Video Poker – How to Play

Video Poker

Many people mistakenly think that video poker is a recent innovation driven by computers and the internet. Actually, video poker dates back to the 1890’s when bars in Brooklyn introduced a machine that could play poker. Winners didn’t receive money; they got something from the bar such as a cigar or a drink. The machine had spinning drums, a far cry from the modern games.

Modern video poker has been compared to slots. There are two similarities between them, one trivial and one extremely important. The trivial similarity is that the machines look alike! The important similarity is that all the numbers and cards are created at random by a Random Number Generator or RNG. This is a computer chip that operates continuously, even when no one is playing. In the case of video poker, when a bet is made the RNG stops and shows you your cards.

Most video poker games are variations of five-card draw. The player faces a screen, on which the players sees images of five face-down cards. The player places his bet, from one to five units. Then s/he clicks on “deal” and the RNG deals five cards. On most hands the player will want to draw cards. Most video poker games allow the player to draw as many as five cards. To draw cards the player clicks on the “hold” button to hold the cards s/he wants to keep. (Some video poker machines ask you to discard unwanted cards).

Then click “draw” or “deal” to draw cards. To draw no cards, simply click draw and the machine will know not to play any new cards. The only time you will draw no cards is when you’re dealt a five-card made hand such as a straight, flush, or full house.

There are already many variations of video poker. Learn well the game you wish to play. Each game offers a different payout schedule so keep that in mind when you sit down to play a new variation for the first time. The payout schedule should be posted at the top of the screen.

Play Sequence

One of the appeals of video poker is that you are playing against the machine. You receive cards and draw. While there is strategy in the draw, there is no chance of losing a large bet to a better hand. In video poker you either win or lose and you can only lose your original bet. Many players find this form of poker much more relaxing and enjoyable.

  • You place your bet. If you want to bet the same each game you don’t have to do anything; the machine knows that you are betting the same as before.
  • Click “deal”. You will receive five cards.
  • Decide which if any cards you wish to discard. Some machines ask you to discard while others ask you to hold. Most games allow you to discard all your cards.
  • After holding or discarding click “deal” or “draw” and you will receive your new cards.
  • The machine will tell you if you have won. It will also tell you what hand you had to win and how many credits you have won. Most games will require you to “accept” your winnings.
  • You have the option to double down (see below).

Betting Rules

The betting rules are extraordinarily simple in video poker. As seen in the section above, you place a bet, receive cards, draw cards, and the machine tells you if you have won! There are no rounds of betting, no blinds, nothing to confuse an amateur gambler.

Video Poker Hands

There is, however, one betting option at the end of the hand. If you have won, you may double down. This is a form of double or nothing betting. You bet your winnings on one draw from the deck for yourself and one draw for the house. If your card is higher, your winnings double and if your card is lower you lose your winnings. If you win at double or nothing the machine will offer it to you again. You can play it as many times as you like, that is, until you lose.


Video Poker machines first appeared in Las Vegas in the mid 1970’s. The payouts were originally low but were later increased and caused players to notice the machines. Popularity grew and currently some slot machines are being moved out of the casino floor and are being replaced with video poker machines.