There’s an overabundance of online video poker variants available at online casinos. The differences between the titles aren’t just the aesthetics. Quite the contrary, the gameplay can greatly differ between two video poker machines.
Each variation comes with its own set of rules, as well as diverse payouts. Even veterans that regularly swipe the competition at a poker table might find individual games a bit confusing at first. Naturally, all video poker variants have roots stemming from the original game, but the subtle differences call for specific strategies, in order to maximize the chances of winning.
Similarly to slot machines, most contemporary video poker titles allow the player to see the pay tables and feature a brief description of the game. So, you could learn how to play every single variant by loading them up one by one. Needless to say, that would be a long, arduous, and frankly — boring process.
So, we’ve decided to give you a shortcut. Here’s a rundown of all the popular online video poker variations, as well as their individual rules and most effective strategies.
Single vs. Multi-Hand Video Poker
First, we must make the distinction between single hand and multi-hand video poker games. It’s not difficult to glean what the terms mean. Single play refers to playing one hand at a time. You receive five cards and choose which ones to hold and which ones to replace.
Multi-play, on the other hand, can involve anywhere from two to a hundred hands. It’s slightly different than playing a number of single hands, all at once. Let’s say you choose to keep two cards, Jacks for example.
If you’re playing a 5-hand variant, all five hands will feature the two Jacks you held. Simultaneously, all hands will be dealt three additional cards. In other words, you’ll have a total of five chances to make the strongest hand with your Jacks.
In other words, once you click Draw, the initial hand is split into multiple hands — as many as you’ve previously selected. Then, the cards are dealt independently for each one. Naturally, you’re betting on every single one. So, be careful not to burn through your entire bankroll by playing too many hands at once.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s move on to the most popular types of online video poker.
Jacks or Better
Jacks or Better is the oldest video poker game, and still one of the most popular. Players often refer to it as simply “Draw Poker.” This version is the simplest and is essentially a mere digitalization of the classic game.
There are, however, two major differences between the two. First and foremost, online video poker isn’t played against other players. Rather, you’re playing against the house by attempting to create the strongest hands out of the 5 cards.
The second difference is hinted in the name of the game. You won’t win anything by getting a pair unless it’s a pair of Jacks, Queens, Kings, or Aces. In some video poker variants, typically the ones featuring bonuses, the payouts start from three of a kind. So, it’s a good idea to start your journey into the world of online poker with Jacks or Better since it pays back your bet on the four pairs.
Furthermore, other hands are ranked exactly the same as in standard poker, with the Royal Flush being the strongest and the most lucrative. The typical payout percentage of Jacks or Better is 99.54%.
However, the version Net Entertainment provides increases the player’s odds by an additional 0.02%. This may not sound a lot, but it can make all the difference. Another curiosity regarding NetEnt’s iteration is that it features reduced payouts for a straight flush and four of a kind.
However, this is balanced by the fact that a regular straight pays out 5:1 instead of the typical 4:1. The lower payout for two of the three strongest hands may sound like a significant drawback. However, a straight comes much more often, resulting in players winning more money in the long run.
Aces and Eights
After you get a solid grip on Jacks or Better, you can transition to the slightly more generous Aces & Eights. The gameplay is exactly the same. However, Aces & Eights include three “bonus” payouts, so to speak.
If you get a poker of sevens, eights, or Aces, you’ll win quite a bit more money than you would on Jacks or Better. The standard payout for four of a kind is 25:1. You’ll win double that with four 7s, or 80x your bet with a poker of Aces or Eights.
The payout percentage of Aces & Eights in online casinos can go up to 99.78%.
As the name suggests, deuces wild mixes things up by treating twos as wild cards. Deuces take on the role of Jokers in this variant and are a substitute for any other card in the deck. This not only gives you better chances of winning, but it also opens up possibilities for some unconventional hands like five of a kind.
Additional payouts include the Wild Royal Flush and four deuces. Second only to a natural Royal Flush, a Poker of deuces may pay out as much as 200:1. However, due to the high payouts of these few strong hands, the game has high variance. In other words, unless you hit one of the top three hands in your play session, you’ll hardly win any money.
Moreover, there’s also Bonus Wild Deuces video poker in many online casinos. It features even more winning combinations, such as four deuces plus Ace and numerous five of a kind alternatives.
Double Bonus & Double Double Bonus
Double Bonus is another extremely popular version of online video poker, up there with Jacks or Better. The game features higher payouts for all four of a kind combinations, with the most lucrative being a poker of Aces, of course.
The full pay version of Double Bonus video poker has a payout slightly over 100%. In other words, there is no house edge. With a 100.17% payout, the player is slightly favored. You might be hard pressed to find a full pay version.
What you’ll typically run into are Double Bonus games with reduced payouts for straights, flushes, and full houses. Interestingly, lowering the payout of just a full house by a single coin drops the overall payout percentage by more than 1 percent.
That said, there’s also an extended version known as Double Double Bonus video poker. These add another element that can potentially further increase the player’s winnings, in the form of kickers. A “kicker” is poker slang for a card that doesn’t affect the overall ranking of the hand.
The kickers you’re looking for in a Double Double game are 2s, 3s, and 4s. If you get them alongside a quad of Aces, the machine will “spew out” a ton of cash.
Just keep in mind that all these extra payouts inherently mean higher volatility of the game. You’ll see the winning combinations less often, but they’ll pay out huge sums if you get them. Likewise, the house edge increases as the variations get more and more complex.
Another video poker variant that’s taking the online gambling world by a storm is Pick’em Poker.
This is a somewhat simplified version of the game, with the easiest to learn video poker strategy. Rather than being dealt a five-card hand and selecting which ones to keep, players receive two cards at a time.
The first two cards are fixed and you use them to determine the optimal play. The second card pair is where the strategy comes into play. You choose one of the two cards you wish to keep. The “strategy” revolves around looking up the probabilities of receiving a specific card out of the remaining 48 in the deck.
Then, it simply comes down to choosing the one with the highest probability of resulting in a winning hand. Although you might not get that first impression since you’re only choosing to hold one card and you receive the other 4 at random, the payout percentage is actually among the highest on the market. Pick’em Poker has a minuscule house edge of 0.05%, so it’s easy to see why it’s quickly becoming a favorite among video poker players.
How to Start Playing Video Poker Online
The five variations we listed here are just five of the most popular ones at the moment. There are many more, including progressive video poker, stud poker, wild bonus double poker, etc. Each of them comes with a different set of video poker rules and varying strategies. There are quite a few things to consider when choosing a specific video poker title.
First, there’s the volatility. As we’ve mentioned, the more winning combinations and the higher payouts the game offers for the strongest hands, the more volatile it typically is. Jacks or Better, on the other hand, especially NetEnt’s version, has low volatility.
Choosing one over the other option comes down to personal preference. True enough, you’re more likely to get a straight than a quad of aces, but luck still plays a big role. You’ll need to consistently hit straights for the play session to be profitable. Likewise, you’ll have to hit a high ranking hand on a high volatility game for it to really pay off.
Depending on which version you opt for, you’d want to hold different cards. Consult the pay tables and see which is the smarter play — holding a three of a kind, or drawing 3 cards to a straight.
If you wish to play video poker for real money, we strongly suggest practicing the game first. Pick an online casino that allows you to play “for fun” and test out the variants you find the most appealing. Then, when it comes to the real deal, the experience might quite literally pay off.