Please bear with me while I develop this page. In the meantime…
ALWAYS Max Bet
If you’re playing to win, you should ALWAYS play the maximum bet per hand, because it gives you a 2,750 credit bonus if you hit a Royal Flush. The max bet is 5 credits, so you’re looking at 25¢ on nickel machines or $1.25 on quarter machines. A Royal constitutes almost 2% of your expected return, so it’s foolish to give up that bonus. The only time it’s remotely acceptable not to play max bet is if you’re slow rolling, but even then, I’d say to swing for the fences and just play fewer hands with the max bet for your best return.
Play Bartop Machines
If you’re looking for fast, friendly drink service, there’s no better game or place to play than Video Poker at the bar. Take good care of your bartender with regular tips, and your glass will never be empty. I especially enjoy going to the bar to check out their selection of bourbons or drafts — it’s easy to talk to the bartender and see what is comped with play. I’ve been known to get Makers Mark on the rocks, or turn my pint glass into a bottomless beer glass. Gambling and free flowing booze? If that’s not heaven, I don’t know what is.
Master Jacks or Better
Jacks or Better is the easiest game to play, and has one of the best returns (99.6% on a full pay 9/6 machine). It’s also the lowest volatility of all of the Video Poker variations, so your money will last you the longest (resulting in more free drinks). The strategy is pretty intuitive if you’re familiar with poker hands; I recommend the Wizard of Odds’ simple 9/6 strategy as a good starting point. Once you’ve mastered this, you can branch out to more volatile variations like Double Double Bonus or Super Times Pay for a chance at a bigger pay.
Watch Your Two Pairs
Double check the payout on two pairs. Less volatile games (like Jacks or Better, Bonus Poker) pay 2 credits for a two pair; more volatile games (like Double Double Bonus, Triple Double Bonus) only pay 1 credit for a two pair. Two pairs make up almost 25% of your winning hands in Video Poker, so that missing credit will add up quickly — especially when you multiply it by 5 since you’re playing max bet (right?).
While the more volatile games give you a shot at higher returns for Four of a Kinds (which happen approximately 1 in every 422 hands), you will have to bankroll more to stay in the game long enough to hit them. If you’re feeling lucky and want to try for a big jackpot, swing for the fences with a higher volatility game; if you’re more concerned with longevity, drinking, or stretching your budget, stick to Jacks or Better or Bonus Poker with their less volatile 2 for 1 payouts.
If you would like to dive deeper into Video Poker, The Wizard of Odds has a comprehensive section on Video Poker where I learned most of what I know.