How to Play Video Poker

Learning how to play video poker the right way is going to take a little bit of research, study, and practice. It isn’t the mindless exercise in pushing buttons that slot machines are. You can learn strategies to improve your play, while getting distracted, tired, or otherwise out of your comfort zone can hurt your chances. That means studying manuals, guides, and how-to articles are important. I’ll discuss each of these below, then give quick instructions on how to play video poker.

Play Free Video Poker Games

You can read elsewhere on this site the best ways to play video poker for free, but remember to practice before you start playing for real money. If you were going to shoot hoops for money, you’d practice before you played the game for real. If you were going to race motorcycles for betting purposes, you’d learn how to drive a motorbike first. So practice on free video poker software before you play for real. You can find free games all over the Internet.

Playing Video Poker for Real Money

Let’s assume you’ve done your research and you’re entering the casino (or online casino) for the first time to play for money. The following instructions are what you need to do to play video poker the right way.

Decide which game you want to play. I suggest you start with Jacks or Better video poker. It’s the basic game and doesn’t present the additional strategy associated with wild cards, bonus video poker, and progressive jackpots. Jacks or Better has lower volatility than most of these games, so you’ll get a truer understanding of what a typical video poker session is like. Look for the 9/6 video poker machines–paying 9x the bet for full houses and 6x the bet for flushes–but settle for the 8/5 Jacks or Better machines if you have to.

How the Machines Work

Choose your denomination. When you’re selecting, remember to play at the coin level in which you’ll feel comfortable betting 5x the amount. You want to make 5-coin wagers (“Bet Max”), because this activates the top jackpot level on Jacks or Better. You won’t have to do this on certain video poker games, but you do on Jacks or Better. This is no problem, because the coin denominations have a lot of different options.

Once you’ve selected money and hit “Max Bet”, hit the deal button and you should be given 5 cards. Look over these cards and determine which ones give you the best option of making money–and making a lot of money. This usually means keeping any paired-up face cards or Aces, unless you appear near to making out a straight or a flush. If you have two pairs, discard the fifth card and hope for the full house. Remember this is like the poker you’ve played your whole life, so go for the big hands, settling for any pair of Jacks or better. Once you’ve made your decision, hit the deal button and see what you get on the re-draw. Once this is done, the hand is complete and it’s time to start again.

Sessions and Hands

Most sessions of video poker are going to include dozens, if not hundreds, of hands. These go quickly, but don’t rush. Take your time and make the right decisions. No one has you on a clock and playing hands faster is only a good idea in a video poker tournament. Also, take enough breaks that you remain sharp. Get enough food, get enough drink (they’re free), take restroom breaks, and stretch your legs. As I mentioned before, video poker is a strategy game, so if you aren’t on the top of your game, you lose money.