Video poker is significantly different from regular poker in numerous ways.
It is, for a start, not actually poker, but a video game that uses random number generators to “draw” your cards. You bet on it, yes, and it looks a lot like poker, but under the hood, there’s no real difference between it and any other online gambling game where you play against a computer – be it blackjack, roulette, or slots.
It also works completely differently to proper poker as real-world poker, in any variant, is a game of skill that pitches different players against one another to see who can hold a better poker face and who can read the other players with better precision. This element vanishes completely from the online version of the game, and the only skill that remains is the ability to understand your cards, which ones to discard and the odds of pulling a great hand.
Even here, though, because the cards are really just random numbers rather than being drawn out of a real deck, the odds aren’t necessarily the same as the real thing. Which is why it’s even more important to make sure that the video poker machine you’re playing on, whether virtual or otherwise, comes from a reputable source because they can very easily be programmed to look like the cards are being drawn from a random number generator when they’re really not random at all.
Still, video poker basically works the same as real poker in that the order of the hands is the same.
Here’s how it breaks down, from worst to best:
- A pair: As the name suggests, two of the same cards, usually of different suits. Two 2s, for example, or 2 Jacks. Like all hands in video poker, the actual value of the pair doesn’t matter. You may get a 1:1 payout for a pair or some variants may only award a pair of Jacks.
- Two pairs. As the name suggests, this is when you have two different pairs in your hand, such as two 2s and 2 Jacks. On some machines, this is the lowest hand that pays out, and it’s usually at 2:1 as it is fairly common.
- Three of a kind. Much rarer than two pairs are when you have sets made of three of the same cards – so three 2s or three Jacks. The odds of drawing a three of a kind are much better than the higher decks, though about twice as low as two pairs. In many video poker games, though, it pays out about as much as two pairs.
- Straight. This is when your hand is made up of a full sequence of 5 cards – so, for example, an 8, 9, 10, Jack, and Queen – of differing suits.The payout is usually around 4:1.
- Flush. This is when you get 5 cards of the same suit, but not in any sequence. So, a 2, 5, 6, Jack and King, all of Hearts would be a flush. This normally has a 5 or 6 to 1 payout.
- Full House. Now we’re getting into the super rare hands. A full house is when you get a pair and a three of a kind in the same hand. So, two 2s and three Jacks, as for example. The payout varies a lot but it can be as much as 9 or 10 to 1.
- Four of a Kind. The inevitable followup to pairs and threes of a kind, four of a kind would be 4 Jacks or four 2s. They’re infinitely rarer than the other two sets and have a payout of 20 to 25 to 1.
- Straight flush. The second best hand in video poker is when you have a sequence of 5 cards of the same suit, so an 8, 9, 10, Jack and Queen of Spades, for example. Payouts for this hand are usually in the vicinity of 50:1!
- Natural royal flush. The best hand in video poker is similar to the straight flush, but even more specific. Not only do the 5 cards have to form a sequence and be of the same suit, they have to be a 10, Jack, Queen, King, and Ace of the same suit. This is basically the jackpot in video poker (as well as an unstoppable hand in real poker) and its payouts vary greatly by machine, but look out for payouts of anywhere from 200:1 to 900:1.
Obviously, knowing the order of the hands above is a solid advantage, but remember that most video poker games actually give you the payouts on the display.