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Video Poker vs Video Lottery Terminals

A. Antonova (editor) |

Broad-Stroke Differences between Video Poker and VLTs

When it comes to fixed-odds gaming machines, there is a greater diversity than you may think. This market has been rapidly expanding and is projected to grow even further in the years to come. Unfortunately, many players still fail to differentiate between certain types of gaming equipment and often confuse video poker cabinets with video lottery terminals (VLTs). These two types of machines share some similarities at first glance but the differences are far more pronounced.

Payouts are awarded on a different principle, not to mention some video lottery terminals are not operated via random number generators (RNGs) as is always the case with video poker machines. Payback percentages are also different, with VLTs offering invariably poorer odds of winning than video poker. Chance is a deciding factor with video lottery terminals, whereas video poker players can sway the odds in their favor with strategy and adequate decision-making. So which is better? Continue reading to find out.

Video Poker Overview

Video Poker MachinesThe huge popularity of video poker can be at least partially attributed to the type of machine it plays on. Standard video poker machines run on Random Number Generators (RNGs) to ensure the cards are always randomly dealt. The RNG reshuffles the cards after every single round, so that each card has equal chances of coming up next. The RNG follows no patterns and ensures unpredictability.

Once a player receives the five cards comprising their starting hand, they can replace some of them to try and form a winning combination. These discards are removed from play and the replacements are dealt out of the remaining deck. The round ends and the cards are reshuffled again by the RNG. This peculiarity is what makes video poker a strategy game as players can make informed decisions based on the composition of their starting hand and the composition of the remaining deck. Random Number Generators are used by all licensed and regulated casinos to ensure fair play. Video poker will not be a beatable game without the RNG.

Video Lottery Terminals Overview

Video Lottery TerminalSome video lottery terminals provide a choice from multiple games, including video poker, video slots, and keno. These machines generally belong to the Class II category of games and require a different type of authorization and license. They are also regulated differently. What sets them apart from conventional video poker machines is that VLTs are usually connected. They share a common computer system, which allows the respective gaming regulator to easily supervise their operation. The number of winners is often predetermined similarly to sweepstakes, meaning that VLTs are programmed to pay out according to a preset pattern.

Some terminals operate via RNGs, but more often than not, they don’t. The outcomes are based on a fixed pool. As their name suggests, most VLTs function similarly to standard lottery draws and sweepstakes. When you start playing, the machine selects a positive or negative outcome from a preset pool. This pool allows for a certain number of wins and losses and is reset after a given period.

In general, in these games you actually compete against others. If you win, you are required to announce your victory. This makes video lottery terminals more interactive than video poker machines.

Differences between Video Poker and Video Lottery Terminals

Video Lottery Terminal DifferencesTo determine which machines are more beneficial, it will be best to compare both types. The biggest and most noticeable difference between video poker machines and video lottery terminals is that VLTs do not allow you to impact their outcome by using strategy. Here you rely on luck as winners are randomly chosen regardless of their skill and knowledge.

All dealt hands are programmed in advance to either win or lose and your playing decisions have no influence over the outcome. As you can perhaps tell, this puts off many video poker players as it takes away all the fun of trying to improve one’s hand. Video lottery terminals are identical to slot machines in this respect. Unlike slots, however, they are operated via a central computer system.

Another significant difference is that video lottery terminals are often linked, whereas video poker machines operate independently of each other. When you play a standard video poker machine, you can get a particular winning combination like the Royal Flush a couple of times or you may not get it at all, regardless of how much time you spend on that machine. This is because the RNG doesn’t follow a pattern and always deals the cards randomly.

Speaking of the RNG, it is another aspect that sets the two types of machines apart. Many video lottery terminals do not rely on random number generation for their outcomes. Instead, they allow for a fixed number of winners selected randomly. There is always going to be a winner, but it is impossible to figure out who and when. It all depends on whether you are lucky enough to ‘draw the winning ticket’. Bear in mind that your odds of winning are extremely low with VLTs and do not change.

While it is true that these machines have a preset number of losses, whenever someone loses, unfortunately their number remains the same.

Further Thoughts

Video Lottery TerminalTaking into account the above-mentioned information, we can conclude that video lottery terminals are not as advantageous as standard video poker machines. Thus, it is best to avoid them as your skill and strategy won’t make a difference. Distinguishing between the two types of machines can be quite difficult as they look similar. One thing you can do is check the gambling regulations regarding VLTs in your jurisdiction.

It should be noted that VLTs are not legal in all countries. If they are prohibited by law where you live, there is no need to worry about bumping into them. If not, you should look for several indicators to spot them. For instance, if the machine has a button that reads “Automatic Hold”, then it is most likely a video lottery terminal. If you are incapable of replacing cards from your starting hand, this is also a sign you are playing a VLT.


Video lottery terminals offer games whose outcomes are usually predetermined, so it is best to avoid them whenever you spot them. It is really important to look this matter through carefully to make sure you are aware of the main differences between video lottery terminals and video poker machines. What makes video poker a great game is the fact that you can play strategically and improve your odds. Playing video poker on VLTs deprives you of this opportunity.