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The complete guide to video poker

The complete guide to video poker


Pardon the pun, but poker is hands down the most iconic casino game of all time.

First formalised over two hundred years ago, poker has proved a lasting favourite among both casual and more advanced betting fans across the world. Much of the mass appeal of poker has to do with its complexity: while the basics are relatively easy to pick up, it has an almost unending amount of complexity and strategy when played at more advanced levels.

Now played at the highest skill levels across the world, with thousands of professional players making a living from the game, the popularity of poker has never been higher. The rise of the internet has had a massive impact on poker in this regard, and online casinos attract millions of players across the world with games ranging from low to high stakes. Here at Bitcasino, in particular, we have so many incredible all-time favourite poker games, including numerous video poker options, our players just love returning time and again to try their hand against the dealer.

This popularity, however, means that for beginners looking to start playing for the first time, trying to get to grips with the game can be a daunting task. With that said, the following guide will provide you with a beginner’s guide to this most storied of card games, from the basic rules to some more advanced strategies and tips that will ensure you don’t get steamrolled when playing your first hand.

The basics

In a typical poker game, players are dealt several cards from a 52-card deck. Some of these cards, or all of them depending on the game, are hidden from the other players. Players will make bets based on how strong they think their “hands” are relative, to the other players. The play will progress in rounds of betting, with the players thinking they have the strongest hands betting the longest. At the end of the game, the person with the best hand wins the prize or the pot.

Types of games

Although the basics remain relatively consistent across game types, several variations have developed, each with their own take on this basic formula. The most popular variations are as follows.

  • Texas hold’em: The most popular version of poker currently played which features in high-level tournaments across the world. Here, players are dealt two “hole” cards visible only to the individual players, and five community cards that are dealt in the centre of the table. The objective is to make the best possible hands using the community cards. Out of the community cards, three will face up (the flop) and the other two will face down (the return and the river). Players will bet both before and after the flop and then following the return and the river.
    Curious why it's so popular? Check it out for yourself with our very own Bitcoin Texas Hold'em.

  • Five-card draw: The name of this game type refers to the five cards each player receives in their hand. Players are then given the option of replacing those cards to improve their hand. The “draw” is made, and unwanted cards are thrown out of the hand, which are then replaced with new cards from the deck. Bets are placed both before and after the draw, with a showdown taking place for the final pot.
  • Seven-card stud: In this form of poker, the player is dealt seven cards, some of which will be face up and the others face down. The player must then assemble the best five-card hand they can from that initial seven card hand. Although like Texas hold’em, seven-card stud is differentiated as the cards are not shared by the table and belong to the individual.
  • Jacks or better: Also known as “draw poker,” this is one of the most popular types of video poker. Here, payouts begin when you hold a hand of jacks or better, meaning players are more likely to receive a payout. Players are dealt five cards, which they may keep or discard in search of a better hand, with payouts starting from a pair of jacks.
    Don't take our word for it, play it now with our exciting, real-time Jacks or Better Video Poker.
  • All American video poker: Similar to “jacks or better,” this version pays much better for flushes, straights and straight flushes. The only downside is payouts will be lower for full houses or pairs, so make sure you're aware of this before you start.
  • Tens or better: This allows for payouts from a pair of tens. Payouts will usually be lower all around as a result.
  • Joker’s wild: In this version, the joker is a wild symbol that substitutes for other symbols to make better hands. This fresh spin on the traditional rules really brings out a new dynamic to the game. If you think you're ready to build your game, there's no better place to start than with our Joker Poker option.
  • Deuces wild: Here, all 2s are wild. The payouts for four of a kind hands are much bigger in this version and will usually come up more often.

Common hands

A player’s “hand” refers to the cards they hold that were dealt to them by the dealer. Your “hand” begins at the beginning of the round when you receive the cards and ends when the round is won or you fold. In Texas hold’em, your hand will consist of the cards dealt to you and the community cards. The aim of the game is to have the strongest possible hand. With that said, see below for a list of the common hand types you will look to have, each with varying degrees of strength in comparison to the others.

  • Royal flush: The best possible hand that beats all other. It consists of a ten, jack, queen, king, and an ace, all belonging to the same suit. This is an incredibly rare hand.
  • Straight flush: The second-best hand, it involves having cards all from the same suit. For example, 5 to 9 of hearts would be a straight flush.
  • Four of a kind: A hand made up of four of the same cards from any suit and completed with the highest possible community card on the table.
  • Full house: A combination of a three of a kind with a pair thrown in.
  • Flush: Five cards of the same suit in no specific order. If two players have a flush, the player with the highest card in the flush wins.
  • Straight: Five cards that follow each other in ascending order but not necessarily of the same suit.
  • Three of a kind: A three-card hand completed with the two highest cards on the table.
  • Two pairs: A hand with two different pairs of the same suit and completed with the highest community card available.
  • Pair: A hand with two cards of the same kind, completed with three of the highest community cards.
  • High card: A hand in which the player has only a single high card

Getting the most out of a game

It can be very easy to find yourself on the losing end of a bad hand very quickly in a game of poker. Often, this is purely down to luck and is completely beyond your control. However, there are some tips to consider that can ensure you are able to make the best out of the hands you are dealt. With that said, please note the following tips which might help you avoid a downward spiral.

Avoid playing bad hands: This sounds like a simple trick, but a failure to heed this advice causes a lot of losses for newer players. If you enter a pot with a less than stellar hand, it's more than likely you will see a poor result. Make sure you can always justify why you are entering a pot and playing a given hand rather than desperately clinging onto the hope that luck will shine on your side. Being honest like this means you can nip bad hands in the bud rather than letting them spiral out of control.

Over/under betting the pot: When playing poker online, you have the full value of the pot readily available. Take advantage of this by figuring out what the best amount to be is on a given hand. This will help you avoid losses. There’s no point losing big money on a small pot!

Underselling yourself: If you think you have an amazing hand, don’t be completely afraid to make strong bets. Needlessly bluffing with small bets when you have a strong hand sometimes simply helps your opponent lose less money. Don’t undersell yourself with small bets if you know you have a winning hand.

Not considering playing styles: Beginners often fail to consider either their own playing style, or their opponents, when making playing decisions. For example, if your opponent usually likes to play very tightly, making smaller bets but not quite bluffing, take note of this. This will help you get a better overall read of the table and avoid betting big when you should not. Similarly, you should try and develop an awareness of your own playing style. If you don’t, you might become too easily read by other players.

Ignoring the table: New players often get so caught up in their own hands and the size of the pot that they forget to consider the table at all. To avoid this, keep yourself aware of what’s going on at the table. Who’s betting? When are they betting? How are they betting? These are all important things to consider and will help you make better-informed wagers.

Self-control: the key to avoiding beginners’ mistakes?

One of the biggest issues facing players of all levels, but particularly newer players to the game, is self-control. Without self-control, even the most seasoned veteran can turn a winning hand into a loss that seriously diminishes your bankroll. Much of this is rooted in not only a lack of discipline, but also a lack of confidence in your judgement. With that said, developing an iron will in a high-pressure game can be the difference between breaking even and suffering a hefty loss.

For some, self-control will come over time as you gain more and more experience, practicing as often as you can right here with us at Bitcasino. This will give you a better sense of when you have a truly bad hand and it’s time to fold versus those times when you simply lack confidence in your understanding of the game. Playing more games allows you to build up the experience that will give you greater confidence in your playing decisions, and with this will come better self-control about when to fold and when to up the ante. As part of this learning experience, take the opportunity to reflect on a bad hand, and analyse whether your decision was the right one. This exercise should help to quash any lingering self-doubt.

Staying focused

Although playing poker online is today one of the most popular ways to play the game, there are definite downsides to this type of game. The most pressing of these is how easily distracted you can become when playing a game. You might not have a crowd around you watching your every move, like you would in a real casino, but there are plenty of other distractions to ruin your concentration. In a slower-paced game particularly, new players might find their minds wandering, often hopping between social media feeds and news sites in between turns. This is a sure-fire way to lose focus and consequently to quick loses. As such, it is sensible to close all other unrelated tabs when playing. Putting your phone on silent also helps with this, as does playing in a room without other distractions. A loss of focus can also set in when you are feeling tired or run down. So with that said, try to play only when you feel fully up to it and are well rested. Remember, taking an evening off doesn’t cost you anything and could result in bigger gains when you return.

Here are some quick tips to keep you focused during a game.

  • Turn your phone on silent
  • Take notes on a piece of paper
  • Analyse your hand
  • Choose a player to focus on

Getting started

If you feel that you are ready to start building up your bankroll, simply sign up for a Bitcasino account and start practising in some live games. Setting up an account is completely free, and you can choose to play games with a range of stakes starting from free-to-play. A complex game, such as video poker, takes a lot of time to get fully to grips with, so sign up today and get playing.

Words: Sean McNulty
Images: PA and Deposit Photos


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