How to play Video Poker smartly

October 22, 2014

By Henry Tamburin

Video poker gives the smart casino player a good gamble for his money. Why? Because unlike slot machines, you can readily determine a video poker machines overall return by looking at its payback schedule (which is prominently displayed on the front of the machine). In fact it's possible to get returns that exceed 100% and I'll show you how.

There are three important steps to become a skilled video poker player. First and foremost is you need join the casinos slot players club. It costs you nothing and every time you play video poker be sure to inset the player's card into the machines card reader. This way the casino can keep track of how much you play and how long you play. Based on your playing habits you will get comps including cash back from some casinos. This will help increase your overall return.

Step #2 is also easy. It involves looking at the pay schedule on the front of the machine to select only the highest paying machines to play.

For example, the most prevalent video poker machine in most casino jurisdictions is Jacks-or Better. But not all Jacks-or-Better machines have the same payoff. In order to locate the highest paying machine you need to check what the machine pays off for the full house and flush per coin play. On most machines it pays 8 coins for a full house and 5 for the flush per coin (or even less). That's not good enough (the overall return for an 8/5 machines is 97.3%). What you want is a machine that pays 9 coins for the full house and 6 coins for the flush. These 9/6 machines return 99.6% for perfect play.

Summarized below is the complete pay schedule for the full pay Jacks-or-Better machine. You want to find a video poker machine with this pay schedule.

 One Coin
Royal Flush250(1,000 for 5 coins)
Straight Flush50
Four-of-a-Kind 25
Full House9
Two Pair2
Pair of Jacks -Aces1

Where can you find these full pay machines? One excellent resource is Skip Hughes web site You'll have to pay a fee to become a member of the site but it's worth it. You'll be able to locate which casinos offer full pay games with a click of your mouse. Plus the site contains a whole lot more including complete playing strategies for different video poker games.

Most of the casinos offer the full pay Jacks-or-Better machines in quarter denomination. You'll often see this full pay schedule on quarter Multi-Hand machines (Three Play and Five Play). Some casinos also offer this pay scheduled on dollar denomination machines. In some casinos this pay schedule is only available on a Bally GameMaker machine

You'll also find the above pay schedule on some progressive Jacks-or-Better machines. On these machines the payoff for the Royal Flush increases as more coins are played. Progressive 9/6 machines are actually quite good because as soon as the payoff for the Royal Flush exceeds $1,220 (quarter denomination) or $4,800 (for dollars) the machines overall return exceed 100%.

A few casinos also offer other types of video poker machines that offer the skillful player as good, and in some cases, even better returns. The include 10/7 Double Bonus, Deuces Wild that pays 5 coins for Four-of-Kind and Not So Ugly (NSU) Deuces Wild, and All America games. If all this is Greek to you, don't fret. Just stick to the 9/6 full pay Jacks-or-Better to start and you'll be doing OK.

The third step to become a successful video poker player is to learn the correct playing strategy for 9/6 Jacks-or-Better machines. You'll find a beginner and intermediate level strategy available at You need to learn this strategy which will tell you which cards to hold and which to discard. You should also purchase a strategy card, which you can take with you when you play so will never make a playing mistake. One of the best strategy cards is by Bob Dancer and Liam Dailey (

Let's put it all together to see how you can gain the edge playing video poker. By learning the strategy and playing on a 9/6 Jacks-or-better machines your long-term return will be 99.7%. By using your slot card when you play you'll earn another 0.33 to 0.66% in cash back and comps. When you add this to the 99.7% for playing you'll have an overall return that exceeds 100%.

Not all slot clubs are the same. Some offer greater returns and cash back than others. A good source to compare the returns from different slot clubs is Scott Hughes' web site at (you'll have to pay an annual fee to join but it's well worth it if you play video poker).

Two more important points. With video poker you'll need money to make money. Therefore, you'll need enough bankroll to keep you in the game when you experience short term losing streaks (you can go days even weeks in the red). Dan Paymar explains bankroll requirements best in his book, Video Poker - Optimum Play and I highly recommend it (or go to And secondly, to master the playing strategy, you should consider purchasing a computer software program that will test your accuracy (the best is WinPoker).

Dan Paymar said it best when he once told me that "Video Poker is the Intelligent Player's Slot machines".