Online poker may be a billion-dollar business, and it’s come a long way from its late-90s beginnings. But about twenty years before that, video poker was the wave of the future. They’re not as ubiquitous as they were in their heyday, but next time you’re up for a good game, ditch the casino, make your way to an arcade, and try your hand at video poker.
Video poker was first introduced in the 1970s with coin-fed machines set up in small entertainment venues. A video poker machine looks a lot like a slot machine, and can come in tabletop or freestanding versions. Bets are placed through a coin slot and typically range from five cents to a few dollars. Most machines will take nickels, quarters, and dollar bills.
Most existing video poker games work on the five-card draw system. Here, you are dealt five cards and have the option to throw away cards to optimize your hand. Discarded cards are replaced by new, randomly drawn ones, and your last five cards are what go up against the machine.
Winning works a little differently than in traditional poker. In video poker, you don’t have to beat an opponent’s hand–you just have to end up with one of the five-card combinations on a preset list of winning hands. Combinations are scored based on a hierarchy, and players who have the right mix are compensated accordingly. Values are similar to those used in the traditional game, with a pair being the lowest rank and a Royal Flush getting the most points.
If you’re lucky, you may be able to find a machine that includes different varieties, such as Jacks or Better, Deuce’s Wild, Joker’s Wild, and King of the Decks. All of these work on a similar random-generation model, so you still have the element of luck, although none of the social aspects of face-to-face or even online gaming.
Not surprisingly, video poker took a backseat when online poker became popular. Although they are still in the minority, there has been an upsurge in the game alongside the return of arcade gaming in general. Many gaming websites also offer similar games that can be played on a browser, with more varieties than an arcade machine. One thing’s for sure: with poker’s steady popularity in the U.S. and technology making it easy to preserve the classics, video poker isn’t quite ready to leave the table.
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