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Video poker is a popular casino game combining the rules of poker with the mechanics of slot machines. In fact, video poker can actually be seen as the predecessor of slot machines, as the first slots were based on poker hands. But, of course, a lot has happened since the invention of the first games.

Today, video poker can be found at most land-based and online gambling establishments. The game is normally based on five-card draw poker and is quite easy to play if you are familiar with poker hands. But there are many different versions available, all with their unique rules and payouts.

If you are interested in the game but don't know how to start playing, we are here to help. In this video poker guide, you can learn everything you need to know to start playing video poker for free or for real money.

History of video poker

As mentioned, the history of video poker can in one way date back all the way to the first slot machines. In the 1890s, precursors to the modern slot machine were invented. This included a gambling machine from Sittman and Pitt of Brooklyn, New York that contained five drums holding 50 card faces. The drums would spin and reveal a combination of five cards, which the player hoped would be a good poker hand. Of course, these were "poker machines" rather than "video poker", but the game had some of the same mechanics.

The first real precursors to today's video poker were produced almost a hundred years later, in the 1970s. This was when the first personal computers were introduced, opening the market for video-generated games. The games were installed at casinos in Las Vegas and beyond, but did not catch that much traction at first.

In 1979, the company SIRCOMA (Si Redd's Coin Machines) introduced Draw Poker. Si Redd had tried to pitch video poker games to Bally Gaming in the mid-1970s, but the idea was rejected. Therefore, Si was allowed to take the patent and within a few years, this new game technology became a big hit. SIRCOMA is today known as IGT (International Game Technology) – a well-known gaming company.

After the introduction of Draw Poker, video poker increased in popularity in the 1980s. Since then, video poker has become a staple game offered at most casinos. And with the introduction of online casinos, online versions of the game were developed too. While it might never reach the same popularity as slot games, video poker has become a clear player favorite due to the combination of luck and skill.

How to play video poker

Playing video poker is quite easy once you have an understanding of some poker rules and hands. Most game versions are based on five-card draw poker. What this means is that you will be dealt five cards to start with, but you can choose to draw new ones to make a better hand.

In order to start playing, you first need to place a bet and click on the "Deal" button. You will then see five cards on the screen. If you wish, you can click to discard one, several, or all of the cards in exchange for new ones. After this second draw, the cards on the screen will show your final hand.

Depending on your result, you might get a payout. Normally, the minimum score you need for a payout is a pair of jacks ("Jacks or Better"). Other than that, normal poker hands such as the following will result in a win:

  • Two pairs (for example 2, 2, J, J)
  • Three of a kind (for example 2, 2, 2)
  • Straight (5 cards of consecutive value no matter the suit, for example, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
  • Flush (5 cards of the same suit)
  • Full house (Three of a kind plus a pair, for example 2, 2, J, J, J)
  • Four of a kind (for example 2, 2, 2, 2)
  • Straight flush (5 cards of consecutive value in the same suit)
  • Royal flush (10, J, Q, K, and A in the same suit)

The game will automatically pay out if you have a winning hand, but it can be good to know these different hands so that you know what result you are aiming for. Which cards will be drawn are completely random and fully up to luck. Nevertheless, the game does require some skills and tactics in terms of knowing which cards to hold and which to discard in any given situation. This means that while video poker doesn't technically require any skill or former knowledge, it will definitely be a positive to get the best outcome.

Different variants of video poker

The most typical version of video poker is Jacks or Better, as described above. But there are also other variants available that can accept other types of hands – or in another way come with different rules. This includes Tens or Better (accepting a pair of ten as a minimum), Joker's Wild (including a joker in the deck), and Deuces Wild (where twos act as a joker).

How to play video poker online

As video poker is created as a video-generated version of table poker, the game also works very well online. Here you will see everything on your screen and click on virtual buttons on the screen instead of physical ones on a machine.

Other than the slight difference in layout and technology, online video poker works exactly the same as video poker machines. The aim is to create the best five-card hand depending on the variant you are playing, and payouts happen automatically after you have completed your draws.

One thing that is great about playing in one of the best online casinos is that you have a lot more options to choose from than at your average land-based casinos. Thanks to modern technology and the growth of casino game developers, new online casino games are introduced all the time – including video poker. You can open a game selection and quickly change from one game to the next directly on your device, in order to find your favorite versions.

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