How Are Cards Dealt in Video Poker?

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Brian Christopher in the Sand Dollar at Plaza Hotel & Casino Las Vegas

Video Poker has a fan base among casino players. On occasion, curiosity settles in, as it did for this player:

On video poker games, are the cards coming out like one is dealing from a deck? In other words, if I am dealt a pair of kings and I hold them and redraw the other cards, are those new cards coming off the top of the deck or were they already under the cards I threw away?


Nevada regulations, which effectively have set up how video poker works in most markets, require that a game that involves cards operate as if it were a real deck of cards. That means the randomness of a shuffle, and the odds of any card coming out being the same (no weighting of cards where some come out more often than others, in other words).

We’ve heard of two ways that cards are handled when it comes to Video Poker. In one scenario, ten cards are dealt from the top of the deck from the get go – the first five cards are shown, you hold the ones you wish to keep, and it deals the remainder from the rest of the ten that were selected upfront.

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The second way, which we recently heard an Action Gaming employee (they make most of the insane variations of Video Poker we see on casino floors today) say that the game will deal five cards, the shuffling continues in the background, and when you hit draw, the shuffling stops and the remaining cards you need are dealt from the top of the deck.

In reality, both methods are sufficiently random that regardless of which way it’s dealt, you’re going to get a fair chance at any individual card coming out. The same really would go for your suggested method where a second card could be placed behind the first, given it would be dealt from a shuffled deck, but we aren’t aware of that method being used.

There will be exceptions – there are casinos that don’t offer Vegas-style machines. We once were in New York, where the games at the casino we were at work more like scratcher tickets (your wager buys a ticket and the ticket is what determines the outcome). Here, the outcome is predetermined, so the cards are not working like a real deck of cards.

Those games are not skill-based at all as the payout is already known, so if you throw away a winning hand or the cards you needed to achieve one, it will either deal you another one or award you a “bonus.” That’s how you know it’s not real Video Poker, even though it may look like it.

But based on our understanding, the model Action Gaming described has been in use by them since the 90s. Since they make games for IGT, who is by far the leader in video poker, it’s probably safe to assume that’s the method employed in virtually all the video poker machines you see in Vegas-style casinos.

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