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A web-based video poker game - Go/WebAssembly version
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Video Poker

by Jay Ts


With the release of version 1.11 in August of 2018, Go came with initial support for WebAssembly, allowing Go to be used for client-side ("front end") web development. WebAssembly allows languages other than JavaScript to control the web browser, and it operates as efficiently-executing native compiled code.

The basic way it works is that the Go compiler produces WebAssembly format rather than a native executable. When the WebAssembly format is loaded by the browser, it is quickly compiled to native machine code and executed.

There are some very good reasons for preferring to use Go instead of JavaScript, including Go's static typing and efficiency. Since it's a compiled language, most programming errors can be caught by the Go compiler, rather than being found only when the program is running and happens to execute the part of code that contains the bug. Go is designed for concurrency, so you will never have to deal with promises and other constructs that have been added to JavaScript to make it useful for modern web programming.

I was curious about the technology, and as I learned more about it, I noticed an overwhelming consensus that WebAssembly will quickly become a very popular and important technology for web development. There are many plans for the technology, and it is being developed rapidly by collaboration involving Mozilla, Google, and others. All of the major browser developers announced support for WebAssembly in 2017, and this is all very new. So does it work?

I decided to give it a try. I had a video poker game that I wrote in C two years earlier and later translated to both JavaScript and Go. I modified the Go version to be event driven, and then wrote the WebAssembly interface to convert it into a web app.

With Go's WebAssembly support being so new, I expected to have a lot of problems. But I didn't! I was relieved to find that even with just basic package documentation and a few very simple examples to use as a starting point, it wasn't very difficult to get things working, and everything seems to work almost perfectly. If this is what WebAssembly programming in Go is like at the first release, I'm very enthusiastic about its future.

At the current release, Video Poker shows the use of client-side Go to implement an MVC (Model-View-Control) web app. The game engine, in videopoker-web.go, implements the model. View is handled by the WebAssembly interface in main.go that manipulates the DOM, resulting in updates in the web browser, and Control is through mouse clicks and keys typed in the browser window, along with event handling and callbacks in the HTML and the WebAssembly interface in main.go.

It's all written in Go, and I did not need to write a single line of JavaScript. How cool.

Release Notes

This has been updated to work with Go version 1.12, which introduced changes to the WebAssembly API in the package syscall/js.

This release is for late February 2019. The game engine works, and you can see a simple Go/WebAssembly app in action.

I may not have it running at all times, but to play the game, you can try this web page:

A description of the game and directions for playing are below.

There are some odd behaviors you may notice in the app:

Starting the game

The app works well with desktop web browsers (Firefox, Chrome, Opera, and Safari), but support on mobile devices is limited. You may need to wait some seconds (up to 15 seconds for Firefox on my old tablet) for the game to load.

On mobile devices, the app may not load properly either when the app is first started, or when the page is reloaded (refreshed). When it fails, an error message is displayed in the brown text below the "Video Poker" title line. This bug seems to be the same as issue #27462:

Firefox for Android fails with the error message Error Loading WebAssembly - out of memory, and Chromium-based browswers (Google Chrome and Opera) fail with Error Loading WebAssembly - RangeError: WebAssembly Instantiation: Out of memory: wasm memory.

If this happens to you, try restarting the browser, and don't open any other web pages besides the video poker app. This often succeeds with Firefox for Android.

Ending the game

Upon a q ("quit") or e ("exit") keypress, the game shows an end-of-game message, then just stops and becomes completely unresponsive. That is because the Go program exited. This is a holdover from the console version, and will work more elegantly in a future release. (In other words, this is not a problem with Go/WebAssembly.)

For now, reload the page to start a new game.

The Casino Video Poker Game

Video poker is a popular casino game that is based on five-card draw poker.

The player is dealt five cards, and is allowed to discard any or all of them. (Actually, the player indicates which cards are to be held.) The discarded cards are replaced by cards dealt from the deck. The objective is to obtain a winning hand. There are nine kinds of winning hands. Each has a different probability, with the amount won increasing with the higher improbablity of the hand.

This Video Poker Game

It's a great way to practice your strategy for fun, or before going to a casino.

Many variants of video poker are included as options. (Currently accessible only from the keyboard, using the A-I keys.) A few pay better than the default, which is 9/6 Jacks or Better.


By default, Video Poker is intended to closely match the behavior of 9/6 Jacks or Better video poker machines in casinos, and an option allows selection of other games and pay tables. However, the author is not an expert on gaming, and no guarantee whatsoever is made that Video Poker's behavior is an exact match to that of any other video poker. Please take that into careful consideration before trying out a real video poker machine.

How to Play Using the Mouse

Initally, you may see the following screen:


Just wait a few seconds for the game to finish loading. If your device is very old or just plain slow, it may take up to 15 seconds. Modern devices will load the game in less than a second.

When the game is fully loaded, you will see this screen


Click on the Deal New Hand button to see your first hand.

Your score drops by 10 each time you deal a new hand because that's how much you are betting.


Now you can click on the cards you want to hold onto. A green bar appears underneath each card. If you click again, it will "un-hold" the card, and the green bar disappears.


Then click on the Draw Cards button to replace the cards you want to discard.


Oh well, this hand didn't win anything. Maybe next time!

The game will continue until you either quit or run out of chips.

To quit, type either q or e. Your final score will be displayed. To start a new game, reload the web page.

Winning Hands

Here are the nine types of winning hands.



Two cards of the same value. Here, a pair of queens is shown.

Most variants of video poker pay only when the cards are jacks, queens, kings, or aces. Thus the name "Jacks or Better". Tens or Better also pays when the pair is of tens. None of the other hands have this minimal requirement.

The payout for a pair is the same as the amount of your bet.

Two Pair


Two different pairs in the same hand. The example shows a pair of 7s and a pair of 5s.

Payout for 9/6 Jacks or Better is twice the bet.

Three of a Kind


Three cards of the same value. Three 9s is the example shown.

Payout for 9/6 Jacks or Better is 3 times the bet.



Five cards with consecutive values. In this case, the cards are 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10.

They can be any order in the displayed hand.

An ace can be counted as either one (for example, ace, 1, 2, 3, and 4), or a value above a king. (See the example of a royal flush for that.)

Payout for 9/6 Jacks or Better is 4 times the bet.



All cards are in the same suit. This hand shows a flush in hearts.

Payout for 9/6 Jacks or Better is 6 times the bet.

Full House


Two cards of one value, and three cards of another value. This hand has 6s and jacks.

Payout for 9/6 Jacks or Better is 9 times the bet.

Four of a Kind


Four cards all of the same value. In this case, kings.

Payout for 9/6 Jacks or Better is 25 times the bet.

Straight Flush


The hand is both a straight and a flush. This hand shows a straight flush in clubs, from 5 to 9.

Payout for 9/6 Jacks or Better is 50 times the bet.

Royal Flush


This is simply an ace-high straight flush (10, jack, queen, king, ace). The example shows a royal flush in hearts.

Payout for 9/6 Jacks or Better is 800 times the bet.

How to Play Using the Keyboard

Using the keyboard allows for very fast game play.

Start the game and rest the fingers of your right hand on the keyboard as when touch typing. Your thumb will be on the space bar, and your index finger through little finger will be on the keys j, k, l, and semicolon (;).

Pressing the Enter (or Return) key does the same thing as clicking on the wide button below the five cards.

To hold or un-hold cards, type the keys corresponding to the cards:

SPACE   Leftmost card
j       Second card from left
k       Middle card
l       Second card from right
;       Rightmost card

The keys may be typed in any order, and a key can be entered more than once to toggle the held/discarded state of the card.

Then type the Enter (Return) key to deal. Discarded cards are redealt, and the final hand is shown, along with how it is recognized as either a winning or losing hand, and the new score.

Changing Your Bet

You may change your bet before a new hand is dealt. To increase your bet from the default of 10 chips, type a digit from 1 to 5, along with the keys to hold cards. For example, typing a 3 will change your bet to 30 chips.

If the number of chips is less than the bet, the bet is automatically reduced to make it equal to the number of chips remaining, where it will stay until you change it.

Changing the Variant of Video Poker

The default is 9/6 Jacks or Better, but you can change it to another variation of video poker game by pressing the A-I keys. Changing the game restarts the game with 1000 chips.

    A	All American
    B	Tens or Better
    C	Bonus Poker
    D	Double Bonus Poker
    E	Double Bonus Bonus Poker
    F	9/6 Jacks or Better (default)
    G	9/5 Jacks or Better
    H	8/6 Jacks or Better
    I	8/5 Jacks or Better

The variations have slightly different rules and/or pay tables. For the variants of Jacks or Better, the first number is the payout for a full house, and the second is the payout for a flush. Tens or Better pays for a pair of 10s or better, with only a 6/5 payout for a full house and flush. All American is 8/8, along with 8 times payout for a straight.

How to Play Using the Debug Console

You can also play the game in text mode by opening the browser's Developer Tools and playing in the debug console. Make sure to click in the web page's window (that is, the background behind the cards) to put the keyboard focus there instead of in the debug console window.


There are many websites on the Internet with hints and strategy guides on video poker. Just search for "video poker strategy" or something similar.

Installation and Deployment

The distribution contains the following files that implement the game:

	...		(... card images)
	nocard.png	(transparent card)
	ybtile.gif	(background tile)
main.wasm	(WebAssembly code, produced by compiling main.go and videopoker-web.go)
wasm_exec.js	(JavaScript glue code, copied from $GOROOT/misc/wasm)

For local testing, there is a web server in Go that can be run like this:

$ go run webserver.go
Web server running. Listening on ":8080"

Make sure you are in the directory containing the files in the above list, and start the web server.

Then point your web browser at http://localhost:8080 to run the app.

If you want to deploy the game on a publicly-accessible web server, copy all of the files in the list to your server. The server must support the wasm MIME type. For Apache 2, you may need to include this line in your .htaccess file:

AddType application/wasm wasm

Building the WebAssembly Program

The WebAssembly program, main.wasm, can be built with the following command:

GOOS=js GOARCH=wasm go build -o main.wasm main.go videopoker-web.go

The game engine is in videopoker-web.go, and the user interface (with calls to js package functions) is in main.go.

There is a Makefile in the distribution, so if you have make installed, you can use the following commands:

make            # Build main.wasm

make vet        # run 'go vet' on the sources

make webserver  # Compile the web server.
make test       # Run the web server. (Compile it first!)

make dep        # Copy the files you need for deployment into a
                # directory named deploy. (Create it first.)


This README is for version 1.0 of the program.


Jay Ts


Copyright 2016-2019 Jay Ts

Released under the GNU Public License, version 3.0 (GPLv3) (

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