You’ll find a bewildering number of video poker games available at a casino. Most of them are variations of a couple of main games:
Jacks or Better
You’ll occasionally find a video poker game that’s not a variant of one of these two, but for the most part, they’re all variations on each of these two themes. We’ll start this page, appropriately enough, with an explanation of those two games. We’ll go on to list as many of the variations we can think of.
Most of these games have individual pages, too. For more details on each individual game, just click on the link provided. These game-specific pages include details about how to play each variant, what the appropriate strategies are, and how the pay tables work.
Jacks or Better Video Poker Games
Jacks or Better can be considered the original video poker game. It’s based mostly on five card draw, but it can also be thought of as a solitaire game based on five card draw. Here are the basics of Jacks or Better:e
The game is played on a video poker machine. In fact, it looks a lot like a slot machine. But instead of spinning reels with symbols on them, the screen consists of five cards.
This is a significant difference, in fact.
The random number generator in any video poker game is based on a deck of cards—in the case of Jacks or Better, it’s based on a standard 52 card deck. So the odds of getting any particular card in any particular position are known.
A slot machine, on the other hand, also has a random number generator. You know which symbols are potential results on each reel. What you don’t know is the probability of any one of those symbols coming up.
Both slot machines and video poker games have pay tables. This is a list of combinations that you can end up with paired with how much each of those combinations pay. On a slot machine, these combinations are described as symbols. But on a video poker game, these combinations are described as poker hands.
Since you know how much each hand pays, and since you can calculate the odds of getting each hand, you can calculate the overall payback percentage for a video poker game. You can’t do this with a slot machine, because you’re missing an important piece of information—the probability of getting each symbol when you play.
Jacks or Better has one more wrinkle that you don’t find on most slot machines. When you spin the reels on a slot machine, you get paid off based on the combination that shows up on the reels. But when you’re dealt a video poker hand, you get to decide whether or not you want to keep or throw away each card. If you discard cards from your hand, you get new ones.
Then you get new cards, and you get paid off based on the highest value poker hand you wind up with.
Most people know what the standard rankings of hands in poker are. The royal flush is the best possible hand, the 2nd best hand is a straight flush, the 3rd best hand is 4 of a kind, the 4th best hand is a full house, the 5th best hand is a flush, the 6th best hand is a straight, the 7th best hand is 3 of a kind, the 8th best hand is 2 pairs, and the 9th best hand is a pair.
But instead of trying to beat someone else’s hand, you’re just hoping to get a payoff based on the strength of your hand.
Here’s what the standard payout table for a full pay Jacks or Better game looks like:
One thing to notice is the increased payoff for 5 coins on the royal flush. This is important because it’s a big part of the payback percentage for the game, even though the hand only comes up every 40,000 hands or so. If you’re playing for fewer than 5 coins per hand, you’re giving the casino money.
Of course, this isn’t the only pay table for Jacks or Better. But most Jacks or Better games only adjust the payouts for 2 hands:
The Full House
Since the payouts for these 2 hands are 9 to 1 and 6 to 1, respectively, video poker players in the know call this a 9/6 Jacks or Better game. The payback percentage for this game, if you play using the optimal strategy, is 99.54%. That means the house edge is only 0.46%, making these some of the best odds in the casino.
If a casino wants to offer a less generous game, they just offer an 8/5 or 7/5 game. In those games, the payoff for the full house becomes 8 to 1 or 7 to 1 instead of 9 to 1. The payoff for the flush becomes 5 to 1 instead of 6 to 1.
This has a big effect on the expected results.
An 8/5 Jacks or Better game has an overall payback percentage of 97.3%, and a 7/5 game has a payback percentage of 96.1%.
Those sound good, still, especially compared to most slot machine games. But there’s a huge difference between them, especially when you look at how much you expect to lose per hour while playing.
An average video poker player bets on 600 hands per hour. If you’ve never played before, that might sound like an inhuman pace, but veterans will know that it’s no exaggeration.
If you’re playing a quarter machine, you’re betting $1.25 per hand, because you always want to get that big payout for the royal flush. This means you’re putting $750 per hour into action.
The house edge for the full pay Jacks or Better game is 0.46%, so that’s what you can expect to lose on average per hour. In this case, 0.46% multiplied by $750 is $3.45. That’s very little money to spend on casino gambling entertainment.
But the house edge for the 8/5 game is 2.7%. $750 X 2.7% is $20.25. That’s a bigger difference than you expected, isn’t it?
But it’s still light years ahead of what you’d expect to lose at most slot machine games. According to VegasTripping.com, the payback percentage for quarter slots on the Strip averages 92.59%.
That means the house edge is 7.41%. $750 X 7.41% is a whopping $55.58 per hour that you’re expected to lose.
Many, if not most, other video poker games are based on Jacks or Better. They mix things up by offering bonus payouts on certain hands or having other game features. Toward the end of this page, we’ve included a list of games based on Jacks or Better video poker along with a brief description of each. You can click on the names of any of these games for full details.
Deuces Wild video poker games have much in common with Jacks or Better. They still involve getting a 5 card hand and deciding which cards to keep and which ones to throw away. They also still involve getting a payout based on the strength of your hand.
In fact, some people might consider Deuces Wild so similar to Jacks or Better that it is, itself, just a variation of the original video poker game. But we had to find some way to categorize these games.
The big difference between Deuces Wild and Jacks or Better is that Deuces Wild includes wild cards. It’s still dealt from a 52 card deck, but now the deuces can be used to replace other cards needed for a hand. This enables you to end up with much stronger hands more of the time.
The pay tables change in order to reflect this.
Here’s an example of a common Deuces Wild pay table:
You’ll notice a couple of things about this pay table right off the bat. For one thing, the royal flush is still the top hand, and it still pays out a lot more if you bet max coins. Since that 4000 coin payout is on a 5 coin bet, it pays out at 800 to 1 instead of at 250 to 1, which means you should always bet max coin when playing Deuces Wild.
You’ll also notice that you need a better hand just to qualify. The payouts for 2 pairs and for a pair of Jacks or better are gone. The lowest paying hand is 3 of a kind, and it only pays out at even odds.
In fact, the entire pay table is on the top heavy side. The royal flush and the 4 deuces both have respectable pouts, but the payouts for all of the lesser hands drop dramatically. You’ll see a lot of winning hands in Deuces Wild, though—it’s just that these are going to be smaller wins than you’re used to.
Another difference between Deuces Wild and Jacks or Better is that the variations on the pay tables are dramatically different.
Remember how they only change the payouts on 2 hands in Jacks or Better?
That is not the case in Deuces Wild.
The pay table we’ve listed on this page is for so-called “not-so-ugly” Deuces Wild. It’s not a full pay game, which is almost impossible to find anyway. But the payback percentage is still excellent at 99.73%. In fact, you’ll notice that the payback percentage for this Deuces Wild pay table is actually better than the payout percentage for Jacks or Better.
One example of a different Deuces Wild pay table is sometimes referred to as “ugly” Deuces Wild. This pay table reduces the payout for 5 of a kind from 16 to 1 to 15 to 1. The straight flush pays 9 to 1 instead of 10 to 1. The payout percentage for this version of the game is 98.91%.
The house edge for NSU Deuces Wild is 0.27%.
The house edge for ugly Deuces Wild is 1.09%.
We can calculate the expected hourly loss for each of these games, too. You’re still looking at $1.25 per hand and 600 hands per hour, or $750 in action per hour.
Not So Ugly Deuces Wild results in an expected hourly loss of only $2.03. That’s even better than full pay Jacks or Better.
But Ugly Deuces Wild, on the other hand, results in an expected hourly loss of $8.18.
Both of these games are light years ahead of most slot machine games in terms of your mathematical expectation.
The appropriate strategies for the two games are quite different because of the wild cards. In Deuces Wild, you will never discard a deuce. In Jacks or Better, wild cards aren’t an issue at all.
In either case, the payback percentages and the house edge figures quoted assume that you’re playing with optimal strategy.
But even if you’re not playing with optimal strategy, most players with any kind of card sense at all are able to get better odds than they would if they were playing slots.
For purposes of classification, we were going to lump all of the games without wild cards into the Jacks or Better category. But then we realized that a lot of specific games are just multipliers added on top of an existing game. Also, there were a limited number of wild card games to put in the “variants of Deuces Wild” category. And Pick’em Poker (aka “Pick a Pair”) wouldn’t have fit into either category.
For the most part, all video poker games play in a similar manner to Jacks or Better, but with certain twists. The wild cards are a big twist, but Deuces Wild and Anything’s Wild are often considered almost entirely different games.
We’ve listed all the games we know of below, along with a brief description of the defining characteristic of that game:
This game has 3 lines, which means you’re dealt 3 hands. Any aces in the top 2 lines will drop down to the lines below them in order to improve those hands. It resembles Space Invaders (the old video game), hence the name.
This one is another variation that offers bonuses for 4 of a kind hands, but if you get a 4 of a kind that spells out “ACE$”, you get an extra big bonus payout. (The aces are labeled with the letters that form that combination, and you do have to get them in that order to qualify for the bonus payout.)
This is just like Deuces Wild, but you can choose which card is going to be wild. The appropriate strategy is to make deuces wild, though, because that gives you the best odds. Once you’ve done that, you’re basically playing Deuces Wild under another name.
This is a 3 line version of Jacks or Better with added barnyard themed graphics and multiplier bonuses that are awarded randomly. It’s unusual because it’s one of the only video poker games where it’s impossible to calculate the payback percentage—the multiplies are applied randomly, and the likelihood of receiving one of those awards is known only to the manufacturer.
This one could be included in either category, because it’s a multi-line variant with a multiplier function. The base games include Bonus Poker (which is, itself, a variant of Jacks or Better) and Deuces Wild, among others.
This game is so popular it almost warrants its own category. But it’s really just Jacks or Better with a bonus payout on various 4 of a kind hands. It’s worth it to learn how to play this one, because in many casinos, Bonus Poker is the best paying video poker game available.
This game is a variation of the very popular video poker variation Bonus Poker. This version, despite the name, is actually a simplified version of the game. Believe it or not, this game plays more like Jacks or Better.
This one is another multi line game, available in 3, 5, or 10 hands at a time. It’s available in four different versions, all of which are variations of Jacks or Better. The gimmick is that any time you’re dealt a pair of face cards, you can exchange them to get a 4 card draw to a royal flush.
The gimmick here is that you can wager on the initial deal and on your hand after the initial deal. It’s available in multiple versions with different base games, including Deuces Wild and Bonus Poker.
As with the other “double pay” games, you get paid on both the initial deal and after the cards are discarded and replaced. It’s also a “Spin Poker” game, in which you have 3 rows of 5 cards, and the cards you keep are retained on all hands.
In this variation, you bet 10 coins per hand instead of 5. In exchange, you occasionally get dealt a “dream card” along with your other 4 cards. The game gives advice as to what the appropriate dream card to choose is.
You get to see the first 2 cards of a hand. Then you choose between 3 piles of cards to complete the hand. You can see the top card of each of those 3 hands. This one is almost different enough from Jacks or Better to qualify as its own variety, but it still owes a clear debt to the original video poker game. This one is also commonly called “Pick’em Poker” or “Pickem Poker”.
You can bet an additional 2 coins per hand. If you do, you can add 2 cards together in order to complete a 4 of a kind. For example, if you have three 9s, a 7, and a 2, you can add the 7 and 2 together to complete your 4 of a kind.
You have to double your bet. If you do, then any winning hand results in a multiplier that is then applied to your next hand.
You place a 6th coin bet. If you get 4 of a kind, you get to spin the prize wheel.
Wheel Poker with Quick Quads
This game combines Wheel Poker with Quick Quads.
White Hot Aces Poker
This is a rare Bonus Poker variant with better than usual bonuses for 4 aces. It also offers bigger payouts when you get 4 deuces, 3s, or 4s.
You can find dozens of video poker games and variations available to play. We’ve tried to include as comprehensive a list as possible. For the most part, if you can play Jacks or Better and/or Deuces Wild, you can figure out any of the other options on the list above.
You’ll also find some unusual variations at online casinos. We cover those in more detail in our section devoted to online video poker.
Most of these variants only have one or two small differences from the more standard games. Often in today’s market, that difference has to do with betting more money in order to trigger multipliers or other bonuses.