Gambling Tips > Video Poker

How to Win At Video Poker Part 1

By Henry Tamburin

My objective in this article is to give you some tips that will teach you how to win when you play video poker.


Tip #1. Always play the maximum number of coins when you play video poker.

On most video poker games, you can play one coin up to five coins per hand. It’s a big mistake to play less than five coins. The reason is that the royal flush pays a big bonus when you play five coins. Therefore, playing less than five coins, will decrease the overall return on the game ... something you definitely want to avoid if you are serious about winning.



Tip #2. Play only video poker games that have the highest pay schedule.

Every video poker game has a pay schedule that’s visible on the machine’s screen. For a specific video poker game, say Jacks-or-Better, the slot manager can change the pay schedule to whatever he likes (although there are industry standards on pay schedules). Therefore, you will often find different pay schedules for the same video poker game in the same casino. The greater the payoffs for winning hands, the greater will be the overall return on the game. Video poker games that have the highest payoffs are known as “full pay” games.


For example, the popular Jacks-or-Better has several different pay schedules. Video poker experts hone in on what the payoff is for a winning full house and flush (since it’s the payoff of these two hands that casinos will often short). A full pay Jacks-or-Better (JOB) game pays 9 coins per coin played for a full house and 6 coins per coin played for a flush (known as a 9/6 game). The return on a 9/6 JOB game is 99.5%, assuming you play every hand perfectly (more about this in a moment). Note that this payoff information is readily available on the screen of the video poker machine. Therefore, if you want to play and win at video poker, you need to scout the casino, look at the payoff schedule on the machines, and only play the full pay video poker games.


Often you will find a JOB game with a downgraded payoff for the full house and flush. Instead of 9/6 it might be 9/5 or 8/5, or even 7/5 or 6/5. As a rule of thumb, for every decrease of one coin in the full house or flush payoff in a 9/6 full pay schedule, the return on the game will decrease 1.1%. So if you are playing a 9/5 JOB game, the return decreases to 98.4%. An 8/5 game returns only 97.3%, and a horrendous 7/5 game returns only 96.2%. I often shake my head when I see players playing an 8/5 JOB game (returning 97.3%) when less than 10 feet away is a full pay 9/6 game (returning 99.5%).


Now pay attention to this because it’s important. Every video poker game has a full pay schedule and it’s different from one type of game to another. Therefore, if you want to play Bonus Poker or Double Bonus Poker, or any other video poker game, make sure you know what the full-pay schedule is for the game that you plan to play. You’d be surprised how many players will play a downgraded Bonus Poker game when a full pay, higher returning game is available in the same casino. Don’t make this mistake. Learn the pay schedules for full pay games and seek them out when you visit a casino. That’s the only way you can achieve the high returns from video poker games!


Tip #3. Learn how to play your hands correctly

For every video poker game, there is a mathematically correct basic playing strategy. For example, is you were playing Jacks-or-Better, and your hand contained a low pair and a four-card flush, what would you hold? How about a hand containing a three-card royal flush and a high pair? If you don’t know which cards to hold, you are not ready to play video poker. (Answers: Hold the four-card flush in the first hand over the low pair; in the second hand,  you should hold the high pair over the three-card royal flush). Sometimes, the correct strategy is not readily apparent. For example, if you have a paying flush and the hand contains a four-card royal flush, the correct play is to hold the four-card royal flush (i.e., give up the paying flush).


For the most part, each video poker game has its own specific basic playing strategy. Therefore, you shouldn’t be using the JOB basic strategy when you are playing, say, a deuces wild game (but it’s OK to use it in a Bonus Poker game).


You must play every hand accurately; otherwise, you will never achieve the returns that I mentioned in Tip #2.


One easy way to learn the basic strategy for a specific game is to practice at home with video poker training software. You pop the CD in your PC, select whatever video poker game you want to play, and while you play the game, the software will alert you when you make a playing mistake. The software will keep track of your playing accuracy (and it needs to be 99% to 100% before you risk any money in a casino). (Note: There are several software training programs on the market. The one I recommend and use when I teach video poker is Video Poker for Winners. See my catalog on for more details about the program.)


Tip #4. Bring a strategy card with you when you play.

When I go to a casino to play video poker, I rarely see another video poker player with a strategy card. This always boggles my mind. Why wouldn’t anyone want to have the answers in front of him or her when they play, instead of risking an expensive playing mistake by guessing or using intuition. I’ve been playing video poker for over 10 years and I teach video poker classes yet I always carry my strategy card with me (just in case). The cards are legal and by referring to them when you play, you’ll have the answers readily available and be able to play every hand accurately. (For details on the video poker strategy cards that I recommend for players, see my web store on


In Part 2, I’ll cover more tips for video poker including variance, bankroll, , how many games to play, multi-line games, progressive games, casino promotions, and more.