Video poker hands share the same hierarchy as most other poker games. If you’ve played Texas hold’em, 5-card draw, or 7-card stud, you’ll be familiar with the card ranks and the hand combinations. What trips up some gamblers about the hands in video poker are the payoffs for each poker hand. Players get into a casino, start to see a half-dozen different games and multiple pay tables for some of those, and it starts to get confusing.
I’ll teach you how to read a pay table and what you need to look at to determine which video poker machine. Once you know the crucial payoffs on each chart, you’ll be able to spot the best games with little or no trouble. But since I have to assume you’re entirely new to poker and the casino, I’m going to start at the absolute basics of card games: the poker hands.
Guide to Video Poker Hands
The ranks of poker card and poker hands play a big part of video poker, but they have a long history in poker and the card games which came before it. This video poker hand guide discusses the general ranks and how what they mean in video poker. This discussion assumes you’re playing Jacks or Better, the first and most basic game of video poker.
High card means a hand that doesn’t have a matching pair of cards, a three of a kind, a four of a kind, a straight, or a flush. In Texas Holdem, you can still win if neither player even has a pair, if you have a high card. In video poker, this hand always loses.
Pair of 2s
The lowest-ranking pair you can have in poker. In video poker, this also loses. The same goes for a pair of 3s, 4s, 5s, 6s, 7s, 8s, 9s, or 10s. So drawing 10-10 is just as bad as drawing 2-3-5-6-7.
Pair of Jacks
The first winning hand. A pair of Jacks gives you your money back at a 1-to-1 rate. You’ll be paid the same if you get a pair of Queens, a pair of Kings, or a pair of Aces; this means a pair of Jacks is just as good as double-Aces in basic video poker.
If you get any two pairs in Jacks or Better, you’ll be paid out at 2-to-1, this means you might not always discard a pair of 2s when you get them on the deal if your prospects of filling a higher hand aren’t good.
Three of a Kind
When you get three of any card rank, you have a 3 of a kind. So if you get 2-2-2-4-5, you have a three of a kind. If you get a K-K-K-A-J, you also have a three of a kind. When you get trips of any card, you receive a 3 to 1 payoff. So if you bet $1, you receive $3. It doesn’t matter which card rank you have in triplicate.
This is a five-number or five-card sequence in a row. When you receive 2-3-4-5-6, you have a straight. Understanding the card ranks in traditional poker helps here because you know that Jack is one better than 10, Queen is one better than Jack, King is one better than King, and an Ace is one better than King. So if you get a 10-J-Q-K-A, you have a straight. Also note that aces can be ones, too, so if you get A-2-3-4-5, you have a straight. When you receive a straight, you get a payoff 4-times the original bet.
A flush is five cards of the same suit. You’ll notice four suits in a deck of poker cards, the two black suits (spades, clubs) and the two red suits (diamonds, hearts). If you get five spades, five clubs, five hearts, or five diamonds, you win a bigger payoff than you would if you hit a straight. It doesn’t matter which suit you hit.
The flush is a particularly important hand in video poker, due to the amount you’re paid for hitting it. Some machines pay 5x for a flush, while others pay 6x for a flush. It might not sound like much of a difference, but this payout (and one other) changes your expectation over 2%. When you go into a casino or play online, look to see what the casino’s Jacks or Better game pay. If it pays off at 6x, you’re in luck, because you found the best version of the game. Check the next hand rank, to be sure.
A full house is three cards of one rank and two cards of another rank. A full house might be 8-8-8-2-2, or it might be A-A-A-K-K, but whatever it is, you win big when you hit a full house. Like the flush, this is a crucial hand to note on the Jacks or Better pay table.
The full house is going to pay out some different amounts, including 9x, 8x, 7x, or even sometimes the measly 6x. The higher the payout, the better for the gambler. If you find a machine with a 9-to-1 payoff on full houses and a 6-to-1 payoff on flushes, you’ve found a 9/6 Jacks or Better video poker machine. This is also known as the “full pay Jacks or Better” because it’s the maximum you can expect to find. Note this machine play it often.
Four of a Kind
The four of a kind matches any four cards of the same rank. This hand pays out at 25 to 1. Bet $5, and you’ll get $125 when you win.
The straight flush combines the straight and the flush. Get any type of straight using cards of the same suit, and you’ll win 50 times you wager.
The Royal Flush is the ultimate hand in poker because it’s the hardest to hit. The Royal Flush is the Ace, King, Queen, Jack, and 10 of one suit and it happens about once every 40,000 video poker hands on average. What happens when you hit this hand is important to note. If you bet one coin, two coins, three coins, or four coins, you’ll receive 250 times your bet when you hit the Royal Flush. But when you bet five coins, you win 800 times your original bet. Always make the 5-coin bet in Jacks or Better. If you only feel comfortable betting $0.25 a hand, don’t bet one coin on the quarter denomination, but bet five coins on the nickel denomination. It’s the difference in winning $56.00 or $17.50 when you win.
That’s all you need to know about the video poker hands. Spot what the payouts are on the full house and flush, remember to make the 5-coin wager on Jacks or Better and remember which hands pay out the best when deciding which cards to keep.