Complete Guide to Video Poker Variations
Whenever you log into virtually any top online casino, you’re sure to see a ton of different styles of video poker. This can make many players uncomfortable to try the games because there are so many to pick from, and here we want to make things more familiar so that you can more easily figure out which style of the game will appeal the most to you.
Introduction to the Range of Video Poker Options
Non-slot titles are often slammed by some players as not having enough variety, but video poker is generally seen as the exception to that rule. There are dozens of different styles of the game, and it’s a genre that offers all kinds of approaches to a relatively straightforward set of rules, much like online slots do.
With so many types of online video poker machines to pick from, it is in no way obvious which options will be the best fit for you.
To help players with this, here we have a total guide to understanding the existing options and what you can expect from them so that you can figure out which games will be a good fit and which will not. This information is key to having the best possible experience in the video poker genre because, like any other, if a game’s not a good fit, then you simply won’t have a good time.
A Note on Categorization
We are going to split up our categorization of these games into two sections. This determination is based on games that have wild cards and games that do not. We’re doing this in part for the sake of organization but also because the general gameplay style is different between these two groups of games, and that will make it easier for players to find titles that fit what they are looking for.
Within each category, when we list the title of the game, we’ll also offer the maximum payout rate for the best available pay table with correct strategy for easy reference.
With all of that said, let’s get started.
Non-wild Card Video Poker Games
There are a few key characteristics of these games as a group that are important to understand when you’re seeking out a title that really fits what you’re looking for.
- Video poker games without wild cards tend to have a lower volatility than their wild card-having counterparts.
- The lowest-paying hands are typically large pairs of some type in these games, which is different than wild card games that often require you to hit at least three of a kind for a win.
- There are generally more non-wild card options than games with wild cards, but the gameplay is often more similar.
If you’re just starting out in the genre, we really suggest that you learn the basics with video poker machines online that do not have wild cards available because it’s one fewer thing to have to juggle in your head while you’re figuring things out and trying to get comfortable with the gameplay.
Jacks or Better Video Poker (99.54%)
Jacks or Better is essentially the game that started it all. Virtually any online casino that has some type of video poker will have Jacks or Better, and it’s generally seen as the “core game” that all other non-wild card video poker games (and some games that do have wild cards) are based off of.
Learning solid strategies for this specific variation of the game is where we think most players should start off.
As the name implies, the game requires at least a pair of jacks to get a payout, but the real defining characteristics come from the different pay tables for this game.
The win amounts on the full house and flush amounts are listed as a pairing like 9-6, 8-6 or 9-5, and this offers a quick way to make sure that you’re getting the best pay table available for this game. You always want a 9-6 pay table with Jacks or Better video poker because anything else is simply losing money for no reason.
Overall, this is a game with a pretty low volatility and simple, straightforward strategies that are great for new players.
Two Ways Royal Video Poker (99.80%)
Two Ways Royal is also sometimes called Split Ways Royal. BetSoft and Playtech both carry this game, as do a number of other online casino software providers. This game plays almost exactly like Jacks or Better with one caveat:
A new hand called a “low royal flush” is added to the pay table for the same size win as a regular royal flush.
You achieve this new hand by getting 2-3-4-5-6 all in the same suit, and that adds yet another way to get a massive top payout. In exchange for this, the rest of the pay table is adjusted by switching the full house payout from 9x to 6x and the flush payout from 6x to 5x, resulting in what we could describe as a 6-5 pay table.
This game has a higher level of volatility than Jacks or Better, but you end up with double the ways to hit the top prize, and the strategies are very slightly more complex. Additionally, the house advantage with correct play is significantly lower.
Bonus Poker (99.17%)
Bonus Poker is a variation of Jacks or Better that offers additional payouts for certain types of four of a kind hands. You typically see this setup with the best pay table, which is known as the 8-5 table:
- Four of a Kind (Aces) – 80x
- Four of a Kind (2s-4s) – 40x
- Four of a Kind (5s-Ks) – 25x
- Full House – 8x
- Flush – 5x
For comparison, the win for four of a kind on a 9-6 Jacks or Better pay table is always 25x, so you’re getting at least what you would normally get for these hands. The bonus aspect comes into play when you receive four of a kind in aces, twos, threes or fours.
The strategies for this game are slightly different than Jacks or Better, but not overwhelmingly so, and it adds a little bit of extra variation to the game.
Double Bonus Poker (99.11%)
The gimmick here is that it takes the idea of Bonus Poker to another level with wins worth twice the listed amounts above for the three sets of four of a kind hands. However, that’s not the only key change:
The values of the full houses, flushes and straights have been changed to 9x, 7x and 5x, respectively.
In exchange for getting value added to all of these types of hands, the penalty that balances things out is that two of a kind hands only pay out 1x.
If you’re looking for a game that’s offers a different experience than Jacks or Better from a strategic standpoint without going too far outside of the box, then this is a good pick. The volatility of this game is also a bit higher, but not by a tremendous amount.
Note that there are also similar ideas with other variations like Double Double Bonus and Triple Bonus that aren’t super common online but that ramp up the payouts for four of a kind wins in exchange for lowering the value of two pair, three of a kind and straight payouts.
Aces and Faces Video Poker (99.26%)
A really common game online, to the point that it might actually be more popular online than in land-based casinos on a per capita basis, is Aces and Faces Video Poker.
Much like the styles of the game we noted up above, this game mostly just varies the sizes of the four of a kind payouts.
On the standard 8-5 pay table, you’ll earn 80x for four aces, 40x for four of kings/queens/jacks and 25x for four of a kind of other cards as usual.
The reason why this is such a notable game is that the strategies are almost identical to Jacks or Better except for some fairly rare fringe cases (note this is not the case for the regular Bonus Poker where the strategies are notably different in a variety situations). Along these lines, you can learn to play one game and have a strong strategy at both, which is great for when one title is available but the others are not.
Tens or Better Video Poker (99.14%)
Tens or Better is exactly what it sounds like: The rules are mostly just like Jacks or Better, but you can win with a pair of tens as well. We’re bothering to include this game in this index for a few key reasons:
- It’s the single video poker game with the lowest volatility of what’s widely available online or in land-based casinos. This leads to very low swings and very relaxing sessions.
- The strategies are easy to adjust from learning Jacks or Better, so you don’t need to learn a whole new game.
- There’s a trap pay table that we think players should know about.
Regarding our third point here, the main pay table is 6-5 with normal payouts everywhere else, including a 25x win for four of a kind, which gives it a very reasonable 99.14 percent top payout rate.
However, some casinos and software companies will try to trick players into using a pay table that’s identical except that the four of a kind payout is 20x instead, which drops the maximum payout rate to a miserable 97.96 percent.
We think it’s important for players to be aware of this trap and to know what to look out for to avoid falling for it.
The last non-wild title we want to look at is SupaJax, a progressive jackpot version of Jacks or Better that’s operated by Microgaming. It’s one of the most popular progressive video poker games out there, and it offers a really straightforward way to win.
There is an extra card added to the deck that is called the SupaJax card. If you get four of a kind in jacks with your fifth card as the SupaJax card, then you win the progressive jackpot.
The remainder of the pay table looks like a normal 7-5 layout except that the royal flush pays 600x instead of 800x. The progressive itself pays out €10,000 at a minimum, and this game is profitable to play in the long run if you have a jackpot of at least €52,500.
The payout rate for this game is based on the size of the jackpot with the following notable amounts:
- €10,000 (92.25%)
- €20,000 (94.08%)
- €30,000 (95.91%)
- €40,000 (97.73%)
- €50,000 (99.56%)
- €60,000 (101.38%)
This jackpot averages hitting at around €48,000 or so, but the biggest payout has been over €65,000, meaning that this game clearly becomes profitable at times.
This is the other most popular progressive Jacks or Better game, and it’s operated by Playtech. There is no gimmick card here, and you simply hit the progressive by making a royal flush.
What’s really notable about this title is that it’s got a standard 9-6 pay table for the rest of the wins, which helps to make it easily one of the most popular progressive jackpot games out there that’s not a slot.
This game forces a coin size of €0.25, and you’ll be profitable in it if the jackpot is worth more than €1,230.50.
Wild Card Video Poker Games
There aren’t as many video poker games with wild cards, but with the ones that are out there, there is more of a sense of variation between the games than what you get with the non-wild titles.
The basic dynamic for wild card video poker games is that you’re given easier opportunities to get better hands, so your average hand will actually be higher on the ranking chart of poker hands. However, in exchange for this, you generally have to get a better minimum hand to get a payout, and the wins for mid-tier hands are often worse than their non-wild counterparts.
With all of that said, these are some of the most in-depth casino games from a strategic perspective with some of these titles having more complicated and involved strategies than any other game you can find in any casino, so they’re particularly attractive for strategically minded players.
Deuces Wild (98.94%)
The idea behind Deuces Wild video poker is that you have the standard 52-card deck, but all of the two cards are wild and will substitute for whatever will give you the best possible hand.
In exchange for having 7.7 percent of the deck be turned into wild cards, you cannot get a payout with any single pair hand or any two pair hand. You need at least three of a kind for a payout in this game.
With the addition of so many wild cards, and this is something you’ll see in other wild card games as well, there are two additional hands added to the game. The first is “five of a kind,” and the second is a “wild royal flush.” A wild royal is a royal flush that uses at least one wild, and it gets a worse payout than what’s called a natural royal flush, which does not use any wilds.
You’ll also get a bonus payout for four of a kind in deuces that’s worth more than the five of a kind payout.
Strategically, this is an incredibly deep game, but the volatility is among the highest of any video poker variation out there, and it’s difficult to find a pay table that has as good of a payout rate as most of the non-wild card games.
Joker Poker (Variable)
Joker Poker is played with a 53-card deck where the extra card is a joker that can be used as a wild card to substitute for anything in the deck. This game also gets the five of a kind and wild royal flush additional hands, though they pay better than in Deuces Wild because they’re so much harder to get.
There are three variations of this game based on the minimum hand needed to get a payout. We list them here with the best payout rate generally found online:
- Kings or Better (99.29%)
- Aces or Better (98.42%)
- Two Pair or Better (98.59%)
The volatility of this game is actually quite low, and it’s only marginally higher than a game like Jacks or Better. A big part of the reason for this is that only about 10 percent of your starting hands will actually hold a wild, so the rest of the time, it’s like you’re playing a game with all non-wild cards.
From a strategic standpoint as well as a payout rate standpoint, we think that the Kings or Better variation offers the best experience. If you’re a player who is familiar with the basics of non-wild card games, but you want to make the transition over to something more complicated and exciting, then Kings or Better Joker Poker is a great place to make the jump.
Deuces and Joker Wild (99.07%)
In what is generally viewed as the craziest style of video poker out there because of the overwhelming action and large percentage of wild cards in the deck, we have Deuces and Joker Wild. It’s basically a combination of Deuces Wild and Joker Wild in that a joker has been added to create a 53-card deck, but the two cards are also wild, which leaves a whooping 9.4 percent of the deck as wild cards.
If you want a game that is strategically as deep as they come and full of tricky plays and tough spots, then this is where you belong.
The volatility is the highest that you’ll find for a game with no progressive jackpot, and the top payout is a hand that we haven’t seen before: five wild cards. If you get four of a kind in deuces with a joker as your fifth card, then you’ll pick up a huge jackpot of 2,000x that adds even more to the volatility.
With that said, the payouts for four of a kind, a full house or a flush are all just 4x, which can be frustrating for some players.
As you can see from all of the above, there is a tremendous number of video poker games available in the online casino world. However, there are tons of variations with even more variation when it comes to the individual pay tables, and that makes it really hard for new players to come in and find a game that fits what they’re looking for without wondering if they’re being fleeced.
With the above information, we’ve shown what you need to know to make your pick on the basis of house advantage, volatility and depth of strategy so that you can get in on the action without having to worry.