Australian Video Poker Guide - You Will Reap What You Keep

Video poker lives in a fascinating place between the game of skill of genuine multi-player poker, and pure games of chance like roulette and standard pokies. While it shares the same hand rankings used in regular poker, there are no opponents. You're simply trying to make the poker hands that the game rewards with the biggest payouts.

And you're not simply pressing buttons and hoping for the best. You're often strategizing over which of more than one possible out is best for your session overall. That makes it a much more interesting and engaging game than typical pokies.

The Gist of Video Poker

The basic goal of video poker is to make the highest ranked poker hand in a one-handed game of pseudo five-card draw. Assuming the most common form of the game ("Jacks or Better") based on a standard deck containing no wild cards, winning hands are as follows, listed from highest payout to lowest:

Winning Jacks or Better video poker hands

A♥ K♥ Q♥ J♥ 10♥Royal flush
J♠ 10♠ 9♠ 8♠ 7♠Straight flush
7♠ 7♥ 7♣ 7♦ A♠Four of a kind
5♠ 5♥ 5♣ 8♦ 8♠Full house
A♠ 10♠ 7♠ 5♠ 2♠Flush
J♠ 10♥ 9♣ 8♦ 7♠Straight
9♠ 9♥ 9♣ 7♦ 3♠Three of a kind
K♠ K♥ 4♣ 4♦ 8♠Two pair
J♠ J♥ 4♣ 7♦ 3♠Jacks or better

Playing Video Poker

The video poker game deals you five cards from a standard 52-card deck. You select cards you'd like to keep, i.e. those giving you the best opportunity for the best hand. Then you press a button that replaces the cards you don't keep with newly drawn cards from the same deck. The game tells you whether you hit a winning hand and how much you won.

Pretty simple stuff! But what happens when you could keep different cards for different winnings hands? Are there better and worse selections to be made? Let's examine how you should approach the most popular variant, Jacks or Better.

Video Poker Strategy

At first glance, you might think there could be no strategy to so simple a poker game. For starters, it kind of looks like a typical slot game. And then you're merely trying to make the best poker hand without any opponents attempting to make better hands than you. You bet only once, so there's seemingly no betting strategy to speak of. And there's no one to bluff.

For starters, there are actually better and worse video poker games in terms of payouts. You should always investigate a bit and compare payouts between games. Look at the payout for the highest hand playing betting max. The max bet amount is typically more rewarding, delivering a better payout than the same hand at lesser bet levels (e.g. 800:1 instead of 250:1). If you're going to hit it, it may as well pay the highest available amount.

There are also better and worse payouts on lesser hands. Most games pay 8:1 for full houses and 5:1 for flushes. But some games pay 9:1 for full houses and 6:1 for flushes, which is an improvement that lowers the house edge. That gives you better chances of both hanging in there and winning.

Typical Jacks or Better game payouts

A♥ K♥ Q♥ J♥ 10♥Royal flush 250:1 (800:1 for max bet)
J♠ 10♠ 9♠ 8♠ 7♠Straight flush 50:1
7♠ 7♥ 7♣ 7♦ A♠Four of a kind 25:1
5♠ 5♥ 5♣ 8♦ 8♠Full house 8:1 or 9:1
A♠ 10♠ 7♠ 5♠ 2♠Flush 5:1 or 6:1
J♠ 10♥ 9♣ 8♦ 7♠Straight 4:1
9♠ 9♥ 9♣ 7♦ 3♠Three of a kind 3:1
K♠ K♥ 4♣ 4♦ 8♠Two pair 2:1
J♠ J♥ 4♣ 7♦ 3♠Jacks or better 1:1

Don't forget that these payouts are for a typical Jacks or Better game. When comparing games, stick to comparing the same game variations, e.g. one Jacks or Better game with another. There are other variations with their own payouts. Comparing payouts for Jacks or Better with, say, Deuces Wild isn't really an apples to apples comparison because several payouts can vary between the variants. It takes more rigorous math to compare apples to oranges. But if you're looking strictly at Deuces Wild games, then by all means select the game with the best payouts.

Beyond obvious matters like payouts, it's important to understand which hands to shoot for when your original cards can go more than one way. To that end, you should either memorize the best options, or carry around a cheat sheet to help you remember. Either way, it matters mathematically, and in the long run the math always wins.

While there are more complicated sets of card keeping rules for a Jacks or Better game, the following strategy vastly improves your chances of winning over a "gut feel" about the cards you keep. It's an ordered list of the best hands to go for, meaning if you can make a certain hand based on the cards you're initially dealt, you should go for it, keeping in mind you always want the highest possible hand in the list. In the long run, sticking to this strategy lands you the best payouts over time:

    Royal flush
    Straight flush
    Four of a kind
    Four cards to a royal flush
    Full house
    Unsuited straight
    Three of a kind
    Four cards to an unsuited straight flush
    Two pair
    Jacks or better pair
    Three cards to a royal flush
    Four cards to a flush
    Pair lower than Jacks or Better
    Four cards to an outside straight
    Two suited high cards
    Three cards to a straight flush
    Two unsuited Jacks or Better cards (keep lowest two when more than two)
    Suited 10/Jack, 10/Queen, or 10/King
    One Jack or Better card
    Keep nothing

Video Poker Variations

Video poker variants abound! But pay close attention to the payouts. While winning more on four deuces is exciting, it usually comes at the cost of other payouts being smaller than you're used to, like Two Pair paying 1:1 or Three of a Kind paying 2:1. Still, video poker variations are the spice of online casino life. Some of the more popular alternatives include:

Jacks or Better: The classic and most common game.

Deuces Wild: 2's act as wild cards, making it easier for you to hit better hands, including Five of a Kind.

Double Bonus: Like Jacks or Better, except four aces pays 800 and four 2's, 3's, or 4's pays a delicious 400.

Aces and Eights: Similar to Jacks or Better, but four aces, 7's, or 8's pays better.

Joker Poker: Similar to Jacks or Better, but with a Joker wild card in the deck.

Tens or Better: Most consider this a game for suckers. While it's true you can win with a pair of 10's, other payouts are reduced.

Bonus Deuces Wild: A mixture of Deuces Wild and Double Bonus. There are both wild card possibilities and higher paying Four of a Kind kickers on a variety of low cards.

In addition, multi-hand versions of a lot of these and other variants only increase your chances of having fun!

Land Casino Video Poker Versus Online

While land-based casino video poker games were once all the rage, there are significant advantages to playing online. Not only is your favourite game always available, you can access it almost instantly, not wasting any time on driving or fussing with clothing per a dress code. There's less noise, smoke, and other distraction from focusing on your strategy.

But it gets even better. Switching to other machines is far easier, and most sites have free play options so you can enjoy practicing without putting any money on the line. The moment you need a change of pace, you've got it!

Top Tips

There are several bits of advice that can make all the difference in the world to both your overall experience and opportunities to win:

Set a fixed playing bankroll.
Budgeting is even more important in gambling than in real life because it's easier to get carried away in fun gambling action than when, say, shopping for groceries.
Be choosy about games.
Compare pay tables between games of the same kind, always picking the games with the best payouts.
Have your strategy close at hand, if not in mind.
If you can't memorize it, write it down and consult it. Keep in mind that the strategy in this guide is for Jacks or Better. Find trusted discussions of strategies for other variants wherever you can. Good video poker strategies take into account payouts and odds of drawing card outs, which are cards you need to make a particular hand. Knowing the payouts is a good start, but the relative value of going for one hand over another isn't always intuitive. For example, it's not obvious to everyone that it's better to keep two suited high cards than three cards to a straight flush.
Play max credits/coins each hand.
Placing the maximum bet is the only way to hit the more lucrative payouts such as royal flush or specialty payouts like Five of a Kind or four aces in a game like Bonus Deuces Wild.
Sign up for any players or VIP club.
If you're going to play anyway, why not earn points that you can later convert to cash?

Beginner's Mistakes

Don't be your own worst enemy. While it may seem as though you have no opponents in video poker, in fact you can wind up being your own opponent if you're not careful. Here are some ways to avoid sinking your own ship:

Quitting when you hit your budget
keeps you in the hunt for future sessions without impacting the rest of your life. You had your fun, things didn't go as well as you hoped, but there's always tomorrow. Go do something else you enjoy and look forward to better luck next time.
Drinking too many alcoholic beverages while playing
is the equivalent of begging to make mistakes. Unlike other pokies, video poker truly requires your intelligent participation in order to win. Every time you stray from a good strategy, you're increasing the house's edge. Enjoying a few relaxing drinks is one thing, but don't relax yourself into a strategy coma.
Playing games whose coin levels are more than you can afford
increases your stress level, and stress is as bad for the mind as it is for the body. Even if it were possible to lose every hand (it isn't), dividing your initial bankroll by the number of hands you'd like to play gives you a good idea what your max wager should be in order to remain in your comfort zone.
Chasing losses
is a vicious, downward spiral of misery. And there's just no point to it, really, because you're playing to have fun at a bare minimum. Project into the future how you want to feel when your session is over, and bet accordingly.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are Online Video Poker Sites Legal and Safe?

    The international sites we feature are completely legal for Aussies. They're not only licensed, but also have strong reputations for keeping you money safe and your personal information secure.

  • Where Can I Learn How to Play Video Poker?

    Apart from specific payout tables that are available in the games themselves, and strategies for specific games that you can find here and elsewhere on the Internet, this guide has already given you everything you need to know to play.

  • Am I Playing Online Video Poker Against the House?

    Yes, but not to the degree you are when playing other pokies. The amount of choice you have per hand and the choices you make play a big role in how well you can do. Once you eliminate the opponent in the mirror per our guidelines, the house edge is quite small.

  • What Banking Methods Can I Use?

    The variety of methods available differs between sites. But for the most part you'll have a lot of options, including e-wallets, debit/credit cards, electronic checks, bank wires, ACH, and checks by mail. Each site provides detailed information that'll help you settle on the best banking methods for your needs.

  • What About Bonuses?

    Bonuses are site-specific and in a constant state of flux as new sites and old jockey to land your business. But perhaps the only thing better than a free lunch is some free starting bankroll to play video poker. So be sure to leverage every possible freebie. You'll come across bonus names like deposit bonuses, free bonuses, no deposit bonuses, signup bonuses, and refer-a-friend bonuses. There are even loyalty bonuses that pay point dividends every time you play.

    Sites often pair bonuses with withdrawal restrictions, especially "playthroughs" that requirement you to bet a certain amount of your own cash before you can withdraw a bonus. You may also have only so much time in which to claim a bonus. Be sure to locate and study a site's bonus rules and contact customer support when in doubt to avoid any painful surprises.

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