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How to get the most bang for your bankroll

By Jerry “Stickman” Stich


With the myriad choices of video poker games available in today’s casinos, many people have a hard time simply figuring out the best game for them to play. But depending on the individual and their gambling goals, the definition of “best” can be as varied as the games that are available.

One of the most appealing aspects of video poker is its low house edge—if you choose a player-friendly game and play it correctly. Let me share some tips that will help steer you in the right direction.

DO limit yourself to only a couple of variations of video poker. The most popular are Jacks or Better, and Deuces Wild. These games have inherently low volatility and reasonably straight-forward playing strategies.

DO look for only the best pay tables on the selected variations of these games. With Jacks or Better, look for pay tables that pay 9-for-1 for a full house and 6-for-1 for a flush. This game has a mere .46 per-cent house advantage. In the long run you will lose only 46 cents for every $100played through this game. If your choice of game is Deuces Wild, look for one of these pay tables:

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


The Full-Pay version returns 100.76 percent with perfect play. That’s right—this is actually a positive expectation game for the player! The NSUD version returns 99.73percent with perfect play. The higher returns for Deuces Wild games are slightly offset by higher volatility (bigger swings in your bankroll).

DO learn the strategies for your chosen games well. Get the playing strategy online, from a book, from strategy cards, or from a software program. Then study it, practice it, and practice some more—until you know it cold. It doesn’t make sense to take the time to find the best games if you’re not going to play them properly. If you’re uncertain about your mastery of the strategy, bring a strategy card with you while playing. You can refer to it when you are in doubt about a particular play.

DON’T play faster than your grasp of the strategy. Unless you’re playing a positive game (such as Full-Pay Deuces Wild),playing faster will only cause you to lose more. Also, if you’re playing so fast that mistakes are made, more money will be lost. If you don’t play each and every hand properly, you are giving away part of the edge. Instead, play at a comfortable speed where you are in command of the playing strategy. Better to play slower and properly than to play faster and make mistakes.

DO use your Slot Player’s Club when you play. If you don’t have a card, get one. Using the card does not affect the payback while playing (contrary to a popular myth), and it does allow you to earn comps. Why not collect a little bit extra whenever possible?

DO play the maximum coins. With five credits played, the Royal Flush pays 3.2 times what it pays with fewer credits played. Don’t give up this extra pay by playing fewer than five credits.

DO play a denomination of machine that matches your bankroll and risk tolerance. For a weekend trip, a reasonable bankroll would be about what a Royal Flush pays on your game of choice. Playing a 25-cent machine would mean you’d need about$1,000 to withstand the swings. For a $1 game you’d need about $4,000. By the way, this guideline is for conservative players. If you’re more risk-tolerant, perhaps one-half of a Royal Flush would be an adequate bankroll.


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