One of the first things that video poker players learn is to pay attention to the pay table for the video poker game that they are playing. In the long run, the difference between a 9/6 and an 8/5 Jacks or Better machine is enormous.
(For the uninitiated, the “N/M” designation for a Jacks or Better machine refers to the payouts for a Full House and a Flush, respectively. The payouts for other winning hands are (usually) the same for all Jacks or Better machines, e.g. 1 for a high pair, 2 for two pair, 3 for a three of a kind, etc.)
Just like when playing video poker in a land-based casino, online video poker players should shop around and compare pay tables at various online casinos. This is a time-consuming process — I know because I have done it for three popular video poker games: Jacks or Better (JoB), Deuces Wild (DW) and Double Double Bonus (DDB).
What makes the comparison even more difficult is that not all online casino operators that run on the same platform (e.g. Real Time Gaming, Rival, BetOnSoft, etc.) have the same paytables, as operators are typically allowed to use whatever paytables they wish. So, you can’t look at just one online casino on each platform — you have to hunt for the best online casino on each platform.
Here is the expected return percentages for three popular video pokers, single handed, assuming optimal play and maximum coins in. For each variety of video poker, a green cell indicates the highest available return, yellow indicates a reasonable return, and red indicates a poor return.
It looks like the top three are pretty close, with Treasure Mile holding a slight edge over Slots Plus and Bovada. But look what happens when you compare the same games in their multi-hand varieties.
Treasure Mile offers the same return on its multi-hand video pokers as it does on its single hand video pokers, giving it the clear edge over Slots Plus and Bovada.
Beyond paytables, other factors may be important to consider, depending on your preferences and style of play.
- Keyboard shortcuts: Only Treasure Mile offers complete keyboard shortcuts (1-5 to toggle cards, spacebar to deal).
- Winning hands on the deal: All sites except for Treasure Mile indicate that you have been dealt a winning hand using either sound, by lighting up the appropriate row in the paytable on the screen or both. (Treasure Mile — if you are reading this — you really should make an improvement here.)
- Auto-hold winning hands on the deal: It’s curious to me that none of the top three sites in the table above offer this feature, while all of the bottom seven sites offer this feature.
- Denominations: For single-handed video poker, Treasure Mile has limits from a penny to $5; for Slots Plus and Bovada, the limits are a nickle to $5. All sites on the list have lower limits for multi-hand video poker, typically from 0.01 to 1.00.
Overall, Treasure Mile is the best choice for online video poker.
A note for beginners: You might want to look at 3Dice; their game selection is lacking, but their odds are top of the line on Jacks or Better, which is what you should play when just starting out. What 3Dice has that you might like is auto-selection of winning hands after the deal AND very good suggestions for which cards to hold after the deal if you are not dealt a winner. Their auto-suggestion engine does a good job in matching optimal strategy: for example, it offers to hold 4-straights and 4-flushes over low pairs, and only the lowest two high cards when dealt more than two unsuited high cards.