Chapter 1. Video Poker Background

The background of video poker is a strange one, and here you learn so much more about this exciting casino game.


1.1 History Of Video Poker

Understanding where video poker came from, its predecessors and everything in between is possibly one of the easiest ways to work out how to play this exciting casino game.

There are a number of reasons why people choose to play video poker, and the main reasons behind this is generally due to its simplicity – which has generally been compared to that of a slot machine. However, with video poker, you have much more of a say about what is actually happening. In order to understand how the game ended up where it is today, we're taking a look back at the history of video poker. Before we begin, here's a quick roundup of some of the biggest milestones in the history of video poker:

The Predecessors Of Video Poker

One of the very first video poker-type games to come into existence was in 1891, when the Sittman and Pitt Company invented the poker machine. This poker machine had a total of five reels or drums, and these each contained an image of 10 playing cards. All players had to do was put a coin into the machine, then pull the handle and each reel would spin individually. This will eventually stop and reveal a poker hand, which will match up to a paytable and reward players according to their wager.

fter this, came the ‘Card Bell' which was invented by Charles Fey, the same man who invented the slot machine. The Card Bell was introduced in 1898, and was essentially a poker machine that paid 20 coins for a Royal Flush.

After this, the same creator developed the ‘Skill Draw' poker machine, which introduced the ‘hold' button and became the first ever five card draw poker machine.

At the time of these video poker predecessors, gambling was actually illegal. This meant that any kind of pay off or reward from these machines was paid in drinks, cigars or cigarettes, which led to the machines being placed in liquor stores and tobacco shops.

The First Video Poker Machines

The first video poker machines were introduced in 1970 by Dale Electronics. Their first creation was known as "Poker-Matic" and while it was installed in almost every casino in Vegas, the game didn't quite catch on – but it laid out a very interesting future for poker and casino games.

After pitching the idea of a game called Video Poker to his company's executives in 1970, a man named Si Redd w$as allowed to take the patent of his rejected idea. Within just a few months, Redd made a deal with a company in Reno to form SIRCOMA (Si Redd's Coin Machines), through which he began to mass produce video poker machines.

Various tweaks were made to the game, particularly when the lowest winning hand became a pair of jacks or better, making the game easier for players to win.

By 1981, these Video Poker games became a hit in casinos in Reno and Vegas.

SIRCOMA was then made public and became the International Gaming Technology (IGT) company that we know today.

Now, video poker is one of the most popular casino games around the world, and can be found in Las Vegas, London, Macau and other huge gambling destinations. After a slow beginning, its popularity has grown astonishingly fast, and here, we're taking a closer look as to why.

Why Video Poker Grew In Popularity

There are a number of reasons why this humble casino game grew rapidly in popularity in casinos around the world:

  • They were less intimidating than table games
  • They were simple, yet required more skill than a slot machine
  • They bridged the gap between video slot machines with more than three reels and a regular slot machine
  • It had unique characteristics that helped it to gain popularity


1.2 The Benefits Of Playing Video Poker

One of the biggest things people think about when it comes to playing video poker, is why they should bother playing in the first place. With video poker, the answer is pretty simple. In this part of our video poker guide, we're taking a look at some of the advantages and benefits that you can enjoy when playing video poker.


No Pressure

One of the main reasons why video poker grew in popularity was due to the fact it provided people with an alternative to slot machines, and an alternative to playing under pressure on a poker table or in a tournament. With poker, experienced players can scrutinise your every move, and table games can be somewhat intimidating, particularly if you're a beginner.

Video poker provided an alternative to that, which means beginners get to enjoy the thrill of poker, in their own space.

The same can also be said for experienced players. On some occasions, experienced blackjack or craps players who reveal the fact that they can alter the house edge in their favour through various techniques such as card counting or other strategies will be asked to leave the table, or even the entire casino. There is absolutely zero risk of this with video poker, making it the ideal game for both beginners and experienced video poker players.

A Low House Edge

When it comes to house edge, it's important that you find the video poker machine that has the lowest. This will give you an advantage when it comes to the profits that you can gain out of the machine. Typically, a slot machine will have a house edge of between 6-20%, which means you can start losing money as you play. While video poker games have changed so they're not actually allowing skilled poker players to make money (oh they were the good old days), the house edge is still exceptionally low, with it ranging from about ¼ percent to 5%. To make things even better, similar to the way you can change the house edge on blackjack, if you learn a consistent and well-thought out video poker strategy, then you're likely to reduce the house edge even more!

You Can Know What The House Edge Is Before Playing

Due to the fact the paytable is displayed on the screen, you are able to choose a video poker machine that has the bets house edge – because you are able to work this out from the odds displayed on the screen. Sounds simple right?

Essentially, video poker can show you just how good the game is, by providing you with all of the information that you need to determine the long-term house edge. This way, you can glance at all of the video poker machines in a live casino, or online, compare the paytables and odds, and choose the best game!

You Can Affect The Outcome Of The Game

If you know your video poker strategy, you can affect the outcome of the game. While video poker is generally compared to slot machines because of the style of game, a slot machine is a game of pure luck. You spin the reels, and the random number generator displays you a pre-determined outcome. Video poker is different.

With the poker element of the game, video poker provides a new way to play a simple looking game, by implementing some form of strategy within it. This means that ultimately, the player is able to influence the outcome of the game, further improving their winning chances. It might sound too good to be true, but with video poker, it isn't.


1.3 Different Classes Of Video Poker Games

An interesting thing about video poker games is that they may all look similar on the outside, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they're the same on the inside. There are various complexities that can be found underneath, and this can blur the lines between whether or not the are classified as Class II or Class III games. There are some different conditions depending on whether or not you're playing at an Indian casino too, but you'll have to read on to find out more. This section of our video poker guide is generally relevant to people who play at Indian casinos, or are considering going to one. If you don't factor into this, then simply continue with our guide. If you are interested however, then read on!

Las Vegas Video Poker Games

Video poker originated and grew in Las Vegas, so of course these Vegas style video poker games came first. Similar to slot machines, they were run by a random number generator and this helped to ensure that the game was as fair as possible.

Hundreds of different video poker games were developed by manufacturers all over the US and when the game grew in popularity, these video poker games were then developed around the world. This quickly became the ‘model' of video poker games.

Indian Casino Video Poker Games

On October 17, 1988, the Indian Gaming Regulatory act was passed and signed into law by Ronald Reagan. This meant that various Indian communities were allowed to operate casinos and gambling hubs, under some very specific and interesting rules.

Class I & Class II & Class III Video Poker Games

After the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was introduced, casino games were classified into different classes – Class I, II and III.

Class I games are defined as games that offer small prizes in return for small stakes. Generally these small prizes are trinkets or cheap jewellery prizes, and this type of gaming is classified as ‘social gaming'.

Class II games are bingo-type games, and can this can be physical or electronic bingo. While slot machines are not included in these class II games because they are games of luck, video poker takes a slightly different approach because you can implement some form of video poker strategy within the game. Individual tribes will regulate these games in any state where they have a permit to do so.

Class III is a class that covers all of the other different types of casino games that you can find, including roulette, blackjack and more. This is generally considered to be casino style gaming. However, Indian Casinos are actually restricted on what games they can allow, and many tribes were based in states where they were not allowed to provide Class III style games in their casinos. But with the rise in popularity of games like slot machines over the years, the tribes had to develop some form of their own game to rival it, or face closure.

This is where video poker machines meet Class II gaming.

In order to battle this rise in popularity in order to compete, the tribes developed a bingo game, which was run by a central server and was connected to electronic boxes - which looked exceptionally similar to their slot machine elders. The concept was straightforward, and helped to capture the imagination of a number of players.

So, now you know a little bit more about the background and history of these exciting casino games. Now, it's time to learn the lingo.


1.4 How Video Poker Machines Work


While you don't necessarily need to know how video poker machines operate in order to be able to play the game, it can help you to get a better understanding of the methods and strategies you can use to increase your chances of winning. Video poker machines seem relatively simple to play, their insides are actually quite complex.



Random Number Generator

The random number generator is one of the most important parts of the machine, as it helps to ensure the hands that are drawn are, you guessed it, random.

Early versions of video poker machines were a little different to what they are now, and while they still featured a random number generator of sorts, it would continue to go through all of the numbers until the player hit Deal. As soon as the player hit Deal, the next 10 numbers would be used to formulate and determine what the next 10 cards were going to be (5 for the hand, 5 for the replacements).

This method worked exceptionally well, until players began to notice patterns in how they were dealt meaning they were eventually able to work out a way to gain an advantage above the house edge. This meant that players were able to exploit casinos around Las Vegas leading to some video poker machines beginning to pay out more than what should have been possible!

This is when the casinos caught on, and the manufacturers were made aware in order to prevent this from ever happening again.

So, here's how the random number generators were changed:

  • The random number generator would continue to generate until Deal was pressed
  • The next five numbers will be used to formulate the initial poker hand
  • Then the RNG would continue to cycle, until Draw was selected
  • Then the next numbers would be used to replace any discarded ones

This helped to ensure that no patterns were able to be worked out.

What To Remember About How Video Poker Machines Operate

  • Random Number Generators are the heart and soul of these machines
  • While they are similar to slot machines, video poker machines are far more complex in their makeup
  • It's now almost impossible to work out any kind of pattern with these machines - so it's a waste of time trying
  • Instead of generating all 10 cards at once, now the machines only generate 5 at a time, making the game much harder to predict

Now you know more about how video poker machines operate, all you need to know is the lingo and you're well on your way to beginning to learn how to play!


1.5 Video Poker Glossary


86 - Term to describe those that have been banned from a casino. While this usually refers to blackjack players it can also on occasion refer to video poker players too.

Action - The overall amount of money that a player wages- this includes all the bets that are made.

Bank - A grouping of similar video poker machines. There are normally located near one another in the casino.

Bankroll - The total amount of money available for gambling.

Bust - A hand that did not improve after the draw.

Deuce - A two card- for example ‘a deuce of diamonds'.

Face Card - Any Jack, Queen or King card. These are called ‘face cards' as they have faces on them as opposed to simply numbers or suits.

Full Pay - On a video poker machine this refers to the best possible pay table. A Jacks or Better pay table has a 9/6 pay table compared to the more common 8/5 table.

House Edge - The percentage that the casino has over the players in the long run.

Low Pay - A video poker machine with a pay table that has less than full pay. An 8/5 jacks would be considered to be a low paying machine.

Payout - The amount that a video poker machine pays for a specific poker hand.

Royal Flush - The ultimate hand and the one that every player aims for. Contains an Ace, King, Queen, Jack and Ten in the same suit.

Straight - A five card hand in sequential rank order. An ace can act as high or low for straights. E.g 10,J,Q,K,A.

Straight Flush - A five card hand in sequential rank order and all of the same suit. An Ace can act as a high or low card.

Three Of A Kind - When you have three of a certain ranked card in your five card hand.

Two Pair - If you have two aces and two Tens or any other combination of two sets of the same two cards.

Wild Cards - Cards that can be substitutes for any other card. For example, in ‘Deuces Wild video poker' you can use twos as any cards you want.


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