Video Poker strategy

Video Poker optimal strategy

Zero Jacks or Better strategy

The proper strategy for beating Video Poker depends on learning some basic rules and being very disciplined in applying them. This isn't as easy as it may sound as some of the rules will go against your Poker instincts e.g. keeping 2 Threes instead of A,Q.

There's no psychology, just hard numbers

But remember, whereas Poker is a people game played with cards, Video Poker is all about maths and probability. There's no psychology here, just hard numbers.

Trust these rules - they'll give you by far your best chance of beating the game!

NB as discussed in our Video Poker player's guide, this strategy is designed around the most popular Video Poker game - Jacks or Better. Once you're familiar with the optimal strategy for Jacks or Better, you can adapt it to suit each Video Poker variation, with only minor changes.

Video Poker vs Poker

Although the hands are ranked in the same way as, for example, Texas Hold Em, it's important for new players to remember that Video Poker is not the same as 'real' Poker - whereas in Poker you're looking to beat other players, in Video Poker, all you need is a hand that qualifies for a payout.

It's this point that leads most players into making mistakes. Just like in Blackjack, there's no shame in winning on a low score, or with a hand that probably wouldn't win a game of Texas Hold Em - all you have to do is get a winning hand!

Rule #1 - Always play Max coins

Regardless of any other strategy you use, you need to remember that the highest payout in Video Poker comes from hitting a Royal Flush when playing 5 coins. The difference in payouts between 5 and 4 can be huge (4,000 to 1, instead of 1,000 to 1) For this reason, you should always play five coins per hand.

How to choose your cards

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To make this strategy easy to use, we've divided it up into sections, each one dealing with the number of significant cards in the hand you're dealt. We then advise you on what to do - and what not to do!

For example, if you're dealt K, J, 9, 3, 3, you should look under the '2 card hands' section (as the two 3s are the most significant cards) and read the instructions under do and do not.

If you're dealt Q, J, 7, 6, 3, look under the '3 card hands' section (as the Clubs are the more significant cards).

Some hands may come under more than one category e.g. A, A, J, 10, 9 comes under '2 card hands' (pair of Aces), '3 card hands' (3 to a Straight Flush) and also the 'How to rank hands' section which tells you how to separate confusing hands.

NB in all cases, High card = Jack and higher, Low card = 10 and below.

2 card hands


ANY pair is better than 1 or 2 high cards, even if the 2 cards are suited and connected.

If you don't have a pair (high or low) hold up to a maximum of 2 high cards, ranked from low to high (eg Q,J rather than A,Q) - unless you have two or three suited high cards, in which case hold the suited high cards.

Do not

Don't hold a single high card with a pair.

Don't play just 2 suited and connected cards.

3 card hands


Hold three suited and connected high cards (10, J, Q or higher), unless you also have a High pair.

Do not

Don't hold 3 suited low cards (lower than a 10) if you also have a pair (high or low).

Don't hold 3 suited cards hoping to get a flush.

Don't hold 3 connected, unsuited cards, hoping to get a straight.

4 card hands


Hold a 4 card open-ended straight (connected, unsuited cards) unless you also have a pair (high or low).

Hold a 4 card flush (suited, not connected) unless you also have a high pair.

Do not

Don't try to draw to the inside of a straight. Only draw to a straight that's open at both ends.

eg if you have 2, 3, 5, 6, Q, don't hold 2, 3, 5, 6 hoping to draw a 4. A straight like 6, 7, 8, 9 can be completed with both a 5 and a 10 so your chances of winning are much higher.

5 card hands


Break up a 5 card straight or flush if you have a chance of a Royal Flush. e.g. if you had 8, 10, J, Q, K, discard the 8 and hope for the A.

Do not

Don't break up a 5 card straight or flush in an attempt to get a straight flush. The hand is already going to win, so it makes no sense to risk it for the small chance of a higher payout.

Confusing hands - how to rank them


Sometimes you'll be faced with hands that give you a number of possible outcomes. In that case, you should rank them in this order (all based on probability - trust it!):

1. High Pair
2. 3 cards of a Royal Flush
3. 4 card Flush
4. Low pair
5. 4 card open-ended straight

No significant cards - just dump them!


If you haven't got at least a single high card or a low pair, just discard all 5 and draw some more.

Do not

Waste money on a lost cause!

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Online Video Poker guide

Video Poker is one of the simplest and most popular games in the casino, and for good reason - it's easy for beginners to learn, but offers experienced gamblers the opportunity to employ a strategy that could give them the edge over the casino.

In order to take you from beginner through to expert Video Poker player, we've put together a comprehensive Video Poker guide, that tells you everything you need to know:

Video Poker basics

A simple guide to playing Video Poker. An explanation of the rules, game mechanics and an overview of the different Video Poker variants you'll come across.

This Video Poker Basics guide is designed to get you up and playing in as short a time as possible.

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