• Play free casino games
  • Exclusive, free welcome bonuses
  • Expert & independent reviews

Video Poker Strategy

Sitting down to a video poker session and playing your hands randomly is an excellent way to lose a lot of money quickly. If you're like most sane individuals, you'll probably prefer to make money, not lose it! The strategy you use while playing video poker will depend on the type of game you choose. You can maximize your chances of earning a profit by honing your skills and learning to correctly manage your cash. It's no secret that video poker can be potentially addictive, and any skilled poker player will tell you that gaining an addiction to any type of gambling is not a smart strategy for making money.

The Top Playing Strategies

Cash Management

A simple rule of thumb when managing your money in a video poker session is this: do not bet more than you can afford to lose. Failing to remember this, and failing to treat it as an important and necessary rule, will cause your funds to quickly diminish. Be realistic when setting this figure for yourself, and stick to it regardless of the early outcome of your session; if you win big towards the end of a session, be happy about it and collect your money. Don't use it as an excuse to extend your session, as you'll probably only lose your winnings. If you run into a string of hard luck early in your session, accept the fact that you've had a poor day of video poker and cash out. Don't try to scramble and win your money back by extending your session. That sort of strategy only works in the movies, unfortunately.

For added emphasis, I'll say it again: bet no more than you can afford to lose. If you're playing video poker in a desperate attempt to generate money to pay the rent and other necessary bills, you shouldn't be gambling at all. The money you use to play should consist of extra income that will be small enough in quantity as to be inconsequential to your quality of living, regardless of the poker session's outcome.

Setting Realistic Goals

Before you begin a video poker session, decide how much money you'd like to win during that specific session. It will be very tempting for novice players to neglect this rule, and simply try to win as much money as possible. The problem with this technique is that lacks discipline. Without a firm monetary value in mind, you'll only be relying on your instincts and mood to decide when a session is officially finished.

Start with a small, easily-obtainable figure, and stick with it. For the average beginning video poker player, and even for most experienced card sharks, a low, round number such as $20 is ideal. Along these same lines, negative $20 should be the opposite limit you'll play towards. In this example, let's say you start with $100 in your online video poker account. Play hands until the total sum of your account is either $120 or $80. When either of these figures have been reached, you'll know it's time to end your playing session. Do not stray from this, even if you feel like you're on a "hot streak" or slump. The odds of winning the next hand are not influenced by the outcome of the previous hand.

Specific Playing Strategy

Unlike slots or roulette, video poker is a game of skill. As the player, you have the ability to influence the outcome of each hand by playing properly. Of course, as with any sort of gambling, a large element of luck is involved as well. If the cards you choose replace in each hand are replaced with more bad cards, there's nothing you can do to save the hand. Knowing which cards to replace, however, is where your skill and knowledge come into play.

Let's take a look at "Jacks or Better," one of the most common video poker games you'll find at online casinos. In this game, you'll need a minimum of a pair of face cards in order to form a winning hand. However, scoring this hand will only return the bet you've placed. If you achieved a pair of face cards in every hand you played in a session, your bankroll at the end would be identical to how it looked at the start. Playing video poker wisely will require you to assess each hand more carefully, knowing exactly which cards to keep and which to discard in order to aim for better, more profitable winning hands.

The following strategy list will allow you to play "Jacks or Better" perfectly. If you follow the strategy exactly, the game will have a return rate of 99.46%. This means that, on average, if you begin a session with $100 in your bankroll, you'll end it with $99.46. Although this doesn't seem particularly appealing, it represents a better return rate than you'll experience playing many other video poker game types, and certainly better than you'd find playing slots. Any money you end with beyond your initial bankroll will depend entirely on luck. The only reliable way of finding video poker games with a return rate of over 100% is by playing in brick-and-mortar casinos off of the Vegas strip, and even then, most machines will not offer a return rate even close to 100%. This list is ordered from the worst possible initial hand you could be dealt, through the best possible hand, a Royal Flush.

If you're dealt:

  • Five non-face cards of random suit and numerical values of 10 or lower, discard them all.
  • One face card, keep it and discard the rest.
  • plus a Jack, Queen, or King, keep them so long as they're suited.
  • Two unsuited face cards, keep them both.
  • Three suited sequential cards, keep all three.
  • Two suited face cards, keep them both.
  • Four sequential cards of any suit, keep all four.
  • A pair of non-face cards, keep them both.
  • Four cards of the same suit, keep all four.
  • Any three cards of a Royal Flush, keep all three.
  • A pair of face cards, keep them both.
  • Two pairs, keep them both. You already have a winning hand, and you might get a Full House.
  • Four sequential, suited cards, keep all four.
  • Three of kind, keep all three.
  • Five sequential cards or five suited cards, keep all five.
  • Any four cards of a Royal Flush, keep all four.
  • A Full House, Four of a Kind, Straight Flush, or Royal Flush, keep all five. You just won big!

More resources: