Gambling Tips > Video Poker

How to Win At Video Poker Part 1

By Henry Tamburin

In Part 1 of this series on how to win at video poker I covered the importance of playing full pay machines, always playing five coins, learning the basic playing strategy, and using readily available strategy cards when you play. Let’s continue with more tips.


Tip #5. The volatility of different video poker games is not the same.

I sometimes chuckle when I hear a player complaining about how quickly he lost his money playing a Double Double Bonus video poker machine. What this player doesn’t understand is that he is playing a video poker game that has a very high volatility, meaning the swings in your bankroll, up and down, can be breathtaking; therefore, you need a much higher bankroll to weather the storm compared to a less volatile game. If you can’t stand big negative swings in your bankroll, or you have a limited bankroll, I’d strongly recommend that you play video poker games that have a relatively low volatility such as Jacks-or-Better and Bonus Poker. Once you have built up your bankroll (and your nerves), then and only then should you tackle the more volatile games (such as Super Bonus Deluxe, Double Double Bonus, and Triple Bonus).


Tip #6. Take advantage of casino promotions.

You should never play video poker without inserting your Player’s Card into the card reader. You want to get credit for your play when you play video poker. Most casinos will give you a rebate based on your coin in (not your losses, mind you, but the total amount you bet, known as coin in). This rebate can be cash, free play, or comps. It’s important that you know which casinos offer the highest percentage rebate. Always ask at the Player’s Card booth for a brochure that explains what the casino will give you for playing. The best casinos will give from 0.2 to 0.5% cash back (or free play) and /or comps. In addition, many casinos will send mailers to you each month containing coupons. The mailers will often contain bounce back coupons for cash or free play (bounce back means you must bounce back or return to the casino to get the free play or cash). You also want to take advantage of casino promotions that give you double (or higher) the number of points in your Player’s Club account for your play (so called multi-point promotions). This is an important point so pay attention: the way to get your total return over 100% when you play video poker is to take advantage of multi-point promotions, cash back and bounce back. If you get 0.25% from cash back (or free play) plus another 0.5% (or more) in bounce back, your overall return for playing many video poker games that return 99.5 to 99.7% will exceed 100%. This is how you can get the edge at video poker (combination of the return on playing the game accurately plus the return from cash back, and bounce back).


Tip #7. Have enough bankroll when you play video poker.

Even the low-variance video poker games have enough variance that requires you to have a respectable bankroll to get you through those short term losing streaks. I play video poker in one local casino that has a great game, good cash back, and bounce back. However, I haven’t gotten a royal flush there in the past 10 months (that’s over 130,000 hands, or about three-royal flush cycles, without a royal flush). Without the bankroll to sustain me during this royal flush drought, I’d be wiped out. How much bankroll do you need? There are video poker books and software that will give you exact figures based on the game you are playing, the denomination of the machine, and how many hands (or hours) you are going to play. A rough rule of thumb is to have 3-4 times the amount of the royal flush for a working bankroll (that’s $3,000 to $4,000 for a quarter player). See the next tip on where to put manage this gambling bankroll.


Tip #8. Set up a 401-G.

You should put the funds you have allocated to play video poker in a money market account (your 401-G, G for gambling). Every time you go play video poker, take out some of the funds to use only for gambling, and then whatever is left after you play, put it back into your 401-G (including all the cash back and bounce back you earn). Over time, you will see your bankroll grow as long as your overall return from playing, cash back, and bounce back is over 100%.


Tip #9. Keep accurate gambling records.

You have a silent partner when you play video poker, Uncle Sam. By law, you must report all of your gambling wins on your income tax. You can’t just deduct your losses from your wins each year and report a lower figure to Uncle Sam, but you can report your losses on your income taxes up to the amount of your wins. If you do the latter, you had better maintain a gambling log that summarizes each of your session wins and losses in the event the IRS audits you (read the book Tax Help for Gamblers for more advice on this important topic).


Tip #10. Use the same playing strategy for multi-line games.

Unfortunately, many players will deviate from the basic playing strategy when they play Triple (or higher) Play Games. You should always use the same basic playing strategy for Multi-Line games, as you would to play the same game on a single-line machine (deviating from basic strategy is a big mistake).


Tip #11. Limit the number of games you play.

I often chuckle to myself when I see a player switching from a Bonus Poker game to Deuces Wild to Triple Bonus on the same machine. The correct basic playing strategy is different from one video poker game to another. It’s rare for an average player to be able to play three or more games accurately in the same session. You should focus on learning one game accurately (your primary game) and then learn one more game (your secondary game). The purpose of the latter is in case you visit a casino that may not offer your primary game you’ll have another game you can play (or sometimes a casino will exclude some games from promotions but not others.)


Tip #12. You can win playing progressive video poker games.

With progressive video poker machines, the amount of the royal flush increases with each hand played. The key to playing progressive machines is to wait until the amount of the royal flush exceeds a “break even” amount. As a rule of thumb, the return on a progressive game will increase by 0.5% for every 1000 coins the royal flush is above the standard 4000 coin payoff (so an 8/5 JOB progressive game with an 8000 coin royal flush would have a return of 99.3%). As the royal flush amount increases, there are also slight changes in playing strategy. As you can see, it’s a little tougher to get the edge playing progressive but many players do quite well playing them. For more details on how to win playing progressive machines, read the articles by Frank Kneeland (a former leader of a progressive team) in my Blackjack Insider newsletter at


Tip #13. Practice makes perfect.

Nowadays there is relatively inexpensive software programs that you can buy that allow you to play video poker on your computer at home. You just pop the CD into your computer, pick the game you want to play, and start playing as if you would in a casino. However, these software programs will alert you when you make a playing mistake, tell you what the correct play was, and keep track of your playing accuracy. The majority of video poker players think they know how to play accurately. However, I guarantee that their playing accuracy is woefully inadequate. Every mistake you make in a hand in the casino will cost you money (and the machines in the casino won’t alert you when you’re about to make a playing mistake). You should practice at home until your playing accuracy is at least 99% before you risk any money in a casino. (Go to my on line catalog on for more information on the Video Poker for Winners software program that I recommend for players.)


Video poker is a much better casino game to play than slots and most table games because you can get the edge (you can’t playing slots or most table games). Just follow my tips and you can become a winning player.


(For more tips on how to win at video poker, go to my web site, click on “Gambling Tips,” then scroll down to the section containing video poker articles.