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Video Poker Glossary

GlossaryVideo poker is a popular casino game that combines the strategy of poker with the simplicity of slot machines. To fully understand the game and its various nuances, it’s important to be familiar with the unique terminology used in video poker. This glossary provides a comprehensive list of terms that every video poker player should know from the basics like “Royal Flush” and “Wild Card,” to more advanced terms like “Sequential Royal Flush” and “Strategy Card.” Whether you’re a seasoned player or just starting out, this glossary is an essential reference tool for mastering the game of video poker.


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Video Poker Glossary

Whether you’re a novice or an experienced player, this page serves as a valuable resource for anyone looking to enhance their understanding of video poker. Here, you’ll discover an extensive collection of definitions for commonly used video poker terms, along with a selection of standard poker terminology and slang.


86: Being 86ed refers to a player being banned from a physical casino. While it typically happens due to card counting in blackjack, the casino has the right to refuse service to anyone. Video poker (VP) players need not worry about this as it’s not an issue at online casinos.


Action: The amount of money wagered by the player.


Bank: A group of machines placed together in a land-based casino, often sharing a theme or design. Examples include a bank of video poker machines or a bank of progressive slots.


Bankroll: The total amount of money a player has set aside for gambling. A responsible gambler stops playing when their bankroll is depleted, without dipping into personal savings.


Bob Dancer: An expert video poker gambling author known for his newspaper columns and radio broadcasts. His most famous work is the novel “Million Dollar Video Poker.”


Bust: A video poker hand that doesn’t improve after drawing additional cards.


Cash Out: The button on a land-based machine that converts a player’s credits into cash, awarded via the coin tray. In some cases, a printed ticket is generated, which must be taken to a cashier for payout.


Card counting: When a player is keeping track of the cards being dealt to gain an advantage.


Coins: In video poker, coin payouts are listed on the paytable and range from one to five. The value of each coin is determined by the denomination of the game. For example, a $1 machine would have a single coin worth $1 and five coins worth $5.


Comps: Free perks given to frequent players or high rollers to encourage their continued patronage. Common comps include meals, airfare, hotel accommodations, and show tickets.


Cowboy: Slang term for a king card in poker.


Denomination: Refers to the value of the cards or the value of the coins wagered by the player.


Deuce: Another term for a card with the number two.


Discard: The act of getting rid of one or more cards from the initial hand by pressing the “Discard” button. The discarded cards are then replaced by new ones, and the final hand’s strength is determined.


Draw: The replacement cards obtained when a player chooses to discard one or more cards from their original hand.


Drawing Hand: A term used when a player’s initial hand needs improvement to achieve a payout.


Expected Return: The amount of money a player can expect to receive from a video poker machine in the long run. To calculate the expected return in dollars, multiply the expected return percentage (converted to a decimal) by the player’s total wager.


Expected Value: The likelihood of a play resulting in a payout. When faced with multiple options, a smart gambler chooses the play with the higher expected value (EV). Strategy cards are useful as they provide the best EV for all possible hands.


Face cards: Cards that display the faces of the king, queen, and jack.


Fish Hook: Slang term for a jack card.


Five of a Kind: A hand containing five cards of the same rank, possible only in video poker when a wild card is available.


Flush: A hand with five cards of the same suit, not necessarily in consecutive order.


Fool: Slang term for a joker card.


Four of a Kind: A hand containing four cards of the same value.


Full House: A poker hand consisting of two cards of one rank and three cards of another rank.


Full Pay: Refers to a video poker machine that uses the best possible paytable for a specific game.


Garbage Hand: A poor hand that is unlikely to result in a payout for the player.


Hand: The hand is the combination of five cards that a player holds in video poker. It is the primary element of the game, and the objective is to create the strongest hand possible based on the poker hand rankings.


Hand Pay: In land-based casinos, when a player wins a substantial amount of money on a video poker machine, they may receive a hand pay. This means that a casino staff member will manually count out and award the winnings to the player, typically for larger payouts that exceed a certain threshold.


Heads-Up: Playing heads-up refers to a situation in video poker where a player competes against the dealer or computerized opponent without any other players at the table. It offers a more focused and intense playing experience.


High Card: A high card is the lowest-ranking poker hand. It is a hand that doesn’t have any pairs, flushes, straights, or other combinations. In video poker, if a player doesn’t have any qualifying hand, the highest-ranking card in their hand determines the outcome.


Hold: When a player decides to keep one or more cards from their initial hand, it is referred to as a hold. The held cards will not be discarded during the draw phase, allowing the player to strategically retain potentially valuable cards.


Hopper: In land-based video poker machines, the hopper is a mechanical device that stores and dispenses coins when a player cashes out their credits. The hopper releases the appropriate number of coins into the coin tray for the player to collect their winnings. However, with the introduction of ticket-in/ticket-out (TITO) technology, some machines no longer use hoppers and instead issue a printed ticket to be redeemed for cash.


House: The term “house” is often used interchangeably with the casino itself. It refers to the establishment or operator that provides the video poker games. Whether it’s a physical casino or an online platform, the house always has an edge over the players, ensuring the casino’s profitability.


House Edge: The house edge is the statistical advantage that the casino has over the player in a particular game. It represents the percentage of each wager that the house expects to win on average over the long run. The house edge varies depending on the specific video poker variant and the paytable being used. Skilled players can employ optimal strategies to minimize the house edge and increase their chances of winning.


Inside Straight: An inside straight, also known as a “gut shot,” is an incomplete straight that requires a specific card to fill the gap and complete the hand. For example, a hand consisting of 4, 5, 7, 8 needs a 6 to form a straight. The odds of completing an inside straight are lower compared to an open-ended straight.


Jackpot: A jackpot in video poker is the highest possible payout that can be achieved in a particular game. It is usually associated with rare and valuable hands like a royal flush. Some machines offer progressive jackpots, where the jackpot amount increases progressively with each wager until it is won. Non-progressive video poker machines have fixed jackpots.


Jacks or Better: Jacks or Better is one of the most popular variations of video poker. To qualify for a payout in this game, the player must have a hand containing at least a pair of jacks or a higher-ranking hand. It serves as the minimum qualifying hand, hence the name “Jacks or Better.”


Kicker: In poker, a kicker refers to a side card that is not involved in determining the overall rank of the hand. For example, if a player has four aces and a three, the three would be considered the kicker. While often overlooked, kickers come into play when two or more players have the same hand rank, acting as tie-breakers to determine the winner.


Lady: In card slang, the term “lady” is used to refer to the queen card. It is also known by other nicknames such as “cowgirl” or “dame.”


Low Pay: In video poker, a low pay machine refers to a machine that does not offer the best possible pay table. This means that the payouts for winning hands on such machines are less generous compared to machines with better pay tables.


Max Bet: The max bet button in video poker is used to wager the maximum number of coins on the upcoming hand. This button is often utilized in games with progressive jackpots, as making the maximum bet is usually a requirement to be eligible for the top prize.


Maximum Coins: The maximum coins refer to the upper limit of coins that can be wagered during a single game of video poker. The standard limit is usually set at five coins, but there are some machines that may have different limits, either higher or lower.


Multi Hand: In multi-hand video poker games, players are allowed to play multiple hands simultaneously. The number of hands that can be played at the same time varies, with smaller versions allowing for two or three hands, while larger examples can accommodate up to 100 hands.


Odds: Odds represent the mathematical probability or chance of obtaining a specific hand in a game of poker or video poker. Understanding the odds is crucial for making informed decisions and developing effective strategies.


Pair: A pair in video poker refers to a hand that contains two cards of the same value, such as two kings or two sevens. Having a pair is a common hand ranking in video poker.


Pat Hand: A pat hand in video poker is a hand that cannot be improved after the initial deal. It is a strong hand, such as a full house or a royal flush, which does not require any further drawing or discarding of cards.


Payback Percentage: Payback percentage, also known as return to player (RTP), is the average percentage of the wagered amount that a video poker machine is expected to return to the player over time. For example, a video poker game with a 97% payback percentage means that, on average, players can expect to get back 97% of the money they wagered. Most casino games have payback percentages below 100%, but video poker can sometimes exceed this number under favorable conditions.


Payout: In video poker, the payout refers to the amount of money or credits that a player receives for a particular poker hand. Each hand rank has a corresponding payout value, with higher-ranked hands offering larger payouts.


Paytable: The paytable in video poker displays the various payouts for different hand ranks. It indicates the amount of money or credits that will be awarded for each winning hand. A “full pay” table refers to a paytable that offers the highest possible payouts, while anything less is considered a “low pay” table. It is important for players to check the paytable before playing a video poker machine, as different machines, even if they appear identical, can have significantly different paytables.


Perfect Play: Perfect play in video poker refers to consistently making the optimal decisions that yield the highest expected value for each hand. By employing perfect play strategies, players can reduce the house edge to its lowest possible level for a specific game. Achieving perfect play often requires memorization of optimal strategies or using a strategy card as a reference.


Pocket Rockets: Pocket Rockets is a slang term used to describe a pair of aces in poker. It is also known by other nicknames such as “bullets,” “snake eyes,” “Alan Alda,” and “American Airlines” among others.


Progressive Jackpot: A progressive jackpot is a type of payout where a small percentage of each wager is added to the jackpot. This causes the potential prize to increase progressively until someone meets the necessary conditions for a win, typically by achieving a royal flush. Once the jackpot is won, it resets to a base amount and begins to climb again.


Rag: In poker, a rag refers to a card that does not contribute to improving your final hand. It is a card that has little or no value in completing a winning combination.


Random Number Generator: The Random Number Generator (RNG) is a component present in all slot machines and video poker machines. It ensures that each spin or deal of the cards is independent of the previous one, making the outcome random and unbiased. While it is statistically possible to get back-to-back royal flushes, the odds of such an event occurring are very slim.


Rank: Rank refers to the numerical value of a card in both poker and video poker. It determines the strength and hierarchy of hands. For example, in a standard deck of playing cards, the rank of an ace is usually the highest, followed by king, queen, and so on.


Royal Flush: A royal flush is a highly coveted hand in video poker games. It consists of the ace, king, queen, jack, and ten cards, all of which are of the same suit. A royal flush often triggers a progressive jackpot when available, due to its rarity and high value.


Sequential Royal Flush: Similar to a regular royal flush, a sequential royal flush is made up of the ten, jack, queen, king, and ace cards of the same suit. The difference is that these cards are displayed in order from lowest to highest on the screen. While the on-screen order doesn’t matter in most games, some may offer an additional payout for achieving a sequential royal flush.


Sign-Up Bonus: A sign-up bonus is offered by online casinos to attract new customers. It provides a bonus when players open an account. However, there are usually terms and conditions attached. Players may need to wager a multiple of the bonus before it becomes eligible for withdrawal, and not all games contribute equally towards meeting this requirement. Additionally, there may be a time limit, requiring players to fulfill all conditions within a specified period, or else they may forfeit the bonus amount.


Si Redd: Si Redd, a notable figure in the gambling industry, was the former head of game designer IGT (International Game Technology). He is credited with introducing video poker to casinos in the 1970s and is recognized as a charter member of the Video Poker Hall of Fame.


Spot: Spot is a slang term used to refer to the ace card in poker. It is also known by other nicknames such as “bullet,” “rocket,” and “alas.”


Straight: A straight is a poker hand that consists of five cards in consecutive order, regardless of their suits. For example, a hand with cards numbered 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 would be a straight.


Straight Flush: A straight flush is a poker hand that combines both a straight and a flush. It consists of five cards of the same suit in sequential order. For example, a hand with cards numbered 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8, all of the hearts suit, would be a straight flush.


Strategy Card: A strategy card is a reference card that shows the correct plays for every possible hand in video poker. Players often create their own strategy cards or use pre-existing ones to optimize their decision-making during gameplay. These cards provide guidance on which cards to hold and which ones to discard in order to maximize the chances of achieving winning hands. While most land-based casinos allow players to openly use strategy cards, there may be exceptions to this rule. In virtual establishments, there are typically no restrictions on using strategy cards, making them a valuable tool for players aiming for optimal play and minimizing the house edge.


Three of a Kind: A three of a kind is a poker hand that consists of three cards of the same rank, along with two other unconnected cards. For example, having three cards with a value of 7, along with a 2 and a 9, would constitute a three of a kind.


Two Pair: A two pair is a poker hand that includes two sets of cards with the same rank. In this hand, there are two pairs of cards, and one additional unconnected card. For instance, having two cards with a value of 9, two cards with a value of 3, and a 5 would form a two pair.


Volatility: Volatility measures the fluctuations or ups and downs experienced in a player’s bankroll while playing a slot or video poker machine. A game with low volatility tends to offer smaller but more frequent payouts, resulting in a more stable bankroll. On the other hand, a game with high volatility features larger but less frequent wins, leading to more significant swings in the player’s bankroll.


W2-G Form: If a player wins more than $1,200 at a land-based casino, they are required by law to fill out a W2-G form for income tax purposes. This form helps track and report gambling winnings to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). It ensures that appropriate taxes are paid on gambling income exceeding the specified threshold.


Wild Card: A wild card is a special card that can be substituted for any other card in a particular game. It adds flexibility to forming winning hands by allowing players to use it as a replacement for a missing card to complete a desired combination. The most common card designated as a wild card is the deuce (a two).


Wild Royal Flush: A wild royal flush is a hand in video poker that consists of a royal flush, which includes the ace, king, queen, jack, and ten of the same suit, with the addition of at least one wild card. Although a wild royal flush is still valuable, its payout is typically lower than that of a natural royal flush. It is also known as a “dirty royal.”


Winning Hand A winning hand refers to the final set of cards in poker or video poker that meets the criteria for a payout. The strength and combination of the cards must be sufficient to qualify for a win according to the specific game’s rules and paytable. Achieving a winning hand is the goal of every player in order to receive a payout based on the hand’s ranking and the game’s pay structure.