Sitting down at a bar-top video poker machine with full pay games and ordering unlimited free quality drinks seem to be a thing of the past. The experience has been diminished – tarnished – by casino industry bean counters squeezing every penny they can out of their patrons.

So, what makes a good video poker bar-top experience these days?

I truly understand that to many players, it doesn’t matter.  The ambiance, the excitement of the destination, or playing side by side with friends is more important than how many credits won on a full house.  To sit at the Chandelier Bar at the Cosmopolitan Resort in Las Vegas is enough to put up with 7/5 JOB because of the extravagant $20 gourmet cocktails and the atmosphere.  I get it.

Video poker at your favorite bar top machine.

But some of us still want to play machines that give us a fighting chance and still get a quality beer upon asking. (However, even that is being taken away – see “drinks & coupons” later in this post.)

This post 6 Considerations for a Great Experience at Casino Video Poker Bars:

Quality of Games – Pay-tables

Multi Games Offered

Ambiance

Drinks & Coupons

Progressives

Rewards Club & Promotions

As always, personal preference is most important when you play. But, many things need to be considered.  Let’s look into the possibilities to consider for the optimum video poker bar experience.

Quality of Games – Pay-tables

Video poker is a skill game.  Many of us practice specific games we enjoy because there IS a best play for each hand dealt, depending on the game.  I know I want to give myself the best chance to win.  I know I want the best chance to play longer, possibly giving myself a better chance to get more hands dealt and more chances for the elusive Royal Flush.  Full pay 9/6 JOB (Jacks or Better) plays slightly different that 8/5 JOB.

Full Pay JOB and a Royal Flush!

Many VP bars don’t offer good games simply because you’re getting to drink for free. On my last trip to Las Vegas, I stopped in at Caesars Palace to play a little VP and get a beer.  At this particular bar, they had 6/5 Double Double bonus, and Coors light.  Double whammy! Pitiful! (For those VP novices in the audience, the first number refers to payout for a full house, 2nd number for a flush.  This combination is one of the ways to tell if it’s a good game to play or bad concerning expected pay back over the long term.  But it isn’t the only consideration to find “good” games.)  Later, at downtown Las Vegas, I played 8/5 bonus, & 9/6 DDB with unlimited craft beer from Main Street Station’s own brewery. Let’s compare some pay tables:

Jacks or Better – 9/6 = 99.54% pay back (considered Full Pay, best pay table, and can be found at Mohegan Sun bar tops)……6/5 = 95% Dollar slots are a better gambling play, since a player will receive approximately 3X rewards points for slots as compared to VP.

Double Double Bonus – 10/6 = 100.07% pay back, 9/6= 98.98% payback, 9/5 = 97.87% payback……. 6/5 = 94% pay back, worst pay table I’ve ever seen.  Dollar slots are a better gambling play, since a player will receive approximately 3X rewards points for slots as compared to VP.

If playing a machine that gives you better odds is important to you, then check the paytables.

Superstar Multi Video Poker – numerous games, numerous denominations.

Multi Games Offered

Most bar-top machines offer many games, not only video poker.  Video Keno, Blackjack, slots, and many variations of VP can be found.  All bar tops are not created equal – even at the same bar.  Check out different machines.  Find one that offers what you want to play while kicking back your favorite cocktail or beer.

I will consider only video poker for this article.  Look for “All Star Poker” or Superstar Multi Poker which offer a variety of VP, from single line, triple and five play, to Spin Poker & Ultimate X VP.  Again, check the pay tables.  But you might enjoy a particular game and just prefer playing that.  Better payout = best gambling play, favorite VP game = enjoy the experience.  Best of all would be your favorite game with good pay tables. Take some time to search, they are out there – maybe even at your local casino.

Las Vegas, Cosmopolitan Chandelier bar, VP surrounded by beauty.

Ambiance

That’s right, to some players, the best game just doesn’t matter at times.  It’s the atmosphere, the camaraderie , the social aspect of it all.  Or, maybe, it’s watching a bartender juggle bottles while making an exquisite gourmet cocktail just for you. Maybe, you have a friendly relationship with the barkeep, you know the bar where “everybody knows your name.”

There are some bars that are surrounded by natural beauty – both for artistic decor and people watching.  Either way, it may be to pass time and take it all in, instead of concentrating on the skill involved.

Quiet – highly underrated in  casinos.  Playing VP in a quiet setting sipping a draft beer away from the crowds can be soothing and seem like an oasis in an otherwise crazy place. Two such places exist in New England Casinos – the Race books at Foxwoods & Mohegan Sun.

Drinks & Coupons

Playing crappy VP can simply be overlooked by the drinks served.  I remember playing 7/5 Bonus VP at the 32 Degrees Bar at M Resort, south of the Las Vegas Strip.  Why? – because of the 96 taps that were available.  A fabulous free drink can a key ingredient to your Vegas vacation.

Lights signal bartenders for vouchers. Some are automatic.

But free drinks, like free parking, are a vanishing commodity in Las Vegas, and all over the country.  In the old system — which still rules most hotel casinos, depending on state laws — if you gamble on the casino floor or at a bar, you get free drinks from bartenders who monitor your gambling.  But more and more, especially on the Las Vegas Strip, ticket systems at a video poker bars are now installed where gamblers must gamble to receive vouchers for drinks.  The estimated time for a free drink depends on speed of play, denomination, and apparently if the ticket system is actually working. According to a recent “Five Hundy by Midnight” podcast, the average time for an average speed player at the Cosmopolitan on the Strip tends to be 20 minutes between drinks. Cosmo, MGM and Caesars properties are all trying this strategy with mixed reviews. Rumors also abound in Las Vegas concerning coupon systems being used on the casino floor.

In New England, free drinks are still poured at Mohegan Sun, Foxwoods (both of which continue to have free parking), while state rules prohibit free drinks in the 2 Maine casinos, Plainridge Park in Massachusetts, and Rhode Island casinos.

Video Poker Progressive

Progressives

Progressive jackpots are jackpots that grows as people play. It progressively gets larger and larger as a percentage of each bet is added to the total prize. They are usually linked to a whole bank of machines. This means that if there are players on all of the machines there is a chance that another player will hit the royal before you. Very often, video poker with lower pay tables at bar tops will be boosted with a progressive jackpot for Royal Flushes and sometimes “Quads” (four-of-a-kind).  These jackpots can get quite high, making a non playable game more of a better play.  Sometimes a combination of factors with a progressive is just what a player may be looking for, even for that low cost, watered-down “scotch on the rocks.”

Rewards Club & Promotions

Video Poker at Oxford Casino – pay for drinks, terrible paytables.

One final consideration is the rewards club. A good rewards club can make a difference, especially on multiplier days.  For example, a general rule by most casinos is that it takes 2X to 3X of play to earn one reward a status point compared to that slots.  But on a multiplier day, such as Mohegan Sun’s Triple Status Point promotions, playing VP can accumulate faster.  But read the fine print!  At Oxford Casino,

 

promotions such as their Tuesday “15X point” multiplier doesn’t include play on video poker machines. Some bar chains in Nevada have their own rewards club, as well as mini-marts, gas stations, pharmacies, and supermarkets!  PT’s Entertainment Group, who recently bought the Stratosphere and Arizona Charlies’ hotel casinos in Las Vegas, has 50+ taverns & restaurants and offer two award-winning loyalty rewards programs to sweeten the pot on its usually low paying VP.

Conclusion

It’s simple – whatever floats your boat.  Take a little extra time to weigh assess things and you may expand your good experience into a great experience.

That’s all for now.

Binbin

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