Poker is one of those games that is known and loved in all corners of the world. Nothing ignites your senses quite like the final card in a big money match, or having to make a snapshot decision as to whether your opponent is holding all the aces or is merely bluffing.
It’s an adrenaline rush, it’s a heart-stopping experience and it’s the perfect blend of luck and skill. And more than all that, it’s an emotional wave you can experience without even leaving the house.
The technical differences between video poker online and poker in a physical casino are minimal. All the rules for each type of game are the same, the strategies you employ will be equally as effective and knowing how the play your hand is just as much an advantage, whether you’re suited and booted at a Monte Carlo table or dressed down at home with a cup of tea by your side. Ultimately, the biggest difference is that you can join a video poker site anywhere, at any time and with anyone. It is the same game as always – only now, it’s far more convenient and comfortable to play.
Video poker online 101: the basics
If you’ve never had the chance to play video poker before, don’t worry. Although the game can be mastered to professional levels, you needn’t be a mathematical genius or a specialist confidence trickster to understand the basics. After that, it’s mainly about getting the practice in and playing at a level you’re comfortable with.
For starters, we have to be clear about the nature of luck and skill in this game. Many people will claim that they are so experienced on the green table that they can virtually guarantee a win every time. Others will preach that the cards are dealt by chance, so the entire process is driven by luck. Ignore both types of people, because the reality is far more balanced. Short of developing X-ray vision, you cannot tell what cards everyone has, meaning that luck and chance will always play a part. However, knowing which hands beat which, when to bluff most effectively and how to read your opponents’ reactions are all part of the artform. In a nutshell, the game is skilled enough for people to do it as a career, yet chance is influential enough for the best to occasionally lose.
The basics of playing video poker are simple to grasp, even for total beginners. To start off with, you place one credit or more as your bet. However much this credit is worth in real money depends on the casino website you’re playing with, as well as which version of video poker they use. Often in these games you’ll have a minimum number of credits that must be placed in each turn, as well as a maximum ceiling each bet can go up to. Deciding how much to place with each go is partly about skill and partly about your bank balance: the game should be played for fun after all, so don’t go depleting your resources in the opening five minutes.
In video poker, five cards are dealt in total and you have to decide which of them to keep and which to discard. The game takes away those you’ve discarded, re-deals to replenish your hand and leaves you with your final set to play with.
So how do you win from here? Each player on the virtual table has their hand ranked according to how good it is – something we will explain in greater detail later on – and is paid accordingly. There are various types of video poker, yet you tend to find that a pair of jacks is a prerequisite for paying out. On top of this, the person who has the best hand is then given the opportunity to “double up”, meaning they have to pick up a final card as the computer also does so. If their card is higher, they win double their initial winnings.
If you’ve played poker in a casino before, you’ll have noticed the odd difference with the nature of the game online. Although there is slight divergence between the two, anyone who knows the rules of the former will be able to grasp the latter very quickly; if you’re new to both, you’ll be able to pick it up sooner than you think.
As well as this, different casino websites pay out at different rates, and it’s naturally more in your favour to choose those with the highest figures. That’s why it’s always worth consulting experts in the industry, such as Best Deal Casinos, before diving head first into the first site you see.
Video poker hands
You’ll have probably seen the odd gambling movie before, where two charismatic players are left standing in a high stakes game with a ludicrous pot of money on the table between them. The bad guy lays down his final cards, revealing his incredibly good straight flush, only to be beaten seconds later by the good guy’s royal flush. Good guy wins, everyone cheers and the film ends.
In reality, you rarely see such impressive hands being dealt at once. More often, people win on the back of less high ranking yet still useful sets, whereas bluffing and reading one another’s reactions are also just as important. Despite this, knowing how hands are ranked is imperative towards understanding how to play the game, so here’s a guide to knowing how your cards stack up against the rest. The list begins with the best cards in descending order, and the term “suits” refers to hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades.
- Royal flush: 10, jack, queen, king, ace; all the same suit
- Straight flush: any five cards in order; all the same suit (e.g. four, five, six, seven, eight of spades)
- Four of a kind: four cards with the same number; different suits (e.g. seven hearts, seven diamonds, seven clubs, seven spades)
- Full house: three cards with the same number, plus two other cards of the same number; different suits (e.g. three spades, three hearts, three clubs, two diamonds, two hearts)
- Flush: five cards of different numbers; all the same suit (e.g. three, seven, nine, 10, king of hearts)
- Straight: any five cards in order; different suits (e.g. seven spades, eight diamonds, nine diamonds, 10 hearts, jack of clubs)
- Three of a kind: three cards with the same number; different suits (e.g. five diamonds, five hearts, five clubs)
- Two pair: two lots of two cards of the same number (e.g. five hearts, five clubs, seven diamonds, seven spades)
- Pair: two cards of the same number (e.g. two spades, two diamonds)
For beginners, it is worth mentioning that although an ace is ranked as the highest card, it can also count as a one when producing straight hands. For instance, ace, two, three, four, five would count as a straight just as much as 10, jack, queen, king, ace, providing both hands have a mixture of suits.
The list above covers the standard rankings for card hands in video poker UK games. As mentioned earlier, there are variations to the game which are useful to know in case a good offer comes up on Best Deal Casinos for a slightly unusual one. Here are some of the most common deviations from the norm:
- Double joker: both jokers are included in the pack, acting as a pair of wild cards.
- Joker wild card: exactly the same as above, only with one joker instead of two.
- Jacks or better: where instead of a pair of jacks being the most common hand, you can add pairs of queens, kings and aces to that list also.
- Aces and faces: whereby the ideal hand is four face cards (i.e. jacks, queens or kings) or four aces.
- Deuces wild: the four twos become wild cards.
- Deuces and jokers: exactly the same as above, only with a joker thrown in as an extra wild card.
If you’re just starting out, then it’s best to find a website with good payout rates and learn their particular rules first. You can save the other variations for later.
Free online video poker games
This is one that tends to confuse beginners when they first enter a video poker website: if the company is trying to make money first and foremost, why do they offer the chance to play for free?
As illogical as it may seem at first, there are a handful of good reasons that it’s in a site’s best interests to offer free options. For starters, many people who have never played the game before – either video poker in particular or poker in general – may not want to commit their hard-earned money before they know what they’re doing. Given that it’s a game of skill as much as luck, your chances of winning are improved by your knowledge and it’s an understandable reaction to have, especially when dealing with less common variants of the game.
As a result of this, many people in this frame of mind may leave the site if free games aren’t available, never depositing a penny. However, if they’re given the chance to learn the craft then they’re more likely to stick around and eventually begin investing. That’s why it’s in the company’s and player’s best interests to have free options available.
To download or not to download off a video poker site?
Although the nature of the game stays the same either way, when entering these casino websites you will sometimes get the option to either play download or non-download versions. So what does this actually mean?
To download the game means to install software onto your computer that enables you to access the company’s system, and therefore play on their virtual tables. Sometimes you find that you need a certain type of computer in order to download a specific business’s software, or that you need to also install other programs alongside it. However, given that these companies have an incentive to be as inclusive as possible in order to recruit as many players as they can, this tends not to be an issue for the vast majority of people.
Once downloaded, players often have to register an account with the company which will ask them for their bank and other details, and to deposit some funds. This will be paramount for real money games, although it’s not always strictly necessary for free video poker options.
The alternative is the no-download option, which enables you to play for real money on the website without the need to download any software. Although it saves time not having to install extra software, you’ll still likely have to set up an account and deposit funds before you’re allowed to play. In some instances, companies allow you to play a select number of free games on their website, then ask you to download their software in order to continue playing.
Play video poker the right way
Having run through the basics of the game and what to expect when going on these sites for the first time, we’re going to end on a few pointers that are worth bearing in mind whether you’re a fresh newbie or a seasoned veteran.
Double check how to play the game – before going head first into any new website, make sure that you’ve double-checked what its payouts are and what variation of video poker it uses. It doesn’t matter whether or not you know how to play each and every type – if you don’t know which one you’re playing with, then all that knowledge goes to waste.
Practise a few free goes first to refresh your memory – video poker involves holding lots of different card combinations in your head, often alongside various strategies and schemes. Rush into a game when you’re half asleep or not properly focused and you’ll inevitably make a few mistakes early on, which will unnecessarily cost you money. It’s best to make these errors in a free game first, then get onto the real money tables once you’re sure your head is screwed on properly.
Slow yourself down – it’s not supposed to be a fast-paced, high octane game. Some people get nervous or feel compelled to act quickly in order to not leave others waiting. It’s your money that’s going to be at risk if you act hastily, so if you need an extra few seconds to make your decision, then take them gladly.
Don’t rely on vague hunches – it’s so easy to see an ace drop into an otherwise useless hand and start dreaming about what would happen if you swapped the rest for another three. Delusions like this cloud people’s vision, causing them to make non-sensical decisions rather than those which give them the best probability of winning. At all times, keep a clear head and only make moves based on logical sense.
If this feature has inspired you to try your luck on the virtual tables of the world’s most exciting game, then click on the links on this page and let’s get you off to a flying start.