Video Poker Hands

Playing video poker in any iteration is a great way to have fun and win money.  However, before you can play well, you must understand the game.  This requires an in depth understanding of the hands you can draw in the game, as well as the potential payouts for each hand and the odds of drawing that hand in the game.  Let's take a look at what hands make up the game.  You'll find these in every game, from Jacks or Better to King of the Decks and every game in between.

However, many games have specific hands that are not found in others (five kings of clubs in King of the Decks comes to mind).

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The best hand for any poker game (other than the aforementioned five kings of clubs) is the royal flush.  This is the hand that receives the highest payout in most games, but only when the maximum bet is made (5 coins).  A royal flush is made up of the 10, the jack, the queen the king and the ace of a single suit.  The odds of drawing a royal flush are 1 in 40,390, making it pretty rare.

The second best hand of the game (again, excluding specialty hands like 5 of a kind) is the straight flush.  A royal flush provides the second best payout in the game, and the amount increases with the number of coins bet, though it will not offer the extreme payout of a royal flush.  The straight flush consists of five sequential cards of the same suit, such as the 2, 3, 4 and 5 of spades, etc.  The odds of a straight flush are 1 in 9,148.

Third on the list, we find four of a kind.  This has the third highest payout of the game, and, of course, the amount won increases with the wager amount. The odds of drawing four of a kind are 1 in 423.  Four of a kind is any four cards of the same face value, regardless of the suit.  For instance, four deuces or four kings, etc.

A full house is the fourth best hand in the game and provides the same rules as the other hands thus far, in terms of increasing payout amounts.  A full house is three cards of the same value (3 deuces, etc) and two cards of a different denomination (2 fours).  The odds of drawing a full house are 1 in 86.

A flush is the fifth most valuable hand in most games.  The odds of drawing a flush are 1 in 90 (slightly higher than a full house).  A flush consists of five cards of a single suit, in non-sequential order (any five cards of the same suit).
The straight comes in at sixth on the list and offers a modest payout.  The odds of drawing a straight are 1 in 89.  A straight is five cards in sequential value (2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 for example) regardless of the suit.  The cards must be in sequential value but do not have to have the same suit.

Three of a kind is the seventh ranked hand and offers odds of 1 in 13. Three of a kind is any three cards of the same face value, regardless of suit.  For example, three jacks, three 7's, etc.

Two pair is often the entry hand for many games (excluding Jacks or Better).  The odds of drawing two pair are 1 in 7.7.  Two pair is considered two cards of one value and two cards of another value, regardless of suit.  For example, a pair of deuces and a pair of 8's, etc.

One pair is the entry-level hand for Jacks or Better and the odds of gaining a single pair are 1 in 21.4.  You must have a pair of jacks or higher (royals only) for this hand. If the pair of jack are the best your hand holds, hold the pair and discard the other three cards in hopes of something better; four of a kind, three of a kind and a full house are possible.

High Card – A high card hand is any hand that contains no playable cards, but one high card (usually a 10 or better).  In this instance, common strategy says to hold the high card and discard the other four.  Other strategies emphasize to discard all cards in the hand.  However, the best option is to determine if there is a straight or flush (to the outside) that can be gained from the hand.  Never hold cards to an inside straight.

Now that you know the types of hands and their value, as well as the odds of drawing them, you will need to study video poker pay tables.  Each game (and often each machine) has a different pay table.  The pay table indicates how much each hand pays in that particular game.  Standard full pay Jacks or Better is considered a 9/6 game.  This is because it pays 9 times the amount on a full house and 6 times for a flush.  Casinos usually have 8/5 games, which reduce the amount a player can win on the full house and the flush while maintaining the value of other hands.

Regardless of the game you are playing, the best option is to consistently bet the highest amount.  This allows you to hit the highest payout for a royal flush, which can often make up for a long string of losses, as well as payout more than all the other hands combined, by a significant amount.  A royal flush played at 5 coins usually yields 4000, while the amount at 4 coins is only 1000.  This is the only hand that offers the bonus in traditional games, though some forms of video poker offer bonus amounts for other types of hands.  These hands are exclusive to those games only and are not found in every type of video poker, as standard hands are.