Comparing the Most Popular Video Poker Variants

From the neon-lit floors of Las Vegas to the convenience of your smartphone, video poker has not only withstood the test of time but has evolved into an online gambling sensation. Unlike slots, video poker blends the thrill of the digital deal with the strategy of poker to create an experience both casual and hardcore players can enjoy. Video poker variants are as diverse as the players themselves, each offering a unique spin on the classic game. In this comprehensive analysis, we’ll explore three video poker favourites, from Deuces Wild to Double Double Bonus, to help you not only understand the core differences but also to arm you with the strategies to win.

What Sets Video Poker Apart

Video poker is the perfect storm for many online gamblers. It’s a game where skill can actually make a difference, unlike the pure chance of a slot machine. And with the option to choose from various pay tables and tweaks to the game structure, the player has significantly more control over their gaming experience and potential return. The key changes lie in the structure of the hand and the value of certain combinations, which we’ll explore further in each variation.

Jacks or Better

Jacks or Better is the closest to standard poker you'll find when it comes to video poker. The usual qualifying hand is a pair of jacks, and then the traditional poker hierarchy takes over—two pairs, three of a kind, straights, flushes, and on up to the royal flush. The appeal of Jacks or Better comes from its simplicity and the guarantee of a payout if you hit that minimum pair requirement. However, its simplicity doesn't diminish the skill involved in knowing which cards to keep or discard.

Deuces Wild

Deuces Wild throws a wild card—the number 2—into the mix. In this version, Deuces are Wild (hence the name), able to substitute for any card to form the best possible hand. This unique feature changes the game drastically, now with three hands that weren’t previously possible due to the Wild functionality. It also means new payout structures and a reevaluation of what a strong hand looks like.

Double Double Bonus

Double Double Bonus amps up the reward potential by offering increased payouts for certain high-value hands. Players will typically see significant changes in how they approach pairs, straights, and flushes, as these hands hold different weights in this variation. While the strategies for Jacks or Better can form a basis, the Double Double Bonus requires some of its own, especially when it comes to dealing with a kicker.

Strategic Gameplay in Video Poker

Understanding the rules of each game is just the first step. To truly excel in video poker, you must develop a strategic mindset that increases your odds and, ultimately, your wins. Here are some tips tailored to each variation to guide you on your path to the royal flush.

Jacks or Better Strategy

With Jacks or Better, the name of the game is plenty of small wins to keep you afloat until you hit bigger hands. Always keep high pairs and three to a royal flush over three to a straight flush. If you have a four-card straight with at least one high card, go for the straight, and keep the high card if you have more than one along with the four-card flush. Remember, the goal is not just to win but to maximise your wins, which sometimes means sacrificing a smaller pair for a potentially higher payout.

Deuces Wild Strategy

In Deuces Wild, the strategy takes an innovative turn. Because the presence of wild cards enhances the chance of getting strong hands, the game becomes about hunting down opportunities for explosive wins. Always keep a deuce, and typically, your winning hands will be that much stronger for it. When dealt hands without a deuce, prioritise any natural royals and straight flushes but be ready to discard almost anything for a chance at that wild royal.

Double Double Bonus Strategy

Double Double Bonus is all about the kickers, those additional values in your hands. Make sure you’re always playing with the best possible return in mind. If you have a pair of aces with a kicker, discard the unpaired card for a chance at quads, and play your suited ace-king high over the off-suit version for the potential flush. These decisions can mean the difference between a good session and a great one.

Assessing the House Edge

Each video poker variation boasts a different house edge, which is the casino’s built-in advantage. Understanding the house edge can help you pick the most favourable games and make the most strategic plays. A lower house edge generally means more equitable odds in the long run, giving you better chances of walking away a winner.

Jacks or Better House Edge

The house edge for a standard paytable in Jacks or Better can be as low as 0.46% if perfect strategy is employed. This is part of the reason for its enduring popularity—it's a reasonably fair game that also offers good winning potential.

Deuces Wild House Edge

Deuces Wild tends to have a slightly higher house edge than Jacks or Better, often around 0.76%, due in part to the advantage wild cards give the player. However, when played with optimum strategy, Deuces Wild can still be one of the fairer machines on the casino floor.

Double Double Bonus House Edge

Double Double Bonus is akin to Deuces Wild in terms of house edge, hovering around 0.96% for its standard paytable. Although a bit higher than the other variations, the increased payouts for certain hands make it a lucrative choice if you prefer high volatility games.

Popular Variations Go Head to Head

When it comes to choosing your battle, each video poker variation offers its own flavour and challenge. Which is best for you?

Paytable Comparison

The Devil's in the details, and with video poker, these details lie within the paytable. For all game variations, the paytable directly impacts the house edge and game economy. A good paytable can shift the balance in your favour, so it's crucial to pick a machine with the highest returns for your desired variation.

Payout Structure

The multiplication factor for payouts on key hands can differ significantly between variations. Jacks or Better might be straightforward, but it has the lowest volatility of the three. Meanwhile, Deuces Wild's payouts are less frequent, but the potential highs rival Double Double Bonus, which is known for its roller-coaster payouts.

Unique Features and Appeal

No two video poker variations are the same, and what attracts players to each differs. Jacks or Better is often the entry point with its straightforward gameplay. Deuces Wild is the middle ground with its wild card element, offering a mix of steadier wins and the potential for lucrative hands. Double Double Bonus attracts risk-takers with its high volatility and amplified returns.

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