Online video poker for beginners

Video poker refers to a variety of video-based poker games that use a five-card draw and often come with a preset house edge. You may play it online or in land-based casinos on slot machine-like terminals. Due to the design of the game, the slang term "poker slots" is commonly used for video poker.

When it comes to casino games, video poker is among the few that actually allow players to affect the outcome. By letting you pick and choose which cards to keep and which to discard, it puts you in charge of the action and is therefore not a game of pure luck.

In this guide, we will provide a complete introduction to video poker. Among other things, we will touch on the history of this casino game and some tips on different strategies to try.

A brief history of video poker

Poker machines first debuted in the early 20th century with 5-reel, luck-based slot machines. In their early variants, players earned rewards when symbols representing a winning poker hand landed on the reels.

Since their complexity prevented them from being mass-produced, the first physical poker machines rapidly went out of style. Manufacturers then shifted their focus to creating 3 reel slots instead.

But in the 1970s, Si Redd developed a poker-like game that started the history of video poker. He pitched his idea to his employer Bally Gaming, but they turned down his proposal. In 1975, he therefore started his own firm SIRCOMA (which evolved into IGT) to make the games.

In the first editions of video poker, a winning hand was defined as two pairs or greater. But with the introduction of Jacks or Better, the minimum winning hand became a pair of Jacks. This resulted in the popularity of video poker to skyrocket.

How to play video poker

While there are various variations of video poker, they are all derived from the five-card draw. After receiving a hand of five cards, the player can keep any or all of those cards. This then completes their hand for the round.

Here's a quick rundown of the basic steps involved in playing a hand of video poker:

  1. You must first make a wager to begin.
  2. When you hit the "Deal" button, the computer will shuffle the deck and randomly hand you five cards.
  3. Choose which cards to keep by touching them on the screen; the unselected cards will be discarded.
  4. After you're done selecting cards, hit "Draw" to have the machine shuffle in new cards.
  5. The worth of your poker hand and the game's paytable will determine how much you win based on your completed hand.

Put simply, the better your hand is, the larger the payout. And while the cards you get dealt are completely random, it requires some strategy to choose which cards to keep and not.

Video poker strategies

Knowing which cards to hold onto and which to toss out is crucial in any poker game. Keep in mind that you are competing against a machine and not a human opponent. If you are a beginner, we recommend you to follow these tips when starting out.

Try games in demo versions first

Before betting real money on video poker, it's best to try out free demo versions of the game first. This is to ensure that you understand the gameplay and familiarize yourself with the rules without the risk of losing any money.

The best way to test different games and strategies is through free versions of video poker, which you can find right here at Casino Universe.

Manage your bankroll

Once you feel ready to start betting real money, you should have a budget in mind before starting to play. This is to ensure you keep track of your spending and don't lose more than you can afford to.

It is crucial to consider the bet size for each hand carefully. Big losses will only make you lose focus. Don't go all in right away. Instead, do your research, get comfortable with the game, and play safely.

Pick the right paytable

You should always check the paytable before playing any game at an online casino, and that includes video poker. The paytable for a poker game is a listing of all the possible hands and their corresponding payouts.

First of all, you should try to find games with a high return-to-player rate (preferably between 97% and 100%). Then you can decide on which hands to focus on depending on the payout.

Use a strategy table

Sometimes, it may not be clear which cards to keep and which to exchange for new ones. Luckily, you can find strategy tables for virtually any popular video poker game online. These tell you what to do in any specific situation to maximize your theoretical returns.

Popular video poker game variants

When playing online, you may find a wide variety of different video poker games to play. Here are three of the most well-liked variations that you shouldn't miss.

  • Deuces wild
    In this variant of video poker, as the name suggests, twos serve as a wild card that can be used in place of any other card to create winning combinations. It's the equivalent of a slot machine's wild symbol.
  • Jacks or better
    The name comes from the fact that the game's minimum winning hand is a pair of Jacks. Players often prefer this style of video poker thanks to this rule.
  • Bonus poker
    Bonus poker is similar to Jacks or Better, but it comes with a higher payout percentage for four of a kind. This is the "bonus element", with different bonus payouts based on the ranking of the four of a kind.


Is video poker easy to play?

Yes, video poker is quite an easy game to learn. But it is important to remember that it requires some strategy, not just luck. It is therefore recommended to play some games for free before betting real money.

Is video poker similar to normal poker?

Video poker is based on five-card-draw, but comes with some differences from other poker games. For instance, video poker is played against a computer that uses a random number generator instead of a real dealer and other players.

What is the best video poker game to play?

Jacks or Better is one of the most popular video poker games. It's one of the easiest to learn and gives a payout from a pair of Jacks or better.