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Casino Game Guides:
Video Poker

If the traditional casino table games are not your thing and if you find live poker a little intimidating, then you'll like video poker. These games are fast becoming a favorite in casinos taking over half of the slot machines in the average casino.

The most common form of poker you'll find on these video machines is draw poker and five card stud. You won't usually find these variations of poker played at a live casino table, but they have made a come back in the form of video poker.

To begin play a deck is shuffled and you are dealt five cards. The machine will have buttons that light up that you press to indicate your decision to the machine. You then select which cards to hold and press the draw button. You new cards are dealt and if you have a paying hand, the machine will pay you your winnings with either credits or coins.
A video poker machine
A video poker machine.

Many are attracted to this game for a number of reasons. There is, of course, the chance at a big jackpot. There are better odds at making a long term profit than slot machines. Skilled poker players will find a long run just as profitable as live poker. Skilled players will always hold cards that give the highest expected value in each hand.

Video poker machine and slot machines are similar in some aspects. They are contained in similar type cabinets, have a place to drop your coin and a tray to collect your winnings. The biggest difference is that because you get to decide which cards to keep and which to discard, there is an element of skill involved. With slot machines you drop your coin, pull the lever and pray to hit the jackpot.

The rules follow the rules of any live poker game - you are dealt five cards from a deck of 52 and must decide which cards to keep and which cards to discard. The major difference is that there is not dealer trying to beat you and you have no opponents to try to "bluff". There are many similarities to solitaire. In video poker you are simply trying to make the best hand you can according to the payoff schedule posted on the machine.

The reason this game is such a big money maker for the casino is that strategies used in live poker do not translate well to this form of poker. For example, it's useless to hang on to a kicker card or not draw to make an inside straight.

Full Pay And Short Pay

When looking to make a profit, you need to find and play those few machines that can be beat in the long run. This means being able to differentiate between full pay and short pay machines. This involves taking into account how much you can potentially lose over the course of an hour.

Full Pay Table - Jacks or Better Video Poker
HAND 1 coin 2 3 4 5
Royal Flush 250 500 750 1000 4000
Straight Flush 50 100 150 200 250
Four of a kind 25 50 75 100 125
Full House 9 18 27 36 45
Flush 6 12 18 24 30
Straight 4 8 12 16 20
Three of a kind 3 6 9 12 15
Two Pair 2 4 6 8 10
Pair of Jacks, Queens, Kings or Aces 1 2 3 4 5

Generally, you will want to compare the pay schedules of different machines that run similar games. If you see the same game with a smaller payout on a given hand, that can translate in a shorter overall payout and increase the house edge by a full percentage point.

If you find a "jack or better" machine that pays out only one coin on two pair you should be cautious, as there may be other alterations to the schedule.


- Always play the maximum number of coins. Most machines offer a bonus on hands played with the maximum coin. If this is too much for your bankroll, try a smaller denomination machine.

- The cards dealt are based on a random number generator inside the machine. There is no way to make a machine payout more than normally expected.

- Remember each hand is played with the same odds of particular cards coming up. This means that just because you haven't seen a royal flush on a machine in a long time that it is due. The odds of getting royal flush are the same every hand you play.

- Don't forget your comp card and use it when playing. Any freebies you can get from the casino adds to your overall winnings and general good time.

- Find machines with good payouts. Compare the payout schedules of the same game of different machines. This determines the overall house advantage on a particular machine.