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If you have ever participated in a hand of five card draw poker you will have little trouble learning how to play video poker. The basic mechanics of the game are identical to five card draw with one crucial difference. In video poker your hand is not competing against those held by other players. Neither are you competing against a hand held by the casino, as in the table poker games of Caribbean Stud and Three Card Poker. In video poker you are solely betting on the quality of the five card hand you will be dealt. As in five card draw poker, a standard 52 card deck is used.

The Play of The Hand

The “video” in this game’s moniker refers to the fact that the game is not played at a table but at a screen. All actions are taken by pressing the relevant button either on or below the screen. For those playing online the experience is much the same. Being based on a card game but played at a machine it is often seen as a hybrid of a table game and a slot machine.

Your first task is to decide how much you wish to stake on the hand. Most video poker machines allow you to select one, two, three, four or five chips. A bet max button is present for those wishing to select the five chip option quickly. The benefit of choosing the higher staking option is that most pay tables offer an increased reward for hitting a Royal Flush for those playing the five chip maximum. In general one chip will be equivalent to $1, £1 or whatever currency in which you are playing.

Having selected the stake, the player now presses the bet button. The machine will then deal out a five card poker hand on the screen. The next step is to decide how many of the cards to retain. This is done by simply touching the card/cards on the screen, or hold buttons below each card on some machines. When happy with their decision the player then presses the draw button. The machine will then discard all un-held cards and replace them with random cards drawn from the remainder of the 52 card virtual deck. This creates the player’s final poker hand which will be paid out as follows.

  • One Pair (Jacks or Better) - 1 x stake
  • Two Pairs - 2 x stake
  • Three of a Kind - 3 x stake
  • Straight - 4 x stake
  • Flush - 6 x stake
  • Full House - 9 x stake
  • Four of a Kind - 25 x stake
  • Straight Flush - 50 x stake
  • Royal Flush - 250 x stake (800 x stake for the five chip stake level)

Game Variations

The game described above is known as Jacks or Better Video Poker, or simply Draw Video Poker. It is still the most commonly played in casinos around the world and online. Over the years countless variations have been developed and grown in popularity. Some of the most common of these are:

Jokers Wild

The game plays the same as standard video poker in every respect other than the inclusion of one or more jokers in the deck. By far the most widespread version has just one joker added. A joker in a player’s hand is automatically assigned the value that will result in the strongest five card poker hand. For example, if you have four hearts plus a joker, the joker will be deemed to be a heart to create a flush. As wild cards increase the likelihood of obtaining a qualifying poker hand the pay scales for this game are adjusted accordingly.

One standard change is that a player must obtain at least a pair of kings to qualify for a payout. There are also separate payouts depending on whether a Royal Flush is natural, i.e. no joker, or if it is achieved using a joker. Of course with a wild card now included a whole new hand possibility is created, namely five of a kind.

A standard payout table for this version of the game is:

  • One Pair (Kings or Better) - 1 x stake
  • Two Pairs - 1 x stake
  • Three of a Kind - 2 x stake
  • Straight - 3 x stake
  • Flush - 5 x stake
  • Full House - 7 x stake
  • Four of a Kind - 18 x stake
  • Straight Flush - 50 x stake
  • Wild Royal Flush - 100 x stake (800 x stake for the five chip stake level)
  • Five Of A Kind - 200 x stake
  • Natural Royal Flush - 800 x stake

Deuces Wild

Also known as the not-so-ugly ducklings. This version of the game acts to transform the weakest card in the game into the strongest. All twos are wild and will act the same way as the joker in the Jokers Wild version. With the 52 card deck now containing four wild cards, the odds of obtaining each hand are affected quite dramatically. This is reflected in the payout tables for this version of the game.

  • Three of a Kind - 1 x stake
  • Straight - 2 x stake
  • Flush - 3 x stake
  • Full House - 4 x stake
  • Four of a Kind - 4 x stake
  • Straight Flush - 10 x stake
  • Five of a Kind - 16 x stake
  • Wild Royal Flush - 25 x stake
  • Four Deuces - 200 x stake
  • Natural Royal Flush - 800 x stake

Other Versions

There are numerous other versions played in real world casinos and online. The general mechanics are more often than not very similar to the games outlined above. Overall the more wild cards included, the higher the opening qualifying hand will need to be and the lower the payouts for each qualifying poker hand. This is of course balanced out by hitting the better hands with greater frequency.


There is an additional feature to the game which has proved immensely popular, namely the multi-hand option. This option refers not to the ability to play a number of different hands simultaneously, as in blackjack for example, but rather to play the same hand over and over again. Let’s take the three hand option as an example. The player is dealt one initial five card hand as normal. He will then hold whichever cards he chooses and press the draw button. Now the multi-hand feature kicks in, the players held cards will be dealt three different sets of replacement cards from the remaining deck, creating three unique poker hands.

For example, the player is dealt a pair of kings which he holds. These same kings will be held in each of the multi-hands. Some combination of three cards from the remaining 47 in the deck will be dealt to each of the multi hands in play. Each hand will then be paid out individually. This option is popular with players as it increases the likelihood of hitting one of the higher payoff hands. The number of multi-hands a player chooses can be anything from two all the way up to 100. It is important to remember when choosing your stake that you are selecting your stake per hand. As such, if you choose the $5 stake and 100 multi-hands you will be staking $500 per deal!

Overall video poker is a fun and easy game to play which, in terms of percentage payout to the player, is one of the most generous on offer.