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Choose Wisely and Win More

What’s the best video poker game for you?

By Jerry “Stickman” Stich


Decades ago when the first video poker games appeared there was only one type of game: Draw Poker. Video poker caught on because it appeared easier to play than table games. Because it was only the player against the machine and not a table full of other players, it was also less intimidating as there was nobody who would complain about how a hand was played.

As video poker became more common, game makers designed new games. They did this to make their games more exciting and to provide variety. In addition to Draw Poker there was Bonus Poker where a bonus is paid for some four-of-a-kind hands, Double Bonus Poker where four-of-a-kind hands are paid at least double, Double-Double Bonus Poker where in addition to paying double or more for four-of-a-kind hands, the concept of a “kicker” which enhanced payoffs even more was introduced.

Wild card games such as Deuces Wild and Joker Wild were developed. Eventually scores of different variations of video poker game were available to casino goers. Some increased the pays for certain hands to the level of a royal flush giving a player a much better chance for a huge score. Unfortunately, having multiple, very high paying hands requires payoffs for lesser hands be reduced to pay for the monster wins.

With so many different video poker games available, how does one determine the best game to play?

There is no simple answer. Just as each person has different likes. Each player may enjoy a different type of game.


A primary criterion is the payback of the game. The lower the payback, the faster the bankroll disappears. The faster the bankroll disappears, the lower the chance of hitting a royal flush or other jackpot-sized win.

Years back it was fairly easy to find games that returned close to 100 percent or more. Those glory days are long gone but there are still games that return 99 percent and higher. These are the games that should be sought out. If none are available, you should either play the game with the highest return you can find or simply don’t play. I personally will not play any game that returns less than 99 percent. I have worked hard to acquire my gambling bankroll and I refuse to waste it on a poorly paying game.


After a decent paying game, what is the next criterion? For me, it is tolerance for bankroll swings, also called variance. The higher the variance, the larger the swings—both up and down—in bankroll. The games that have several high-paying hands have higher variance.

In order to play these high variance games, the player must be able to ride out the sometimes very severe down swings. Having an adequate bankroll can help, but the player must also be able to handle these losses from an emotional standpoint. It is no fun feeding bill after bill into the machine and it can really get to most people. Another consideration is when the player has a fairly small bankroll it can be wiped out in a very short time on high-variance games.

If you have an adequate bankroll and can handle the emotional roller coaster of a high variance game, you may want to consider games such as Double Bonus Poker, Double-Double Bonus Poker, Triple Bonus Poker or any of the other games that have more than one very high paying hand.

However, if you want to throw something (or someone) through a window when you have a fairly long losing streak, it is much better to select a low variance game. Some good games are Jacks or Better, Bonus Poker, Deuces Wild, or Pick ‘Em / Pick A Pair Poker. These are among the lowest variance of all video poker games. Jacks or better has the lowest variance of any of these games.

Simple Playing Strategy

The last criterion is the complexity of the playing strategy. In order to get the highest return from any video poker game the proper playing strategy must be used. Some strategies are fairly simple, others more complex, and still others ridiculously complex.

If you are good at memorizing a long list of rules, perhaps you can handle any games. If, however, you have difficulty with this, selecting a game with a simpler playing strategy is the wise choice. I should point out that most casinos allow a video poker player to refer to a strategy card when playing. Having a strategy card to reference while playing greatly reduces the amount of studying and practice required to play well in the casino.

Of course, using the proper playing strategy is not an absolute requirement. It is your money to play as you wish. Using the proper strategy, however, does allow the player to stay in the game as long as possible, thereby giving the best chance of hitting a jackpot.

In order to know the return, variance and proper playing strategy for video poker games you need a computer program or app. Some are available that provide everything you need to play almost every game available. These cost money and take some time to learn, but it is well worth the expense and time.

In summary, choosing a video poker game to play is entirely up to the player. None of the preceding information needs to be used. But, making some intelligent choices in choosing and playing video poker will increase the fun by giving the best chance of winning. But in the end, it is up to you to decide.

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