Gamblers have used playing cards and poker tables to compete against one another for ages, but the advent of real money video poker allows players to challenge themselves and the house alone.
A relatively recent addition to the casino floor – a fact you’ll learn more about in the History section below – real money video poker machines automate the old-fashioned five-card draw games of old. Players place a bet of between one and five coins (these coins can be nickels, dimes, quarters, dollars, and up), then take a random 5-card starting hand. From there, you can hold desirable made hands, or discard portions of your hand and draw replacements to chase draws.
After the single drawing round is completed, your final five-card poker hand is scored against an escalating pay table, with the Royal Flush offering a juicy jackpot reward.
The most popular form of video poker is known as Jacks or Better, which refers to the one pair of Jacks (or higher) needed to secure the game’s minimum payout. But you’ll find dozens of different video poker variants out there today, from the action-packed Deuces Wild that turns 2s into wild “jokers” to the complex Double Double Bonus game and its priority on four of a kind hands.
Playing Online Video Poker for Money vs. Live Machines
As a machine-based game played one-on-one with a screen, video poker is perhaps the easiest game for online casinos to simulate.
In fact, when you fire up your first online video poker session, you’ll immediately feel right at home. The game screen, card graphics, hold/discard interface, and paytable layout all look and feel identical to the classic Game King video poker machines found in every land-based casino.
And just like the Game King machine, which can contain all of those different variants in a single menu, online casino video poker menus are built with variety in mind. All it takes is a few mouse clicks to toggle between Jacks or Better, Joker Poker, Aces and Eights, and all of your favorite games.
For this reason, video poker aficionados enjoy the easiest transition from playing brick-and-mortar casino video poker machines to online play.
Pros & Cons of Playing Real Money Video Poker Online
The preceding section just about covered the pros of playing video poker online, and fortunately for players, the list of cons is rather short indeed.
One drawback to watch out for is the lack of “full pay” tables, a factor you’ll learn more about in the next section. Put plainly, however, many online casinos look for a shortcut of sorts by slightly adjusting the pay table in their favor. This happens all the time in land-based casinos too though, so you’re not sacrificing very much equity by choosing to play real money video poker online.
Another aspect of the online game players might not enjoy is the lack of camaraderie, as you’ll be playing by your lonesome throughout the session. You technically play alone in a land-based casino as well, but with fellow gamblers to the right and left grinding neighboring machines, a jackpot score can often be cause for celebration – and a few envious stares of course.
All in all, playing video poker online really does replicate the live casino experience to a tee. Just ask your hubby to bring a cold beverage your way, or maybe light a cigarette to send a smoky haze in the air, and you won’t even notice the difference.
Best Online Video Poker Odds/RTP
The number one thing to look for when comparing video poker offerings at various online casinos is the pay tables they use.
Jacks or Better players love to talk about the game’s high payback rate of 99.54 percent, which equates to a house edge of 0.46 percent. But you’ll only get to enjoy those player-friendly figures when the 9/6 “full pay” table shown below is in place:
Full Pay Table for Jacks or Better Video Poker
Royal Flush 250 (4,000 when betting maximum of 5 coins)
Straight Flush 50
Four of a kind 25
Full House 9
Three of a kind 3
Two Pair 2
Jacks or better 1
The key payouts for this full pay table are the 9-coin reward for landing a full house and the 6-coin collection when you score a flush. When you see Jacks or Better running with that 9/6 alignment, you’ll know it’s a full pay game with those sweet 99.54 percent payback and 0.46 percent house edge rates.
Unfortunately for video poker enthusiasts, many online casinos out there are following Las Vegas’ lead by replacing full pay games with inferior pay tables. All it takes is a slight adjustment to one or both of the key 9/6 numbers to completely change the odds against players.
Take a close look at the alternative non-full pay tables below to see just how badly players can get hosed by seemingly minor adjustments:
Non-Full Pay Tables for Jacks or Better (by Payback Percentage)
HAND 9/5 8/6 8/5 7/5 6/5
Royal Flush 250* 250* 250* 250* 250*
Straight Flush 50 50 50 50 50
Four of a Kind 25 25 25 25 25
Full House 9 8 8 7 6
Flush 5 6 5 5 5
Straight 4 4 4 4 4
Three of a Kind 3 3 3 3 3
Two Pair 2 2 2 2 2
Jacks or Better 1 1 1 1 1
Payback Percentage: 98.44 percent 98.39 percent 97.29 percent 96.14 percent 94.99 percent
*4,000 when betting maximum of 5 coins
Now that you know the score, you should never settle for second-best when searching for a Jacks or Better game online. Unless your online casino of choice uses the 9/6 full pay version, don’t bother wasting time with a watered-down version of this video poker classic.
And don’t forget about the full pay tables for all of the other variants out there too. No matter your game of choice – Deuces Wild, Double Double Bonus Poker, Aces and Eights, or any of the dozens of variants to choose from – you can search online for the game’s title plus “full pay table” to find the perfect payout setup. Whenever you notice reduced pay table(s) used by one online casino, don’t hesitate to check around until you find an operator willing to spread full game video poker for all of the most popular variants.
Speaking of those different variants, the best online casino video poker menus spread much more than just Jacks or Better.
Look for staples like Deuces Wild, Bonus Poker, Double Bonus Poker, Double Double Bonus Poker, and Joker Poker to identify well-stocked video poker sections.
Types of Online Video Poker Bonuses
When you sign up with an online casino for the first time, you should always check the Promotions page to see what kind of Welcome Bonus they’re offering.
The usual Welcome Bonus arrangement works like this… you’ll enter the advertised bonus code before depositing, then input your desired deposit amount (say $100), and the operator will match those fund based on a percentage (usually 100-300 percent). Thus, with a 300 percent match Welcome Bonus, your first $100 deposit would put $400 into your account ($100 deposit + $300 in percentage match = $400).
Later on, if you find yourself needing a subsequent deposit to stay in the game, check for Reload Bonus codes too. Reload Bonuses are simply smaller versions of the Welcome Bonus, so you can expect something like a 50 percent match on your money.
And if you put in a high-volume of play over time, many online casinos will reward your loyalty with a No Deposit Bonus, which is basically free funds tacked on to your account periodically.
In any case, all online casino bonuses have one important “string” attached to keep in mind -playthrough/rollover requirements. Essentially, the playthrough/rollover requirement is a multiple (typically between 20x and 30x) of your combined deposit and bonus amounts that must be wagered before you can actually withdraw the funds.
So if you have $400 in your starting bankroll using the Welcome Bonus arrangement described earlier, and a 20x rollover requirement, you’ll need to place $8,000 worth of wagers to reach the playthrough/rollover requirement. That may sound like a tall mountain to climb, but remember, winning and losing wagers count just the same, so you can play for a few hours – and even earn a profit – while still hitting your playthrough/rollover marks.
The only drawback for video poker bonus hunters is that the game tends to offer a lower “wagering contribution” than less skilled gambles like the slots and certain table games. Basically, for every $1 you bet on video poker, 20 percent (on average; wagering contribution rates vary by operator) will go towards the playthrough/rollover requirement.
Slots tend to send 100 percent of the total wager toward playthrough/rollover, while low house edge table games such as blackjack and baccarat are much lower at only 5 percent.
Real Money Video Poker FAQ
I really like playing those video poker machines in Vegas that let you draw 10, 50, or even 100 times using the same starting hand, so can I still do that with an online casino?
You sure can, as the best online casino video poker menus make sure to spread both single- and multi-hand modes for each variant. Just look for the duplicate logos for each variant, then the little tab listing a number to decide between the different multi-hand options available.
My favorite video poker variant is full pay Deuces Wild, thanks to the rare player edge and positive payback rate of 100.76 percent, but I’m having trouble finding it online… any idea where I can find it?
Unfortunately for fans of full pay Deuces Wild, the game is essentially extinct if you’re playing online. While a few Off-Strip casinos in Las Vegas still run full pay Deuces Wild – which uses a 1-2-2-3-5-9-15-25-200-250 paytable configuration – to cater to regulars, online operators aren’t really interested in offering a player edge game.
With that in mind, it’s best to consider online casinos to be cousins of their counterparts on The Strip, where alternative Deuces Wild pay tables like the 1-2-2-3-5-9-12-25-200-250 (99.81 percent payback) and 1-2-3-4-4-9-15-25-200-250 (98.91 percent) are standard fare.
I’ve heard that when the progressive jackpot meter hits a certain total, players actually enjoy a slight statistical edge on video poker, so can I still play for progressives online?
Of course, you can, provided your online casino operator of choice attaches a progressive jackpot to its video poker selection. Many online games stick with the standard 4,000-coin jackpot when you a) bet the maximum of 5 coins and b) land the elusive Royal Flush. But whenever you see the word “Progressive” in the game’s title, or on the game screen, you’re in luck.
Most progressive jackpot video poker games online will display a running meter with something like 4,839.72 that will keep climbing as you play, with the figure reflecting the current jackpot payout (in coins) for hitting a Royal Flush.
History of Real Money Video Poker
Casino gamblers today owe a great debt of gratitude to the late William “Si” Redd (1911-2003), who was inducted into the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) Gaming Hall of Fame in 1991 after a storied career.
Redd arrived in Reno, Nevada back in 1967, when he relocated from Boston to sell jukeboxes and pinball machines for Bally Manufacturing. By 1976, the Silver State’s gambling-based economy inspired Redd to purchase the Oasis Casino in Mesquite.
Three years later, Redd was inspired to combine his existing machine enterprise – which had expanded to include arcade video games by then – with his casino interests. He collaborated with engineers at Bally’s to turn his vision – automated five-card draw poker played on a machine – into a reality.
His idea might sound like a no-brainer today, but at the time, installing a small video screen within a standup box and displaying playing card graphics and poker gameplay was quite novel.
Redd dubbed his first video poker machine prototype “Fortune 1 Draw Poker,” and the concept was deceptively simple. Players wagered a few coins based on their risk preference, before taking five cards at random from a 52-card deck. From there, they could discard any, all, or none of those cards before drawing replacements.
Their final five-card poker hand stood, and it was scored against an escalating pay table based on the traditional poker ranking hierarchy – high card, one pair, two pair, three of a kind, straight, flush, full house, straight flush, and royal flush.
The original Fortune 1 Draw Poker machines required players to land two pair or better in order to claim the game’s minimum payout. This higher minimum threshold made it pretty difficult to land winners, so when Redd brought his idea to his bosses at Bally’s, they passed on the opportunity of a lifetime.
Redd smartly negotiated to retain the rights to his intellectual property, then left Bally’s to take his own shot at marketing casino gambling’s newest game.
In yet another savvy move, Redd realized that two pair or better was too high of a hurdle, as players would experience long droughts of nine losers in between one winner on average. One pair or better was too low, however, so he found the perfect sweet spot by requiring one pair of Jacks or better to earn the minimum payout.
And how sweet it was…
Redd’s new company was called SIRCOMA, an acronym for Si Redd’s Coin Operated Machines, and it quickly took off like gangbusters. By 1981, SIRCOMA wound up securing hundreds of installations for the company’s new “Game King” machine all over Nevada.
Game King video poker machines – which by then were equipped to offer multiple games including Jacks or Better, Double Double Bonus Poker, and Joker Poker – spread like wildfire throughout casinos across the country and abroad. Appealing to players who prefer a more solitary experience than that found at the tables – as well as strategically minded souls who prefer skill-based gambling – video poker has gone one to become one of the most popular casino games ever invented.
Redd wasn’t done either, so after his SIRCOMA became International Game Technology (IGT), he devised the world’s first wide area progressive jackpot network for slot machines.
That’s right… whether you enjoy hunting the elusive Royal Flush hand pays on video poker, or multimillion progressive slot jackpots like Megabucks, you can thank the amazing Si Redd for thinking outside of the box.