To begin with, let’s have a look at the most important pre-play decision you can make: which game to play.

The industry standard Video Poker game is Jacks or Better. This is a game with no wild cards, which deals from a new virtual 52-card deck for every hand. A wild card is a card, often a joker, but sometimes a 2 which substitutes any card to make a winning hand. The Poker game automatically uses it to produce the highest winning hand possible. Hence, if you are dealt King, King, Joker, 5, 3, the joker substitutes for a King and you will be paid for Three-of-a-Kind. The moment there are wild cards, the odds of each particular hand varies a lot and this will be reflected in the payouts for each combination. For “pure” Poker games, there is a standard pay table which guides you as to how profitable each game might be.

There are many varieties of Jacks or Better and a relatively simple way to identify which one you should play. As discussed previously, the key is the payout schedule. This is how it will appear on the vast majority of games:

Royal Flush2505007501,0004,000
Straight Flush5010050200250
Full House918273645
Two Pair246810
Jacks or Better12345

As you insert more coins, a vertical bar illuminates the column of the rest of the set of prizes you stand to win if you hit a winning hand. If you consistently play five coins per play, the far right column will remain illuminated. Notice that the jackpot for the Royal Flush is not sequential. When you play five coins, if you hit you will be paid 4,000 (not 1,000) Coins. This is a substantial advantage to you, and the main reason why you should always play maximum coins when playing Video Poker.

The key indicator as to whether you play these games lies in the payouts for the Full House and Flush. Often referred to as 9/6 games, since they offer a payout of nine coins for a Full House and six coins for a Flush. This is the industry standard, and is normally the maximum payouts for these combinations. With this 9/6 payout, and a fixed 4,000 coin jackpot for maximum coins played, these games produce a house edge of only 0.5 percent on condition you follow the correct strategies. In other words they offer you a decent shot at taking the money of the internet casino.

When you seek out Jacks or Better games pay close attention to the payout schedule. You may discover a less generous scale of prizes-what experts call the 8/5 payout, or Short Payback:

Jacks or Better (8/5)

Royal Flush2505007501,0004,000
Straight Flush50100150200250
Full House816243240
Two Pair246810
Jacks or Better12345

Notice that on this payout schedule the prizes for the Full House and the Flush have been reduced from nine and six coins respectively to eight and five coins. This makes a substantial difference to your chances of emerging a winner from a session, increasing the house edge to 2.7 percent. These games are therefore a poorer prospect than most Table Games, making them an undesirable play.

However, there are many forms of Video Poker games offering an 8/5 payout that also offer a progressive jackpot. If the jackpot is higher, then the lower payouts for the Full House and the Flush are acceptable if you manage to hit the jackpot, you will win even more money. If the jackpot is high enough the 8/8 payout schedule may still result in a game that is offering an edge to the player.

Unless there are compensating payouts, such as increased prizes for Four-of-a-Kind, or a progressive jackpot, do not play the 8/5 games. Remember that internet casinos do not want you to know that your chances of hitting a Royal Flush is very slim. So, increase your chances of winning at Video Poker by hunting down games offering a 9/6 payout instead.

Jacks or Better Strategy

If every Video Slot player followed a basic strategy online casinos will make far less money. They might even tighten up the returns on Video Poker. But right now you have a chance to improve the odds against the house considerably if you follow these simple strategies for each of the main games.

If you are a high roller, playing at $5 machines or higher, you should take time to learn the strategy and to study advanced “pro” strategies, in turn this will improve your edge against the house significantly.

Why doesn’t everyone use these strategies? For exactly the same reason that players give casinos their money at Blackjack, Craps, Roulette and many other table games, they don’t even bother to do a bit of research to make themselves some extra cash.

Once you have selected the machine which offers the best payout schedule for the casino game you want to wager at, you need to follow a simple strategy to give yourself the best opportunity to win. The key to a successful strategy is that it improves your chances of hitting that elusive Royal Flush.

Jacks or Better Basic Strategy

Play every hand following this order of priorities. Holding and discarding cards. Check and play each hand from the top of the list downwards.

Hold Four of a Kind, Straight Flush, Royal Flush Hold all Carefully*
Hold 4 to a Royal Flush Discard fifth card. Even if it provides a paying combination
Hold Three-of-a-Kind, Straight, Flush. Full House Hold all Carefully
Hold 4 to a Straight Flush Discard fifth card, even it provides a paying combination
Hold Two Pair
Hold Pair-Jacks or better
Hold 3 to a Royal Flush
Hold Low Pair-tens or lower
Hold 4 to an open-ended Straight**
Hold Two suited cards-Jacks or better
Hold 3 to a Straight Flush
Hold Any two cards, Jack or higher If more than two cards Jacks or higher. Hold the two lowest cards***
Hold Suited J10, Q10, K10
Hold One card, Jack or better
Hold Nothing Discard all five cards
*When you are dealt a big winning hand, it is easy to get over exited and fail to hold one card, or to press the hold button twice by mistake (this cancels the fold) resulting you losing a big win. Although some Video Poker Poker games automatically hold winning combinations others don’t.

An open-ended Straight is one which can be completed by two cards. For example, if you have 7, 8, 9, and 10 then you either hit a 6 or a Jack. In contrast, a “Gut-Shot” or “Belly-Buster” Straight is one where there is only one card you can hit to make a Straight. For instance, if you have 5, 6, 8, 9, you only need a 7 to complete the Straight. ***This combines payout for pairing Jacks or higher, and maximizes Straight opportunities.