Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Looks Can Be Deceiving

The tricky thing about video poker pay tables

By Jerry “Stickman” Stich

 

With most video poker games, the casinos change only one or two paybacks to improve their house edge. These are fairly simple to see and intuitive to understand. However, with some games, several paybacks are changed, with some being increased and others being reduced.

In the Golden Age of video poker, there were only a few types of games, and they all had very good pay tables. Video poker was new and exciting back then, and casinos competed with each other to attract players.

The “full pay” version of Jacks or Better returned 99.54 percent with perfect play. It paid 4,000 credits for a royal flush when five credits were played per hand. Competition caused some casinos to install games that paid 4,700 credits for a royal with five coins played. On a 25¢ game, the total amounted to $1,175 coming in—just under the $1,200 limit where a W2-G form has to be issued. These games returned 99.9 percent with perfect play. In the long run, a person playing this game would only lose ten cents for every $100 played.

The full pay version of Double Bonus Poker actually pays over 100 percent – 100.17 percent – with perfect play. That’s right; by playing perfect strategy, you will make money in the long run playing this game.

The classic full pay Deuces Wild game does even better, returning 100.76 percent with perfect play.

When these games were first introduced, players did not know how to play them. They simply did what their gut told them to do. As research was done and books were written on how to maximize returns, casinos saw their video poker profits dwindle. To compensate, they tweaked the pay tables. Rather than paying 9-for-1 for a full house and 6-for-1 for a flush on Jacks or Better, they reduced the payout to 8-for-1 for a full house and 5-for-1 for a flush. This reduced the return from 99.54 percent to 97.30 percent.

With most video poker games, the casinos change only one or two paybacks to improve their house edge. These are fairly simple to see and intuitive to understand. However, with some games, several paybacks are changed, with some being increased and others being reduced.

Consider these two Deuces Wild pay tables.

Hand

Game A

Game B

Royal Flush (No Deuces)

800

800

Four Deuces

200

200

Royal Flush w/Deuces

25

25

Five-of-a-Kind

15

16

Straight Flush

9

10

Four-of-a-Kind

5

4

Full House

3

4

Flush

2

3

Straight

2

2

Three-of-a-Kind

1

1

 

Which game has the better return?

Game B pays one credit more for five-of-a-kind, straight flush, full house, and flush, and pays one credit less for four-of-a-kind. Normally, the hands near the bottom of the pay table occur more frequently. The only hand that pays less in game B is the four-of-kind, and it’s in the middle of the pay table.

Surely Game B has a better return – right?

Wrong! Game A is the full pay version of Deuces Wild, returning 100.76 percent. Game B is Not So Ugly Deuces, returning 99.73 percent.

How can this be? It’s certainly not intuitive. Let’s look a little closer.

Here is the same table with a column for the percent of return added. The additional column was determined using a video poker software program.

Hand

Game A

% of Retn

Game B

% of Retn

Royal Flush (No Deuces)

800

1.77

800

1.84

Four Deuces

200

4.07

200

3.73

Royal Flush w/Deuces

25

4.49

25

4.77

Five-of-a-Kind

15

4.80

16

4.97

Straight Flush

9

3.71

10

5.14

Four-of-a-Kind

5

32.47

4

24.42

Full House

3

6.37

4

10.45

Flush

2

3.32

3

6.23

Straight

2

11.31

2

11.47

Three-of-a-Kind

1

28.45

1

26.72

 

The differences caused by changing the payback are shaded. However, there are also differences in other return percentages, because the strategy changes to favor the highest paying returns. While the shaded differences slightly favor Game B, when you add in the other changes based on strategy changes, the results are Game A – 100.76 percent and Game B – 99.74 percent (because of rounding it is slightly higher than the actual 99.73 percent).

The moral of the story is that you may not be able to tell which game has the higher return simply looking at the pay tables. In order to take full advantage of a video poker game, you need a software program to determine the best game. You should also use a software program to make sure you are playing the best strategy for that game. A little preparation can pay big dividends.

Video Poker Strategy – How Would You Play This Hand?

You’re playing a full-pay Deuces Wild machine with five coins played. You are dealt the following hand:

Ah 2d 7s Qh 6s

How would you play it?

You have the option of holding three of a wild royal flush (Ah 2d Qh), three of a open straight flush (2d 7s 6s), or the lone wild deuce. Many players may choose saving the three of a wild royal, or possibly even the single deuce in the hope of drawing three more deuces, but the proper play is to save three of the straight flush.

Returns for each possible save are as follows.

Deuce only – 5.1852

Three of the wild royal flush – 5.2313

Three of the straight flush – 5.5643

Is that how you would have played it?

The tricky thing about video poker pay tables.

Do you have a comment or question about this article?


Look for your question to be answered in either Casino Player or Strictly Slots Magazines.