Poker is a classic game that most people across the world have heard of. But what is video poker? Well, it essentially combines the classic game with advancements in technology which allow gamblers to play such games online. It’s not the same as casino poker, which is played against the house, or player versus player poker, which has many versions available online. Rather, it is a game which plays out in individual hands, where the player goes up against the random number generator.
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To understand how video poker came about, the history takes us back to their predecessors – poker games. In 1891, New York-based company Sittman and Pitt invented a poker machine which featured five reels, or drums. Each one had pictures of 10 playing cards. The player would insert a coin, pull the handle, and watch the drum spin until it stopped on a playing card, creating a randomly generated hand. In 1898, Charles Fey – who is also known as the man behind the slot machine – invented a machine called the ‘Card Bell’. This was a poker machine which paid up to 20 coins for players who received a royal flush.
In 1901, Fey went on to create the ‘Skill Draw’ poker machine. This had a hold feature, whereby the player could hold one or several cards and re-spin the reels in an effort to improve his hand. This was also known as the first five card draw poker machine. Sittman and Pitt weren’t to be left behind, as in the early 1900s, they were also manufacturing poker machines with a draw. Poker was largely the preferred game to play during this era, and the draw feature was popular as it allowed people to feel they had more control over the game. Demand was high, and machines were present in liquor stores and tobacco shops throughout America.
Although some believe a full deck of 52 cards were used in these machines, this isn’t true – as there were 5 drums of 10 cards, this made a total of 50 cards. The ten of spades and the jack of hearts were usually the missing cards, which resulted in the odds of getting a royal flush being cut in half because a big win in these suits was made impossible.
The first video poker machine was called Poker-Matic, and it was created in 1970 by Dale Electronics. It was installed in practically every Las Vegas casino upon its release, but unfortunately it wasn’t a big hit. However, this was the basic machine which others would build on in the future to create the popular video poker games we know and love today. Si Redd, a distributor for Bally’s Gaming, promoted a new game to his company executives in Chicago during the 1970s. It was called Video Poker – but this idea was rejected, as the executives didn’t want to branch out from their core business of slot machines.
However, Si took the patent, and within months he had made a deal with Fortune Coin Company to form Si Redd’s Coin Machines. He was then able to produce video poker games on a mass level, and although interest initially grew slowly, by the early 80s, it was one of the most popular games seen in casinos. As the early configuration required two pairs to make a winning hand, the interest was low, but once this was changed to make the lowest winning hand a pair of jacks as a minimum, the popularity of these machines skyrocketed. When Si took the company public, he renamed it IGT – International Gaming Technology. This company is now recognised across the world as a reputable supplier of casino gaming equipment.
Simply put, video poker involves a computerized video slot machine which is based on draw poker. The aim of the game is to attempt to make particular poker hand combinations. The outcome of the deck depends on a random number generator, which will shuffle the deck constantly, regardless of whether players are asking the machine to deal or not. As there are around 2.6 million card combinations which could result, there is no way of guessing what you’ll draw. Similarly, the more hands you play, the higher the risk you are therefore taking. The rules are the same as draw poker, but there aren’t other players to play against, so the aim is to get the highest-ranked five-card poker hand. If you click deal, you will receive your first five cards, and clicking hold allows you to keep certain cards and attempt to improve your hand.
These are the winning hands available in most variants:
Jacks or better – Jacks or better is made up of a 52 card deck, and players can play 3, 5, 10 or 50 hands at once, with a stake between 1 and 5 coins. Once you’ve selected your stakes and the number of hands you want to play, press deal, and see what cards you’re dealt. At this point, you have the option to hold any card to try and improve your chances of landing a winning combination. If you land one of the poker hands displayed in the awards section of the paytable, you win the prize which corresponds to the hand. For every winning hand, you can select Gamble Win, which lights up during the game and allows players to have six chances of guessing the colour or suit of the next card which will be drawn. A correct colour guess improves your winnings by double, and a correctly identified suit quadruples the funds. However, if you guess incorrectly, the bonus will end, and your winnings will return to 0.
Bonus Poker – The gameplay for Bonus Poker is similar to that seen with Jacks or better poker. You can decide how many coins you want to play for, choosing from a range between 1 and 5, and then you’ll be dealt a virtual 5-card hand. As video poker is based on draw poker, it’s permitted for players to discard certain cards and select new ones in an effort to improve their hand. There are multiple versions of bonus poker, and there are different bonus payouts depending on the ranking of the four of a kind. The full-pay version of Bonus Poker has a return of 99.2%.
Bonus Poker Deluxe – Bonus Poker Deluxe is also a variation of Jacks or better, which is based on five card draw poker. The difference between each edition is the result between hands which are a pair of jacks or higher and a royal flush. With Bonus Poker Deluxe, the payoff is even odds, which is identical to what you’d receive for a single pair. (In Jacks or better, the payoff is 2 to 1, which is higher). However, the payoff for four of a kind is increased.
Double Bonus Poker – The full pay version of double bonus poker is rarely seen in land based casinos, and isn’t available to play online. It offers additional payouts for hands with four of a kind, and you will get a payout of 800 credits when playing with five credits. The variance is higher, as it is set at 28.3. This means a player will need a higher bankroll than they would with Jacks or better. The most common versions of double bonus poker available online have RTPs of 99.37% and 99.11%, but the best payout available is 99.2%, which is seen in the All Aces version of the game.
Double Double Bonus Poker – As is the pattern we’ve had so far, Double Double Bonus Poker is a variation of Bonus Poker, which is in itself a variation of Jacks or better. There is an extra ‘double’ attached to the name of this game due to the extra-high payouts for those who achieve a 4 of a kind hand.This is balanced out by reducing the payouts awarded for those who land a 2 pair from 2 to 1 to even money. If the right pay table is used, the player can achieve a small edge over the house.
Bally’s All American – This variant of Jacks or better sees certain adjustments made to the pay table for key hands. Although the brand is well established, knock-offs have emerged which feature titles that are patriotic-sounding.The payouts for a straight, flush or full house have been reduced, but four of a kind and straight flush will award a significantly higher amount. The payouts for the special hands – Straight, Flush and Full House – stand at 8 credits apiece, although some online casinos reduce it to 7 credit payouts.
Tens or Better – This game is closely related to Jacks or Better, but offers a much easier win for the player. This is because you only need a minimum of two 10s in order to receive a payout – while in Jacks or better, you need a pair of Jacks.Because of the increased easiness of this game, the variant offers smaller payouts when compared to others. There is also a slightly lower variance than seen in most video poker games due to the number of paying hands being increased.
Joker’s Wild – This variation of video poker is unique in that it’s played with a 53-card deck, which includes a joker card. As with the other editions, you will begin by drawing five cards at random. You can then choose which cards you’re going to keep in your hand, and which you’re going to discard.If you discard any, these are replaced by new ones, which will hopefully contribute towards a winning hand. If you receive the joker card, this acts as a wild card, and can pretend to be any card in the deck – any suit, any rank, however it will help you to win.
Deuces Wild – This is a popular edition of video poker, whereby any ‘two’ a player is dealt is a wild card. Therefore, this game will see the biggest hands appear. Deuces Wild offers the biggest change when it comes to strategy. There is also the introduction of the winning hand ‘Five of a kind’, which is landed when a player has a combination of twos and any other card. If you have four twos, you get the second biggest payout in the game.
This decision is a personal one and doesn’t have to be set in stone. Some may want to try several variants of video poker before deciding on one to stick with, while others may constantly flit around. Some may enjoy a simple game of Jacks or better, while others may want the Tens or better variant for a higher payout. In many ways, you are spoilt for choice.
Slots games are designed based on luck and don’t require any skill or strategy to play. However, video poker requires a combination of luck and skill, where strategies can be implemented to influence the amount they win or lose during a session. Therefore, the payback percentage can be improved, unlike in slots, where it will remain static.
Although this decision remains up to you, many recommend that you do this during a round, This is because if you receive a royal flush, the payout will be much larger than if you hit it with a lower number of coins. If you can’t afford max coins on a particular game, combat this by moving to one with a lower coin denomination, as you will most likely find you’ll do better in the long run.
There are five columns on a pay table, which list the poker hands that will net a win for the player. The first column shows how much you’ll win with a bet of one coin, and so on up to the max bet of five coins. It’s important to consider how much a game will pay out for certain hands, as you can then work out the payout percentage and therefore whether it’s worth playing.
A progressive jackpot is a pool of prize money that keeps ticking over and increasing until one lucky player wins it. The jackpot is usually available across a group or network of machines or games, so that it can be won in more than one location. It’s also possible for a player to win a progressive jackpot if they hit a royal flush while betting the maximum amount of five coins. If the video poker game you’re playing offers a progressive jackpot for a max coin bet win, it’s strongly recommended to bet max on each occasion, as this drastically improves the payout percentage of that game.
If you have the option to play a multi-hand game of video poker, this means you can play multiple hands at the same time. While some games let you play five hands at once, others will allow gameplay with up to 100 hands at any one time. As you may have guessed, you’ll need a larger bankroll to play more hands, because each one is counted as a separate hand.
This isn’t the best strategy to follow with a game of video poker. Essentially, you should adapt your strategy according to the best one available for your particular game. It can be tempting to try and keep two cards if they will help you get a royal flush, but if this goes against the strategy for the game itself, try and avoid doing this. If you have three cards towards a royal flush, see if you already have a winning hand. If you have four cards towards one, try and draw the fifth card to get it and land the big win. It can seem counterintuitive to not always try and go for the main winning hand, but avoiding the general game strategy in favour of this method can reduce the payout percentage.