Video poker mistakes that will cost you big time

  • One of the biggest mistakes in video poker is not playing max coins.
  • Playing too high of a denomination can also be a huge mistake as well.
  • Not using video poker strategy charts can cost you over 2% in the house edge.
Ways You Can Find Free Casino Games to Play Online

Video poker is one of those casino games that isn’t as popular as blackjack or craps, but still has a pretty diehard following.

This is for good reason too, seeing as how video poker is one of the few games that gives the player a legitimate chance to leave with profits.

Like any skill-based game though, there is a right and wrong way to play. I’m going to show you some of the worst things you can do while playing video poker if you want to keep your bankroll at its current weight.

Not Using a Video Poker Strategy Chart

If you were going to Las Vegas to play jackpot carry anointment, would you try to figure out how to win that on your own? No, because there is no real way to go about doing so.

But if you were going to Vegas to play blackjack, would you try to figure out how to win that on your own? Similarly to the first example, the answer should once again be no.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to play the game, and using proper basic strategy (i.e., making all the correct decisions in every situation) will reduce the house edge to less than 1%. This makes it one of the easier casino games to beat, if you know what you’re doing.

Ununlike other games where the computer has to actively show you the right moves to make there are great resources available for free online that can teach you the right way to play.

One of the cardinal sins in video poker is failing to use a video poker chart. These charts tell you exactly what move to make in every situation.

Failing to use them is like trying to drive from New York City to Los Angeles without a GPS or map. You might get there eventually, but it’s going to take much longer than necessary and you’ll likely make many more mistakes along the way.

Incidentally, if you want a printed video poker sheet, we provide them for free here at

All you have to do is head to our video poker guide, click “Printable Guide” at the top of the page, and choose which version of the game you’d like to download. Our video poker guide also includes a great deal of helpful information if you’re looking to learn more about the game beyond just basic strategy.

Another option is to use the auto hold features at some online casinos.

After you’ve shuffled and hit the “deal” button, the software will hold the cards it deems the best based on an installed basic strategy. From there, you just need to hit the “autoplay” button to complete your decisions for the rest of the hand.

Not using a video poker cheat sheet is throwing away hundreds of dollars per hour. Don’t do that to yourself.

What Is Gamble Mode in Video Poker?

Some video poker machines offer a gamble feature, typically after a winning hand is dealt, that allows players to flip a card and double their money if they guess the correct color of the card, or even quarter the winnings by guessing the exact suit.

The short answer here is that you should never, ever use this feature.

I mean, sure—hitting the “Gamble” button and watching your $5 win turn into a $10 win brings about a little dopamine surge in your brain. And who doesn’t like a little feel-good chemistry happening in their gray matter?

However, every time you resist the urge to use the gamble mode in video poker, nothing happens. No endorphins are released, and you won’t feel any different when you’re done.

That’s because nothing in this world is free – especially at a casino.

The gamble feature in video poker has a house edge of roughly 50%, which means that in the long run, you’re expected to lose half of your money when you gamble.

Half of half of your money? Yep. The law of large numbers guarantees this, but in the short term anything can happen. Unfortunately, that’s why these machines are always popular. People win all the time in these things, so the folks that believe in gambling luck will inevitably be drawn to it.

Please don’t be those people. Ignore gamble mode in video poker like the plague. Your bankroll will thank you.

Ceasars Casino Games with the Best Payouts - Get Your Roman On

Note: If you’re interested in chasing feelings of euphoria while you gamble, I recommend Californian’s favorite slot machine Candy Bars XL for Stacks. The slot features a progressive jackpot that routinely climbs above the $800k mark, which is enough to make any gambler giddy.

Players who are new to the game will also appreciate the demo mode feature, which allows you to test drive the slot without risking any of your own cash. I recommend reading our Candy Bar XL review before giving it a try.

Holding the Wrong Cards in Video Poker

This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people release the right cards by mistake.

In the world of video poker, the buttons you click to hold or release cards are often right next to each other. It’s easy to accidentally press the wrong one, especially if you’re trying to multitask by holding a conversation or enjoying a cocktail.

Free Spins No Deposit UK - Top No Deposit Bonus Casinos 2023

The result, however, can be disastrous.

For example: let’s say you’re dealt four to a flush. You should obviously hold the three cards to a flush, but instead you release the right card by mistake. The following card that comes on reinsertion completes your hand, but you failed to hold the right card so you now only get credited with a straight.

Losing the flush pays 6 times more than the straight!

Mistakes like this can drive an already low video poker house advantage up into the 20%, 30%, or even 40% range. Ouch.

The solution is simple: quit multitasking while you play.

It can be tough to do, especially on the weekend, but losing that $10 Bud Light was not special enough for you to lose a hand of video poker.

Also, be sure to familiarize yourself with the hold buttons/touchscreen before inserting your money. Sit down, look at the screen and make sure you know what each button does. If you need to practice, ask the casino worker if they have any empty machines in the back that aren’t hooked up.

A little due diligence can prevent you from holding the wrong cards in video poker.

Not Rejecting the Initial Hand

Tangent alert: I recently had a root canal, which was by far the most painful experience of my life.

I remember the dentist saying, “I need to numb the area a little more,” about five different times. Each time he plunged that needle in a slightly different location, but the outcome was always the same: extreme pain followed by a fraction of numbness.

Each time I wanted to yell, “No! That didn’t work. Do something differently!” but of course I couldn’t, so the process just dragged on and on.

This scenario is similar to the player who gets dealt a substandard hand in video poker and decides to hit the “Deal" button again. Over and over.

You see, in video poker you are dealt five cards at the start of each hand. If you’re playing Jacks or Better, for example, you only need to hold on to any two Jacks or Better to qualify for the minimum payout.

Many beginners think this is the optimal strategy, but in reality you should be rejecting this type of initial deal nine out of ten times. Why? Because almost none of these hands will qualify for any payout other than perhaps just your bet back.

In order to win money at this rate you would need to hit a royal flush once every 69 attempts, which is considerably better than hitting the lottery.

Instead of meandering through a bunch of irrelevant examples, I thought it would be useful to include a video poker Hands Table that illustrates the difference between random hands and quality video poker hands.

As you can see from the table, less than 7% of the initial hands dealt qualifies for any payment other than a break-even bet back. In contrast, 44% of the hands generated after sifting through one or two rejects qualify for a payment.

The following video explains more about my point.

Casino Review UK - Slots & Other Games to Play

Long story short, if you’re dealt a non-winning hand, dump it and try again. The following hand may very well be your ticket to easy profits.

And for the love of God, stop acting like a Golden Retriever every time the dentist approaches with that needle.

Playing At a Casino With Below Average Payouts

This is another area where land-based and online video poker differ quite a bit.

When you play on the Internet you have two choices: balancing multiple accounts versus having one home casino. Many sites vary their payouts from game to game and even hour to hour, so it pays to shop around.

For example, during peak hours one site might offer 9x full pays 9/6 Jacks or Better at 99.5% RTP, while another offers 6x pays at 98.4%. A third site may have a more lucrative 10x pays at 100.1% RTP, but their video poker is slow on weekdays.

Thus it becomes a choice between that 100.1% RTP and the next best option of 99.5%. Since the difference between those two games is only 0.1%, it makes more sense to play the slower game that pays 9.5x on full houses.

When game and pay tables are equal, speed is an important consideration as well. Every click that is required detracts from your RTP, but 100.1% is not significantly better than 99.5%, so the extra clicks are worth it.

On a side note, some sites offer the full 100.2% RTP on certain games from 8 am to 4 pm when they are trying to lure in the locals from the brick and mortar casinos. If you’re near the same time zone as the casino that offers this deal, I highly recommend taking advantage of it.

Contrast this to the land based environment, where most casinos offer 9/6 Jacks or Better with a payout of 99.54%. Some cheapskate casinos will offer 8/5 pays, dropping the RTP down to 98.40%. But you have to hunt high and low to find 6x pays on final flushes, which drops the RTP to the point where it affects your bottom line.

The worst offenders are the casinos that offer 9/7 Jacks or Better, which pays 95.42%, a difference of over 4%. This is absolutely atrocious and there is no excuse for offering such a bad game. If the only casino in your vicinity offers this crappy game, then I suggest practicing using a video poker trainer.

Before you scoff at the idea of a video poker trainer, check out this article which includes a video showing just how effectively you can learn with one.

Top No Deposit Casinos That Offer Free Spins in the UK, 2023

In summary, always educate yourself on the various payouts for video poker before visiting the casino.

You can easily do this with a quick Google search, and sites like our very own online typically list all the critical info you need to know regarding payouts. Failing to research the video poker payouts is leaving free money on the table.

How Many Coins Should You Play When You Play Video Poker?

Most video poker machines have a selection button that allows you to choose how many coins you wish to wager on each hand. Most machines allow you to wager anywhere from 1 to 5 coins, or maybe even 10.

Newer players often assume that the more coins you wager, the more chances you have to win, but this could not be further from the truth.

In fact, most video poker machines feature a “coins in” multiplier. This means that for every coin you put in, your potential winnings are multiplied by that same value.

For example, let’s say you hit a Four of a Kind while betting just a single coin. Per the pay table, this is worth 20 coins. But if you had bet five coins, your Four of a Kind would be worth 100 coins (5 x 20 = 100).

Even if you had only bet one coin, and decided to “double up” by hitting the gamble button, your Four of a Kind would be worth 40 coins.

Best Online Casinos in America, As Ranked by Locals & Visitors

Most machines pay 9 x 6 for a full house and flush, meaning you need five coins to reach the maximum payout for a Royal Flush (a paid royal flush will pay 250 coins on a 1 coin bet, 1250 on a 5 coin bet, etc).

Here’s a handy dandy video poker coins in explaination.

As you can see from the table, betting fewer coins is a one way street to the cleaners. Even if you only want to bet a dollar at a time, consider betting five dollars worth of coins instead of only one. Sure, you’ll hit the jackpot less frequently, but when you do it will be by a multiple of five.

Incidentally, the optimal number of coins to bet in video poker will also affect the house edge. Fewer coins will drastically increase it, which is never a good thing.

If you enjoy playing video poker, always make sure you’re betting the maximum number of coins. Anything less is just leaving money on the table, plain and simple.

Playing Too High of a Denomination

This ties in closely with the previous section because the denomination of the game plays a role in both the house edge and how many coins you’re wagering on each spin.

Let’s take a quick look at the differences between a penny video poker machine paying 9/6 with a max coin in multiplier of 6, compared to a quarter machine also paying 9/6 with a max coin multiplier of 6.

At first glance it appears that the quarter machine has a lower minimum bet (67.5 cents vs $5), and it also has a lower maximum bet (trips of royals will pay $187.50 vs $375).

Furthermore, it appears that the quarter machine has a lower house edge (48.94% vs 51.02%), so aren’t we smart for finding the quarter machine?

Actually, no. We made a huge mistake comparing a penny 5 coin machine to a quarter 4 coin machine.

See, the only way to qualify for the maximum payout on the penny machine is to bet five coins at a time. So trips of royals will pay 5 x 200 = 1000 credits. On the quarter machine, the max payout is quad royals, which pays 160 x 250 = 40,000 credits.

So, not only can you make bigger bets on the penny machine ($25 vs $1250), but the penny machine also has a lower house edge (-4.98% vs -5.08%).

Someone please explain to me why anyone would willingly play the quarter machine?

I realize casinos lure customers in with the false advertising of “play a quarter machine” but in actuality the actual bets are closer to a dollar. For example, if your “bet max” is actually betting five coins worth of money, that’s $1.25.

Best Online Casinos in Pennsylvania January 2023 - AskGamblers

Similarly priced would be a machine that takes one dollar bills, where a single bet would be $10. I simply cannot fathom why anyone would willfully give up 0.16% in house edge, not to mention the ability to place larger bets.

By the way, if you’re wondering about taxes, all casino payouts of a certain amount must be reported to the IRS. In the US the threshold is currently $1,200. So yes, you’ll still have to claim that big royal flush win even though you were only putting a quarter in at a time.

Not Joining Slots Clubs While Playing Video Poker

Casinos offer comps to players based on their level of play. Typically slot machines track how many coins are wagered over a period of time, and players are then rewarded with free play, hotel rooms, food, drinks, shows, and other perks based on their level of play.

This is usually done through a slots club card, which fits into a holder on the side of the machine whenever you sit down to play. Some casinos will automatically dispense complimentary items to players who exceed a certain threshold, but for the most part you’ll have to sign up for the program yourself.

Surprisingly few video poker players utilize these programs, which is inexcusable.

Why? Well, video poker has a very low house edge, which means you have to play for hours upon end to accrue enough coin-in to receive comps. Right?


Let’s assume you visit the casino once a year for four days each trip. Assuming you devote four hours a day to video poker, that’s 16 hours a year, for a grand total of 64 hours in your video poker seat, total.

If you manage to achieve even a measly $2 hourly loss (many video poker players loss less than $1 per hour), that’s only $320 in coin-in for the year.

How much did you spend on your hotel room? Did you tip the maid? Those costs are directly traceable to your video poker play, yet I’ll bet a dollar that you didn’t come close to reaching that $320 threshold.

So what’s the answer? Simple – request your coins-in to be reset. Just call the slots club and ask them to reset your coin-in to zero. Now whatever you wager on your next trip will accrue towards receiving complimentary items.

Sure, you’ll have to call and reset it again, but that one phone call will save you quite a bit of money.

I know someone is going to bring up the concept of opportunity cost, so I’ll address it here. Yes, by spending an additional hour in the casino you’re missing an additional hour of fun with your family back at the hotel.

Nothing in this world is free, but the additional cost of the extra hour is not the complimentary items you’re receiving from the casino. Be reasonable with yourself – one extra hour of video poker per trip is plenty.

Believing in Superstition

“I’m due.” How many times have you heard that phrase – or worse, found yourself muttering those words aloud – during your lifetime of observing others play slot machines?

Probably hundreds, right?

Believe it or not, most people genuinely believe that slots go through cycles of “hot” and “cold”. Hot cycles supposedly increase your odds of winning, while cold cycles imply that the machine is due to go on a lengthy losing streak.

Some of these people will even extend this logic to video poker, assuming that if someone sat there for an hour and got nothing but trash, that they must be due for a monster hand. Thus they implore the server, “I gotta sit here for five minutes, right?”

video poker free on line

News flash: No. Absolutely not.

People who believe in superstition are often kind enough to leave their spot in the video poker machine bank when they stand up to use the restroom or get another beer. I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve sat down in a machine that the previous player spent dozens of dollars to go absolutely bust.

Guess what? I go bust just as frequently.

Look, sometimes you will stumble upon a hot machine. Sometimes you will get a great hand right after a terrible hand. Life is full of anomalies. Random events create erratic patterns all the time. Rainbows appear after rainstorms. Zebras stripedlessly.

Do you see what I did there?

Random events do not create predictable patterns. Ever. If they did, the stock market would be incredibly easy to master; the Get Rich Quick scheme would be a mainstay of every investment advisor’s portfolio; and gambling would be impossible for the casino.

Suffice to say that none of the above is true.

If you find yourself believing that superstition plays a role in video poker outcomes, snap out of it. It’s not healthy.

Oh, and one last thing: getting up to urinate every twenty minutes will not hurt your results, either.

Thinking You Have a Good Day Because You Got Lucky Once

Have you ever watched a slot machine player depart from the casino with a $100 bill proudly protruding from their wallet?

Of course you have. We’ve all seen it. Often this person has been putting only a nickel or a penny in the machine, and was just now switched over to feeding fives and even ones.

What just happened? Did they acquire a lucky charm? Did they solve the mystery of video poker play?

Nope. They got lucky. That’s it.

Let’s examine the possibilities. The person started feeding pennies, perhaps hoping to work their way up to bigger currency. They may have played for an hour or more at a solid loss before finally hitting a bonus or possibly a jackpot.

At this point they switch to nickels and begin to play. Again, let’s assume they play for another hour or more before working their way up to a quarter, then a dollar. Finally they graduate to feeding fives out of that $20 bill, and on their very first spin they hit a jackpot or maybe a big bonus, and now they’re playing tens or even hundred dollar bills.

Finally they cash out, pocket that $100 bill, and saunter out of the casino patting themselves on the back for a job well done.

The problem? That player probably lost quite a bit of money prior to hitting that one big jackpot or bonus. Maybe even hundreds of dollars worth.

I cannot emphasize this enough: .

Some players will ride that dollar or higher bet to profits, but eventually they’ll go bust. Then what happens? Do they learn from their success, and attempt to mimic the behavior that led to it?

Absolutely not. They return to their penny coin-in, oblivious to the fact that – statistically speaking – they are decreasing their odds of winning.

🎰 What are the Odds in Baccarat - House Edge, Payout & Chances Explained

This mistaken belief that they’re a “lucky player” drives their decision making, when in reality they simply caught a wave of variance. It will crash. It always does.

Don’t fall victim to this trap. Understand that winning and losing streaks are just part of the game, and sticking to an optimal coin-in will help balance out the variance.

Think I’m crazy? Read more about how video poker variance works.

Mistakenly Thinking You Can Beat Video Poker Without Bankroll Management

Every casino game features action-per-hour (APH) loss rates that vary quite dramatically. Some games are ideal for high APH losses, while others are suitable for low APH losses.

Video poker falls into the latter category, with most experts estimating the breakeven APH loss rate to be around $1 to $5 per hour. Some good video poker players can lose $2-3/hr, but most of us should expect to lose approximately $5 for every sixty minutes in the chair.

Compare that to slot machines, which can handle astronomical loss rates. Not uncommon is to lose $100-$200 per hour on slots, which means you need twice the bankroll to compete on a slot machine as you do on video poker.

Bankroll management is an absolute necessity in gambling, particularly in a negative expectation game like video poker.

The purpose of bankroll management is to ensure that fluctuations do not wipe you out. Everyone goes broke from time to time. Eventually we will all get stuck in a bad downturn of variance that wipes us out. It’s inevitable.

What’s not inevitable is going broke due to insufficient bankroll management.

For instance, let’s assume you have a small bankroll of $1000 and you decide to play a negative expectation game at $20/hand on video poker. At $5/hour your breakeven APH loss rate, you’re putting 40X your typical hourly loss into the game.

At 40X, you only need to lose 3.2 hours in a row to wipe out completely.

That’s not very likely to happen through normal variance, but it can happen quite quickly if your bankroll is insufficient for the game you’re playing. If, however, you drop down to $5/hand, you’re now only putting 10X your hourly loss into the game. To wipe you out, you would need 8 losers in a row. That’s still unlikely, but infinitely less likely than 3.2 in a row.

Incidentially, the optimal ratio of bankroll to video poker buy-in is 25X to 50X. This assumes that you will experience catastrophic losses once per session on average.

Perhaps you’re dropping a royal flush every 25-50 sessions, or perhaps you’re making big new player mistakes that wipe you out. Whatever the case, having a bankroll of 25-50X your buy-in will help spread out those crushing losses over time.

Playing Like a Newbie Despite Having Experience

Last, but certainly not least, is the idea that you can approach video poker with a novice mindset and still hope to win.

Remember, video poker has a relatively small house edge. Jacks or Better with a 9/6 pay table and maximized coins in has a house edge of just 0.51%.

Double Double Bonus with the same pay table and max coins in drops to just 0.35%. Compare that to the average slot machine, which has a house edge of 4-10%.

Because of the low house edge, it’s possible to negate much of the casino’s advantage through sheer volume of play. Instead of hunting for the +ev hands, perhaps you can make up for your novice play by simply playing for more hours.

I doubt seriously that this is an intentional strategy, but I’ve certainly witnessed players who act like newbies despite years of gambling experience in other games.

One example of this occurred when I witnessed a friend playing roulette. He immediately excoriated the dealer for taking a $100 chip out of the rack and placing it behind the 0. “That’s a useless bet,” he hissed.

He went on to explain that he’s a professional video poker player in town for the bi-annual gaming expo, and spends countless hours in the chair during his two or three day visit. He considers himself an expert at Jacks or Better.

“But this is roulette,” I replied. “Spin a wheel, every number is independent of every other number, done. See? Easy.”

“No,” he responded. “Easy is sitting down at a video poker machine with six thousand different ways to win. Hard is sitting down at a roulette wheel and praying.”

Best Social Casinos To Try On Your Phone (Wagner's Picks) - PokerListings

We argued back and forth about the relative merits of the two games until the dealer took pity on him and refused to place any more of her $100 chips behind the 0.

Eventually we returned to the video poker room, and that’s when I witnessed his tragic flaw.

He held four cards to a straight, three of which were high cards. By retaining the high cards he was able to discard the two lowest cards and complete his straight while maintaining four cards to a potential flush or higher.

Conversely, had he picked up the two lowest cards, the best hand he could have hope for would have been a single pair. Keeping the high cards gave him much greater versatility, which is the entire point of video poker basic strategy.

But here’s the kicker: instead of drawing five new cards, he drew only one. He ended up holding three of a kind and grabbing a fourth to make a set.

I wanted to scream at the television.

Drawing five to a royal flush is always superior to holding any four card major made. Even if you hit a royal with your four card major, you’ll only pull in a 200x multiplier of your bet. If you bet five coins and draw five cards, you’ll win 1250x your bet, a whopping six and a half times the payback of hitting the royal with four cards.

Needless tosay, I schooled him for the rest of the trip.

My friend is not a dumb guy. He’s a brilliant mathlete who scored in the 99th percentile on his SAT tests, and he’s parlayed his genius with numbers into a comfortable living as a professional video poker player.

Yet when it came to basic strategy, he sucked. Horribly. Painfully. Awful.

The moral of this story? Never, ever forget the basics. Video poker is a negative expectation game won one hand at a time. It doesn’t matter if you understand the mathematics of probability inside and out. It doesn’t matter if you’ve written a dissertation on game theory. None of that matters if you fail to implement the video poker strategy.

Your strategy card is your Bible. Follow its commandments, or suffer the consequences.

Avoid These Video Poker Mistakes – Or Pay the Price

As the old saying goes, those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Hopefully this article has shed light on some of the biggest pitfalls facing video poker players today, and you’ll be more aware of these common mistakes.

For more information about video poker, check out our guide to understanding video poker pay tables next.


  • John Grochowski is a nationally known gambling authority who has written several outstanding books on slot machines. His book on video poker is titled , and it’s an exceptional resource for beginners and advanced players alike.
casino in united states

J.W. Paine is one of the most experienced writers at He's written for television and the prints publications, and is knowledgeable about just about every game.

When he's not writing about gambling, Paine works as a novelist under the name James Paine.