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How to Win at Video Poker Tournaments

Bailey Haun
by Bailey Haun

Video poker tournaments are a great way to have some fun and know exactly how much you are risking to do it. For a fixed buy-in, or sometimes even free online, you can take your shot at winning a good size prize from the available prize pool. And, although you are playing a casino game, you are not really competing against the casino like in most games. The competition is against the other players in the tournament.

Below you will find a guide to the type of tournaments you might run across, as well as a few strategies to help you be a better player and increase your chances of winning.

Types of Video Poker Tournaments

The two most common types of tournaments you will come across are timed tournaments and hand limit tournaments. There are also tournaments that mix elements of both and tournaments that give you a time limit and a certain amount of credits, but no hand limit.

In a timed tournament, you get the same fixed amount of time to play as everyone else in the tournament. In a land-based casino, this might be something like 5 or 10 minutes. In online casinos it could be timed the same way as a land-based casino or it could be how much you can win on your original starting amount in a 24 hour or even 1 week period.

In a hand limit tournament, everyone in the tournament gets to play the same number of hands. Time and speed of play is no factor. You might get 40 hands to play and whoever has the most credits at the end of everyone’s 40 hands wins.

A slight variation found at some casinos is a credit limit with a time limit. Everyone in the tournament might start with 300 credits and have 5 minutes to play. In this type of tournament, you could run out of credits if you play really fast and have no decent winning hands, but it is not very likely.

Tournament Strategies

For a timed tournament, the best strategy is to play as fast as you can using two hands to keep the action moving at all times. The more hands you play, the better chance you have to win.

If you can play 50 hands in 5 minutes and the next closest player plays only 40 hands, you have a much better chance of hitting something like a Four of a Kind, Straight Flush or Royal Flush that will put you in the money. The benefits of playing very fast even outweigh the possibility of making a slight playing error.

One way to play a video poker tournament is just played for Royal Flushes. Getting a Royal Flush in a video poker tournament generally guarantees you will place in one of the money winning spots. So, when using this strategy, if you do not get dealt with any cards that can make a Royal Flush, you discard them all.

You are only playing for a Royal Flush and nothing else. If you even get one card to a Royal, you hold it and discard the rest. With this method, you can play very quickly as there are no real strategy decisions. You won’t hit a Royal Flush very often during a tournament and playing like this, but if the tournament is free or fairly inexpensive, you will hit one on occasion and probably win the tournament.

Another thing to think about is what type of game is being played. If you are playing a game like Double Double Bonus Jacks or Better video poker, Four of a Kinds with four Aces through Fours are paid at a premium if they are accompanied by a low kicker. A common strategy for this game for a hand like Ac, Ad, 6d, 6h, 10s, would be to not play for the Full House and discard the two sixes and ten.

This gives you a shot at the Four of a Kind that will pay a premium amount and you could still always draw a Three of a Kind or another Two Pair if the Four of a Kind doesn’t come. Always look at the type of game and pay table before starting a tournament to determine if any hands offer a premium payout.

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