With more than 120,000 slot and video poker machines, no other gaming destination comes close to offering the depth and variety found in Las Vegas.
Whether you are taking a break from the casinos and hanging at a bar off the Strip or cruising Downtown, video poker machines are everywhere.
You can find your favorite machines at grocery stores, gas stations, and all-slot outlets across the Las Vegas valley. And, you’ll find games in all denominations, from penny machines where you can play cheaply, to 100-line 25-cent poker machines that run as high as $125 per spin.
Video poker has been a favorite at casinos since the 1980s when early machines took up to 8-coins and could be played as both low and high-card draw. Today’s machines offer much more.
The game itself is quite easy. It’s just five-card draw poker.
The machine deals five cards, and the player holds or discards up to five cards, one at a time. Then, what you have after the draw either pays or it doesn’t. Check the reader board on your machine to verify payoffs.
How Video Poker Works
Today’s video poker games are all computer driven. Each machine has a motherboard that controls the machine functions and an RNG that controls how often winning combinations can hit.
An additional set of game chips are added for a selection of games such as Deuces Wild, Double Double Bonus, Triple Play, etc.
The RNG, or Random Number Generator, assures the player that every possible card and hand combination is available at any time. To make the best hand (Royal Flush) in each suit, many starting hand combinations need to be part of the mix. To illustrate how the RNG works, imagine a large box filled with starting hands.
Every starting hand has five cards you see on the video screen. Behind each card is a second card, available if you decide to discard and draw. Now imagine that out of every 42,500 starting hand and second hand combinations, one leads to a Royal Flush.
So, your odds of hitting the best hand, the jackpot, and the coveted Royal Flush are 1 in 42,500 hands. You have the same odds every time you push the “play” button.
Sound fair? Well, that’s as good as it gets with video poker. Any subset of hands available via the RNG offers the player a chance to hit a Royal, 4-of-a-kind, Trips, and all other winning combinations. Plus, of course, each of the losing combinations are also a possibility.
You could hit two Royals in a row or go a year between hitting two. Playing more hands doesn’t guarantee a jackpot, but that’s why they call it gambling.
Video Poker Strategy
In the 1990s, video poker became a cultural phenomenon at casinos in Nevada. Players spent hours, days, and weeks engaged with their machines, often ignoring all other aspects of their lives.
Similar things happened in other gaming destinations as legalized gaming and video poker spread to new locations across the globe.
Video Poker offers a real chance to interact with your machine because you must make a decision each hand. The only deviation from the rule is when you are dealt a pat Royal Flush and the machine automatically locks-out your buttons. Now that’s something to look forward to!
Most slot machines require maximum credits bet to be eligible for the highest jackpot. On a video poker machine, the payoff for a Royal Flush is usually 250 credits per coin bet. If you wager one quarter, you’ll be paid $62.50 on a Royal.
However, if you play five credits per pay line, you’ll win 800 credits per coin bet. Hmm, 250, or 800 to 1. It’s a tough decision. Play one credit, and you can play all night without risking much money.
What you won’t be able to do though is win $1000 on a five-coin Royal.
Another thing to keep in mind is that if you are new to video poker, you’ll want to stick to one-line games. Avoid games with multiple play lines like Triple Play, Five Play, etc. because any errors you make in strategy will be multiplied by the number of lines in action.
One of the original video poker games to hit casinos was Jacks or Better. The name implied that to win, you had to make a hand of at least a pair of Jacks. In truth, a high pair (Jacks, Kings, Queens, and Aces) only returned the original wager.
Higher hands paid more, and the race was on. Knowing what to keep and what to throw away is the key to doing well at video poker.
If you’ve never played poker before, look at the reader board to see what the payoffs are. A single pair of Jacks or better is the minimum you want to have after the draw. A Royal Flush is the best hand. The tougher it is to make a hand, the higher the payoff.
Sometimes it’s good to try for a flush or a straight. Drawing a card to an inside straight, such as holding 5-6-8-9 and trying for the 7, is never a good idea unless it is a straight-flush draw where all four cards are of one suit.
The worst hand you can start with is five cards below a jack and only two of the same suit. In this case, you should discard all five cards. The next lowest starting hand is a single high card. You’ll see this often. Keep the king, queen, jack, or ace, toss the rest, and hope for the best.
As the starting hands improve, you’ll discard to keep the following cards. The farther down the list you can start, the better:
Two suited cards that can make a Royal Flush (Ten, Jack, Queen, King). Don’t hold Ace-ten suited; toss the ten
Two unsuited high cards. If you have three, keep the two lowest to improve your chances of making a straight
Three cards that can make a straight flush
Two high cards of the same suit
Four cards that can make an outside straight, such as 6-7-8-9
Any low pair
Four suited cards
Three cards that can make a Royal Flush
Any high pair
Four cards that can make a straight flush (even an inside draw)
Three of a kind
A completed straight
A completed flush
A full house (pair and three of a kind)
Four cards that can make a Royal Flush
Four of a kind
A completed straight flush
A completed Royal Flush
For more information about video poker strategy, we have a page dedicated to breaking down the best way to play. Check out the following page for advice that will help you get the best results:
One of the most understood aspects of video poker is the pay table. Each game and each casino may have their own rules. The Royal Flush payoff of 4000 coins for a five-coin wager is standard: so is even-money for a pair of Jacks or better.
However, some machines such as Joker’s Wild require a pair of Aces or better!
Standard Jacks or Better machines pay 2 to 1 for two pair. Double Double Bonus and many other games pay 1 to 1 for two pair but have larger payoffs for 4-of-a-kind. On many machines, four aces with a 2, 3, or 4 pays 2000 for a five-coin wager!
The main thing you’ll want to note is the payoff for a flush and a full house.
A machine listed as 8/5 pays 8 coins for each 1 coin wagered on a full house (standard payoff: 40 coins) and 5 coins for each 1 coin wagered on a flush (standard payoff: 25 coins).
A machine listed as 9/6 pays 45 coins for a full house and 30 for a flush. This is a very good game with a house edge of only about 1% for the perfect strategy player.
However, the average game in Las Vegas is 7/5, or just 35 coins for a full house and 25 for a flush. Don’t despair, those games still offer better odds than most of the slot machines in Sin City.
Remember to have fun, don’t play multi-game screens until you know the standard strategy, and make sure you use your player’s club card. Slot points add up fast at video poker where you can play up to 360 hands per hour!