CasinoCityTimes.com

Gurus
News
Newsletter
Author Home Author Archives Author Books Send to a Friend Search Articles Subscribe
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Newsletter Signup
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Articles in this Series
Best of Elliot Frome

Gaming Guru

author's picture
 

The First Leg: What Games to Play - Basic Video Poker Strategy

19 February 2004

Last time we introduced the concept of the Three Legged Stool, with our new comfy seat cushion on top. Just to refresh, these are:
  • Know what games to play
  • Play with the right strategy
  • Know what to expect
  • Enjoy the game (the comfy cushion!)

This time, we're going to discuss the first item, knowing what games to play. Unlike slot machines, everything you need to know about a Video Poker machine is right there on the front of the machine. Given a particular Pay Table, you can immediately know the payback. There are now countless books out there, such as our own Winning Strategies for Video Poker, that will list the overall payback of a machine given its Pay Table. There are even software programs that allow you to enter the Pay Table and will give you the payback, although these can be difficult to bring into the casino with you. All of these paybacks have been determined using computer programs that determine that best way to play each hand. We'll discuss this in further detail in our next column. Realistically, your choices are to bring one of the books, create your own 'cheat sheet', or simply memorize the Pay Tables of the games you are interested in playing.

The key is to look for what are called 'Full-Pay' machines. Full-Pay machines are the versions of each game generally regarded as having the highest overall Payback and that can be readily found. Due to a variety of reasons, what is considered a Full-Pay version in Las Vegas may be impossible to find in another locale. One of the reasons that Las Vegas is called Video Poker Heaven is because of the abundance of high-paying, even positive expectation, machines. Although this trend had declined a good deal over the past few years, Las Vegas still remains the best place to find the best games.

Since Jacks or Better is the best place to start when you're learning to play Video Poker, let's start with the full-pay version of it:

Full-Pay Table for Jacks or Better
Pair (J's - A's)
1
Two Pair
2
3-of-a-Kind
3
Straight
4
Flush
6
Full House
9
4-of-a-Kind
25
Straight Flush
50
Royal Flush*
800
*max. 5-coin bet required for 4,000
coin bonus payout

The Pay Table shown above, when combined with Expert Play, will result in an overall payback of 99.6%. Not a positive game, but a strong payback, and when combined with cashback bonuses, can result in a positive expectation. This Pay Table is commonly referred to as 9/6 Jacks or Better (based on the payouts of the Full House and the Flush). In many locales, you'll also find all sorts of variations from 8/5 all the way down to 6/5. So, how much do these variations cost you? Each reduction of 1 coin in the Full House OR the Flush payout, reduces the payback of the machine by just over 1%. So, a 6/5 game is paying only 95.3%!

How much of a difference is this really? Well, we can look at it a few different ways. If we look at it as the difference in Loss Rate, it means you're going from .4% to 4.7%, an increase of almost 1000%. For those who prefer a more tangible feel to the impact. If you were to play 500 hands an hour (an average rate for a good player) on a quarter machine, playing max-coin (5 coins), you'd put $625 in per hour. If your session is 4 hours, that's $2500. Ignoring cashback for a moment, playing at 99.6% means after 4 hours, you should have lost about 10 bucks. Playing 95.3% means you would have lost, on average, about $117. That's a very nice meal you could have had for that extra $100.

Or course, if you sit down at a 9/6 and your buddy sits down at a 6/5 machine, does that mean you're going to come back after 4 hours with $100 more than your friend. Of course not, as these are averages. In any 4 hour session, a lower paying machine MAY outperform its higher paying neighbor. But over the long run, this simply won't be the case.

There is one more point to be raised about this. Pay Tables are generally listed assuming max-coin bets. This is usually 5 coins. On a Jacks or Better machine, the Royal Flush pays higher when playing 5 coins vs. playing less than 5 coins (800 vs. 250). All paybacks are based on the 5-coin payout. You're always better playing 5 nickels instead of 1 quarter, assuming the Pay Tables are the same.

Next time, we'll start the discussion of playing strategy, the second leg on our stool.

Elliot Frome

Elliot Frome is a 2nd generation gaming author and analyst. His father, Lenny Frome was considered one of the premier authors of Video Poker books. Titles include, Expert Video Poker for Las Vegas and Winning Strategies for Video Poker, which includes the strategy tables for 61 of the country’s most popular versions of Video Poker. Check out Compu-Flyers website at www.vpheaven.com, or drop Elliot an e-mail at compuflyers@prodigy.net.

Elliot Frome Websites:

www.vpheaven.com

Books by Elliot Frome:

> More Books By Elliot Frome

Elliot Frome
Elliot Frome is a 2nd generation gaming author and analyst. His father, Lenny Frome was considered one of the premier authors of Video Poker books. Titles include, Expert Video Poker for Las Vegas and Winning Strategies for Video Poker, which includes the strategy tables for 61 of the country’s most popular versions of Video Poker. Check out Compu-Flyers website at www.vpheaven.com, or drop Elliot an e-mail at compuflyers@prodigy.net.

Elliot Frome Websites:

www.vpheaven.com

Books by Elliot Frome:

> More Books By Elliot Frome