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The Difference Between Class II and Class III Video Poker

By Jerry “Stickman” Stich


If you are serious about video poker play and you want to maximize your return, avoid class II games like the plague.

In a recent letter to Casino Player writer Jerry “Stickman” Stich, one of our readers asked for a little clarity about the classes of games and specifically how it affects video poker. Here’s that question, along with Jerry’s expert response.

Please define the difference between Class II and Class III video poker machines.

Larry Cosner


There is a lot of confusion surrounding the differences between Class II and Class III video poker games.

Class III games are what you usually find in Las Vegas. With these machines you play against the casino with the results of each play randomly determined. This is accomplished using a program called a random number generator. The payoffs for various hands are weighed against the odds of hitting the hand.

Class II games are bingo style games. Each player actually plays against other players in the casino. These games are sometimes called video lottery terminals as the wins are determined by a central server (similar to a lottery server) to which all the games are attached. You can usually tell if a video poker game is a Class II game because there is a small display of a bingo-style board that is used to show the results of the bingo game. Class III games do not have this as each draw is a separate random event.

Some of the major differences between each class of game are in the following areas:


House edge: You can determine the house edge of class III games. Since the game’s results are random, you just need to compare the odds of the hand being completed and its corresponding payoff. Sum up the results and subtract from 100 percent and you have the house edge.

This cannot be done for a class II game as the odds of completing hands are not random – they are determined by the central server.


Skill Required: Each draw of the cards in a class III game is random. The results can be determined based on the odds of completing the hands. Therefore, the class III video poker player needs to know the best way to save cards in order to obtain the best results. Saving properly will increase the amount returned by the game. Play improperly will reduce the amount returned.

No skill is required for class II games. The player will win whatever the central server determines. If the player saves a two pairs which pay 2-for-1 and the server determines the player should win 25-for-1, the game will “magically” transform the hand to a four of a kind. I have heard some players call this an “angel feature.” Conversely, if you are dealt a royal flush (this only happens if the server determined you will win the amount of the royal flush), you can discard it and another royal flush will “magically” appear.


Some History: Generally only Indian casinos have class II games. This dates back to the start of Indian casino gambling in 1979 when the Seminole Indians opened bingo gambling parlors in Florida. Many lawsuits, regulations, laws, and more later, federally recognized tribes can operate casinos under federal rules as long as the states allow the type of gambling. Most states had allowed bingo type gambling sponsored by churches, so Indian casinos could also do it.


Some other highlights of Indian casino gambling:

  • Tribes receive $4 of every $10 that Americans wager at casinos.
  • Indian casinos earn 44% of all US casino gaming revenue.  Another $3.3 billion was earned in restaurants, hotels, and entertainment services.
  • Indian gaming operates in 28 states. 24 states allow Vegas-style Class III Indian casinos; four allow Class II-only casinos (bingo slots).
  • Indian gaming provides 628,000 jobs nationwide (both direct & indirect jobs).


Indian casinos have come a long way from the early days!  My advice to you? If you are serious about video poker play and you want to maximize your return, avoid class II games like the plague. You might as well play the slot machines.

May all your wins be swift and large and all your losses slow and tiny.

Jerry “Stickman” is an expert in craps, blackjack and video poker and advantage slot machine play. He is a regular contributor to top gaming magazines. In addition, Jerry “Stickman” along with his partner, #1 best-selling gaming author, Frank Scoblete gives private lessons in dice control. You can contact Jerry “Stickman” at


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