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Video Poker is a casino game that is a blend of a slots machine and five card draw poker.
As the name suggests, it is played on a computer, making it a natural game to feature at online casinos, where it has become very popular with players around the world.
Unlike many casino games, who often have origins going back to ancient times, Video Poker only came to the market in the 1970's, although poker itself has been around in some for around 2-300 years.
The idea for Video Poker came from Si Redd, an employee of Bally Technologies in the USA, in the mid-1970s. He tried to get the company to produce his game but they were not interested, so Redd struck out on his own, starting the Sircoma company. This business is known today as International Gaming Technologies, or IGT and is still one of the biggest casino game developers in existence.
It took some time for Video Poker to get established, but by the middle of the 80s a new generation of people, who were used to computer games, were more accepting of the concept of playing a game on a video screen and it began to take off, particularly in Las Vegas casinos.
The original Video Poker games were based on Draw Poker, with a two pair hand being the lowest winning combination possible, but is quickly became overtaken by Jacks or Better which requires the player to get at least two Jacks from the cards to get a win. Jacks or Better is still the most widely played Video Poker game.
The arrival of online casinos in the 1990's has really given Video Poker a natural home, where gamers can play from the comfort of their living rooms. Almost all online casinos now feature at least one Video Poker title, or usually several of them, and it now ranks alongside roulette and blackjack for popularity.
The terminology associated with Video Poker is unsurprisingly a mix of older Poker terms plus some new ones specifically for the computerized versions.
Action: The value of the bet placed by the player.
Bet Max: The biggest bet size possible per hand, normally a five coin bet.
Discard: The card, or cards that the player does not wish to keep after they are initially dealt out.
Flush: A five card hand with all cards belonging to one suit.
Four of a Kind: A hand where four cards are of equal value.
Full House: A hand made up of a three of a kind, plus a pair.
Hand: The first five cards dealt by the machine to the player.
Hold: The card, or cards that are retained by the player after they are dealt out by the machine.
Jackpot: The biggest win, which is usually paid out for getting a royal flush hand.
Pair: Two equal value cards, such as two Queens, or two 7's.
Pay Back: The return on their wagers that a player can expect over a number of games.
Payout: The amount paid out for a single winning hand.
Pay Table: A chart displayed on the screen showing how much is paid out for each hand value.
Royal Flush: A hand consisting of a 10, Jack, Queen, King and Ace from the same suit. This is the best possible poker hand to get.
Straight: Any hand consisting of five consecutive cards, but not including the Ace.
Straight Flush: A hand where the cards making up a straight are all from the same suit.
Winning Hand: Any combination of cards that are of a high enough value to get a payout.
Video Poker is a fairly simple game to learn, certainly when compared with other poker games. With the exception of Joker Poker, where the deck includes the Jokers, the games use a standard deck of 52 cards. To start playing a round of Video Poker, the player must first make a bet of their chosen value and then click the 'Deal' button. The machine will then deal five random cards. The player tries to make the best possible poker hand by either holding or discarding as many of the cards as they wish. Discarded ones are then automatically replaced to give the player a final poker hand, with payouts based on this result.
Hands are given the same ranking in Video poker as for most poker games, but the payouts can vary depending on which type is being played. These are the rankings, starting with the best - Royal Flush; Straight Flush; Four of a Kind; Full House; Flush; Straight; Three of a Kind; Two Pair; One Pair of Jacks or Better.
The house edge in Video Poker games can vary from as little as 0.5% up to around 3% depending on where you are, and what type of game is being played. All are single player games, where it is just you against the machine.
Video Poker is a game with few rules, and correspondingly few options to use any form of strategy. The only decisions to make are which cards to keep and which cards to replace, but this basic strategy, mainly designed for Jacks or Better should be followed.
Straight Flush: If you get a straight flush, hold all of the cards as you could win a big prize. A royal flush is very rare, but not unheard of and will pay out even more.
Four of a Kind: Hold all the cards, as this hand won't be improved by discarding the one card that doesn't match the rest. This is the third best possible combination.
Full House: Hold all the cards, as again, getting rid of the two that don't match can't actually improve this hand.
Flush: Hold all the cards, as you cannot better it by discarding any.
Straight: Hold all the cards, as you cannot better it by discarding any.
Three of a Kind: Hold the three cards of equal value and replace the remaining two cards.
Two Pairs: Hold the two pairs and replace the remaining card.
Jacks or Better: Hold the two Jacks and replace the other three.
Additionally, any cards apart from Jack, Queen, King or Ace should be discarded if the initial ones dealt out do not give you a winning hand.
Here are some useful tips designed to help new Video Poker players improve their game.
- Get to learn the hands and their ranks in a real poker game before trying out Video Poker. It will be easier to play once you have understood how each card combination works.
- Study the paytables that are displayed on the screens to see what the payouts for each combination of cards will be. See if you can find a game with a good return to the player, of up to 99.5%.
- Even if you get the lowest winning hand, don't discard all five of the cards. Always keep the winners, and only discard any of the other cards if it is possible to improve the combination by doing so.
- If a progressive jackpot is paid out for a royal flush, make sure that you play with a Max Bet, as you will not qualify for the jackpot without it.
- Always remain calm. If you are not in the right frame of mind, due to tiredness, being in a bad mood, or even drunk, you are much more likely to make bad decisions, which will ruin your fun, and possibly your bankroll.
- Each new hand has no memory of the previous ones, and no influence on subsequent ones. Even if you have won or lost several hands in a row there is no such thing as an inevitable result for the next one.