Playing poker against other people is fun, but it can take a long time to get through a full game, especially if everyone insists on taking an age to decide whether to bet or fold. By playing against a machine, you can get through as many games as you like, perfect if you’ve only got a spare five minutes or limited time on the train to work. Here’s our guide to perfecting your video poker knowledge and getting things right from the get-go.

What is video poker?

Well, it’s poker on a screen! Sort of. If you’ve ever been to Vegas, or at least seen casino scenes in movies, then you’ll definitely have seen a video poker machine. They’re usually a big exciting box with plenty of colour and lights, a comfy stool, and a large screen displaying what can be played and what can be won. However, if you can’t afford a ticket to Vegas or don’t fancy mingling with the weekend drinkers at your local casino, you can always play some video poker games on your smartphone, tablet, or computer.

How does video poker work?

Each game begins with the player being dealt five cards on-screen. The player then needs to assess which cards they want to keep and which ones they want to discard. The aim of the game is to make the best five card poker hand, so weaker cards should be discarded and strong cards kept on the screen.

Discarded cards will then be replaced with fresh ones and the machine will then determine if the hand is a winner. Winning combinations can be found in the machine’s pay table, but commonly match the poker hands that you’d see in other varieties of the game.

The biggest difference between video poker and other versions of the game is that the player can opt to discard all five cards if they wish, something that can’t be done in other games of poker that involve making up the best hand.

If you’ve won, then you’ll get whatever the pay table pays out for that particular hand, which is added back into your purse. You can then choose to play again or cash out. It’s common for players to work at a video poker machine for a while to maximise pay-outs or just to have some fun, so the games happen quite quickly in most cases.

How do I start?

Before each game, you’ll need to decide how much you’re going to wager. By pressing deal or draw, the machine will deduct one credit and that will be your wager. Any winning hands in the pay will then multiply this credit, so for example if a particular hand pays 40 to 1, you’ll get 40 credits back.

However, some machines offer the option to bet max. This means you can bet more chips at once, usually five at a time, which of course boosts the pay-out you’ll get if you win. So that 40 to 1 hand you just won would net you 200 credits instead of 40, assuming a five-credit maximum bet.

How to win at video poker

No matter which games you choose, video poker is all about knowing your best poker hands inside out. If you’re dealt the makings of a good hand, you need to be able to recognise it and hold the important cards. The list below explains the best poker hands to look out for, in order of strength:

  • Royal flush – the rarest poker hand, A,K,Q,J,10 all of the same suit
  • Straight flush – five cards in sequence, all the same suit
  • Four of a kind – four card of the same rank, e.g. four jacks
  • Full house – three of the same card and a pair, e.g. Three fours and two aces
  • Flush – any five card of the same suit, not in sequence
  • Straight – five cards in a sequence, but not of the same suti
  • Three of a kind – three cards of the same rank, e.g. three sevens
  • Two pair – two different pairs of card, e.g. two kings and two aces
  • Pair – a pair of cards of the same rank, e.g. two fours
  • High card – If you’ve got none of the above, the highest card in your hand

If you’ve managed to make up any of the above, aside from a high card situation, then you may end up winning something back. Video poker machines vary on what they pay out on, so you may end up getting nothing for a pair lower than two jacks, but more when you start making up flushes and straights.

TIP: Remember to be careful with what you discard. It may be tempting to keep aces and throw away threes and fours or similar, but three of a kinds and straights, which may not be the big-hitters in terms of pay-out, could end up bagging you more winnings in the long run.

The pay table

The pay table is your best friend at the video poker machine, as it’ll tell you what you’ll win for each hand. Here are some typical figures:

  • Pair of Jacks or better – 1 credit
  • Two pair – 2 credits
  • Three of a kind – 3 credits
  • Straight – 4 credits
  • Flush – 6 credits
  • Full house – 9 credits
  • Four of a kind – 25 credits
  • Straight flush – 50 credits
  • Royal flush – 250 credits

It’s worth noting that some video poker machines will also carry a jackpot. This can be awarded at random and can be progressive, so will grow as more players play that machine or type of game. Machines with bigger jackpots can seem more attractive to play, but always keep an eye on the pay tables and the RTP percentage (return to player), as these can be lower on machines with higher jackpots, which aren’t guaranteed to drop when you play.

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