Video Poker Odds

Video poker and slot machines have enough similarities that it’s easy to assume video poker is a luck-based game, like slots. Video poker machines are in the same part of the casino as the slot machines, and video poker players interact with their machines the same way slot gamblers do. Video poker is similar to slot gaming in some ways, but the game has more substance than slot machine games.

Because video poker is based on five-card draw poker, the game rewards skill. Video poker players make in-game decisions that help determine the outcome of the game.

It’s impossible to evaluate the payout percentage for a slot machine game, because that’s determined by the random number generator inside the machine. But video poker odds can be calculated because of the payout table and the odds of hitting various poker hands. Since a video poker game simulates the actual odds of playing draw poker with a deck of 52 cards, all the information required to calculate the payout percentage is known.

What Are Video Poker Odds?

Video poker odds are based on a deck of playing cards. Machines that don’t have jokers use a 52-card deck and ones that have jokers usually use a 53-card deck. Read the rules for the game you’re playing to learn how many cards are used for the game.

The odds of drawing each paying hand are calculated based on the deck of cards and used to create the pay table and payouts. When the payouts and odds are combined you can determine the house edge and payback % for each game and pay table.

You don’t have to be a mathematician to try to determine how all of this works, because the hard work has already been done. You can find the house edge and payback % for popular games and pay tables on the pages on this site dedicated to each game.

But it’s important to know how to use the odds in your favor. You can learn more about this in the next section.

How to Use the Odds in Your Favor

Each hand you receive when playing video poker requires a decision or series of decisions. When you make the best decision it gives you the best chance to win. When you make the wrong decision it hurts your chances to win.

The best playing decision, or strategy, is based on the odds and possible payouts. If you’re playing Jacks or Better and have four cards to a flush with no pairs the best play is to keep the four cards to a flush and discard the one that isn’t the same suit.

When you do this you can determine the odds of hitting your flush because you know how many cards are in the deck and the value of five of the cards. The deck has 47 cards remaining and nine of them complete your flush.

This means that nine out of 47 times you hit your flush and 38 out of 47 times you don’t hit your flush. But when you have a card ranked jack or higher you can also pair it and have a paying hand.

It can quickly get complicated to track the odds and decide which hand you should draw to if you have two or more possibilities for paying hands. But all of the hard work has been done for you already.

Strategy charts have been developed using computers that show the most profitable play. All you need to do is play each hand according to the strategy chart and you use the odds in your favor.

The odds are important in relation to the payouts listed on the video poker machine. You’re going to learn more about video poker payouts in the next section, but you need to understand how they relate to the odds and how they change your chances to win.

It makes sense that a machine with a better payout chart is better than one with a worse chart. But many players don’t understand how big the difference is or choose to ignore it. The difference can be as big as 5% or higher between two machines with different payback charts.

The reason this is important is because even if you use the best possible strategy to improve your odds of winning, if you play on a machine with a bad payback chart you’re still going to lose more money.

This means that not only do you need to always use a strategy chart to improve your chances to win; you also need to play on machines with a good payout chart. We recommend playing on a NSUD Deuce Wild machine or a 9 / 6 Jacks or Better machine.

Video Poker Payout Table & Odds

Finding a video poker game with good odds is as easy as reading what payouts a game offers for different winning hands.

Here’s a payout table for full pay Jacks or Better

  • Royal Flush       800x
  • Straight Flush    50x
  • Four of a Kind   25x
  • Full House        9x
  • Flush                6x
  • Straight             4x
  • Three of a Kind 3x
  • Two Pair           2x
  • Jacks or Better  1x

Jacks or Better is the most popular video poker game. A pairs of Jacks or better is all you need for a win. And as your hand improves, your payout increases. But not every Jacks or Better Full Pay machine has the same payout table.

For example, full pay Jacks or Better asks the player to wager between one and five credits, with maximum payouts available only to players who wager the maximum 5 credits. The payout table for a Full Pay Jacks or Better game played at maximum bet looks like this

  • Royal Flush       4000x
  • Straight Flush    250x
  • Four of a Kind   125x
  • Full House        45x
  • Flush                30x
  • Straight             20x
  • Three of a Kind 15x
  • Two Pair           10x
  • Jacks or Better  5x

Notice that each payout is five times bigger than the standard Jacks or Better table described above.

Payback Percentage and Video Poker Odds

Full pay Jacks or Better boasts a payback percentage of 99.54%. That number comes from an analysis of how much the machine pays out for winning combinations and how often those combinations occur on average.  That number is based on an infinite number of games played with perfect strategy, which accounts for why sometimes video poker sessions earn you money and why sometimes you lose.

Video poker machines offer better payback percentages than any slot machine you’ll find, a big reason for video poker’s popularity. Here’s a short list of payback percentages for other popular video poker titles. All of these percentages are for the full pay versions of the games played with perfect strategy.

  • Aces & Eights 99.78%
  • Bonus Deuces Wild 99.86%
  • Bonus Poker 99.66%
  • Deuces Wild 100.76%
  • Pickem Poker 99.95%

The Full House to Flush Ratio in Jacks or Better

Video poker players classify Jacks or Better video poker machines by the ratio of payout between a Full House and a Flush. The payout table above is called a 9/6 Jacks or Better game because it pays out 9 units for a Full House and 6 units for a Flush. Video poker players seek out 9/6 machined because they offer the best odds.

More Video Poker Odds

Because video poker games, like traditional poker games, use 52-card decks, the odds are straightforward. Video poker players use their knowledge of the odds of building certain hands and the risk-reward ratio of trying to turn a winning hand into a stronger hand to build their strategy.

Improving Pairs    

On most online video poker machines, you need a high pair to get any kind of payout. Some machines, like Deuces Wild, don’t reward high pairs, requiring at least two pair. That’s why so much video poker strategy is based on the odds of turning a pair into a better hand.

If you’re trying to turn a single pair into two pairs, you have a 1 in 6 chance of pulling that off. Slightly less likely is turning that pair into three of a kind, which will happen on average once every nine times you try. Building a full house with your pair, by adding three of a kind, is likely to happen 1 / 12 times, while drawing to a four of a kind from a pair is the least likely pair improvement of all, at just 1 in 360.

Drawing to a Flush

The flush is a valuable hand in all varieties of video poker, and video poker players spend a lot of time trying to complete their flush. Since a flush is made up of five similarly suited cards, your best odds of building a flush come when you have at least 3 cards toward it. Your odds of drawing two cards to finish a flush are 1 in 24. If you have four suited cards and just need one to complete the flush, your odds are much better, at 1 in 5.  You are more likely to draw to a flush with four suited cards than you are of turning a single pair into two pair, so you should always draw to a flush when you have four cards toward it.         

Drawing to a Straight

Straights are harder to build. The best odds of drawing to a straight come when you’re one card short of an open ended straight, which gives you a 1 in 6 chance. Drawing a single card to an inside straight is twice as tough, at 1 /12 odds. But one of the most difficult moves in video poker comes when you have to draw two cards to a straight, which only happens on average once every twenty-three attempts.

Video poker odds are not difficult to understand. If you can do a little bit of math and understand the rules and hand hierarchy of draw poker, you can wrap your brain around the odds of winning at video poker. If you play the right machine, like 9/6 Jacks or Better, and you follow optimal video poker strategy, you can experience some of the best odds in the casino.