There is only a short amount of time or a small number of hands. Luck plays a huge role in tournament play, and, the more luck is a factor, the less proper strategy matters.

But, you still should have a strategy.

Tournament poker

Normally you will want to use your standard playing strategy for the game you play in the tournament. This is especially true for a fixed credit tournament where time is not a factor. However, since a royal can be the difference between winning and losing, you might want to “favor” a royal draw over smaller outcomes. For example, if you are dealt a high pair along with three cards of a royal, saving the three of a royal might be the hold you want to make.

The basic rule for playing in a video poker tournament is; play for accuracy if it is a fixed credit tournament and play for speed if it is a timed tournament. If both credits and time are a factor, make sure you play fast enough to use up all the credits before the time runs out.

Video Poker Separator


One relatively extreme tournament strategy you might consider is to only hold for potential royal flushes. Hitting a royal means you have a great chance of winning at least something in the tournament. By only by saving cards that could turn into a royal, you improve the chances of hitting a royal to about 1 in 23,000 from the 1 in 40,000 with standard play. While still a lot of hands between royals, the chances of hitting a royal nearly double.

How can you develop a “royals only” strategy? Simple; if the hand doesn’t have any cards that will make a royal, discard the entire hand. Only keep cards that could make a royal. If you have video poker software on your computer set the pay table to only pay the 800 for 1for the royal flush. Set the pay for every other hand to zero. The strategy generated for this game will be the ”royals only” strategy. It is very simple. Once you learn it you can play very fast – and fast is good in timed tournament play.

Playing strategy

Royal Flush

If you play the “royals only” strategy and don’t hit a royal, your total score will be much lower than if you used conventional strategy. But does that matter? If you need 4,300 points to finish in the money and you end up with 215 points you do no worse than someone playing a more traditional strategy that ends up with 4,295 points. You either win some money or you don’t. The losing score is irrelevant. A loss is a loss. It is better to go down swinging for the fence than trying to bunt your way on base.

Just remember that tournament play is mostly about luck. If you are lucky you will win. If not, you won’t. If it is a timed tournament, play as fast as you can to ensure you play as many hands (and chances for a royal) as possible. If you connect and hit one over the fence you will most likely be in the money.

Video Poker Separator


Keys TickTournament video poker play is you against other players rather than you against the casino like when you are playing regular video poker.

Keys TickTournaments are either for a set amount of time or a set amount of credits and sometimes both.

Keys TickIn a timed tournament, playing as fast as you can is the best strategy. It gives you the more chances of getting a royal flush.

Keys TickA “Royals Only” playing strategy could be a good strategy to employ.

Tournament video poker


In this chapter you learned about several different categories of video poker games and play. The Jacks or Better category started with the first video poker game and has grown into a category containing dozens of games with scores of pay tables. Wild card video poker has a couple of unique winning hands, and that pays for most winning hands are low. Pick’em Poker plays very differently from other games, but has its good points. Multiple play video poker, while using the same strategy as single play games has a much higher variance that a single play game. Playing progressive video poker can garner some big wins, but it also requires a large bankroll and playing strategy changes as the jackpot climbs. Tournament video poker play is you against other players instead of the casino. It involves a lot of luck, but can be worth the time spent.

In the next chapter you will learn specific methods of determining your bankroll size based on the types of game you intend to play.

Chapter Summary


Video Poker Separator


See if you can answer these questions based on the information presented in Chapter 3.

TicksTrue or False - Each of the Jacks or Better category games has the same hierarchy of hands and is played similar to the table game Draw Poker.

TicksTrue or False - Jacks or Better was extremely popular so it was several years before the development of any newer games.

TicksHow does the organization of the strategy charts for wild card games different from the Jacks or Better category?

TicksName the two additional hands found on a wild card pay table that are not on a Jacks or Better category game.

TicksDescribe how Pick’em Poker play differs from other video poker games.

TicksTrue or False - because you have many chances to make a winning hand on each deal, the variance of multiple play video poker is lower than single play video poker.

TicksHow would you recognize a progressive video poker game in a casino?

TicksTrue or False - You should always play progressive games that have a very high progressive jackpot.

TicksHow is the length of a video poker tournament determined?

TicksWhat is the best way to play a timed video poker tournament?

Video Poker Separator



TicksFalse. Jacks or Better proved to be a bit boring for many players so game manufacturers developed several games having higher paying winning hands.

TicksBecause the wild card is the most important card, strategy is grouped by the number of wild cards in the originally dealt hand.

TicksWild Royal Flush and Five of a Kind.

TicksOther video poker games deal five cards and you hold those you wish to keep. You then draw the cards you discarded to make your hand. Pick’em poker has two cards dealt face up and two piles of three cards each with the top card of each pile face up. You pick one of the two piles to combine with the two face up cards to make your final hand.

TicksFalse. Because a good initial hand can win big and a bad initial hand can lose big, variance for multiple play video poker is always higher that its single play equivalent.

TicksOne or more lines of a progressive video poker game has an amount that increases with play until it is hit. You can recognize a progressive game because the winning hand pay amounts are not nice and round like in a non-progressive game.

TicksFalse. While you can win more if you hit the high progressive jackpot, the higher it is, the higher the variance and the larger the bankroll you require. Also as the progressive jackpot increases, the playing strategy changes.

TicksIt is either timed or limited by the number of credits played – or both.

TicksPlay as fast as possible to give yourself the best chance of getting a royal flush.

Video Poker Separator

Written by 

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.