Video Poker is More Than Just the Best Paytable

A month ago, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts featuring Tim Lawson & Eric Rosenthal at “The Bettor Life” covering professional bettor & recreational gamblers concerns alike about poker, table games, sports betting, slots, and other games of chance.  This one episode included a discussion about video poker value – pay tables, preferred games, comps and the occasional know-it-alls that criticize one’s decision on what to play. Inspiration hit me – I felt there was even more to tell! This post is NOT to tell you what to do, as compared consider the reasons and possibilities.  I agree with the Bettor Life in saying “play what you want to play – recreational playing should make you happy.” HOWEVER – if you are  a recreational video poker player, there are many things to consider if you want to give yourself the best chances to win, play longer and/or earn more comps while having fun.  Let’s look at the big picture.

WHY DO YOU PLAY VIDEO POKER?

Could it be any of these many reasons?

  • “I like playing games with a low house edge”
  • “I like playing with no casino “heat” “
  • “I play only what’s available in my local casinos.”
  • “I prefer to play at the pace I prefer.”.
  • “I like Free Drinks”

    Service with a smile.

  • “I like social time with a friend”
  • “I’m prefer to play independently”
  • “I don’t want to bother with other players in a community setting”
  • “I love the skill and strategy involved”
  • “I like to pass the time slowly (low denomination, no max bet, relaxing)
  • “To play off my free slotplay”

I’m sure there are other reasons I haven’t included. I know depending on the situation, I might play with any one of these in mind.  The fact is, recreational gambling can be for many reasons besides beating the game, no matter what the game is.

Now, before some of you serious gamblers yell “BLASPHEMY!” and stop reading (you know who you are – you’re good, but you’re no AP), give me a chance to explain. But first, a public service announcement.

A CASINO “DON’T” FOR For VP (And ANY Other CASINO GAME)

No matter what game you play, unsolicited criticism or advice is just a “no-no.” Unless someone asks you for help, just keep your mouth shut. Video Poker is definitely a game full of “experts” that feel they need to share their myths & superstitions. With so many game options and configurations with different paytables, giving unwanted advice to the person next is wrong – unless you’re Bob Dancer, and even then, the ultimate VP expert wouldn’t bother you either.

BRIEF STORY ABOUT VP CONTENTMENT

Harvest Moon Bar, Mohegan Sun

One of my best friends enjoys playing 8/5 JOB on one credit at a BarTop at Mohegan Sun to relax while his wife plays slots. He recently hit his first Royal Flush on $0.25, and was proud of the accomplishment. No remorse, no regret because he was comfortable with his choice – a 97% game with out Max bet (diminishing the % to 95%) with little comp earnings & no extra multipliers or promotions. A relaxing time with free drinks to pass the time while his wife played high limit slots.

Some would shout “for shame,” but his priorities are comfortably set. No criticism here because he enjoys Video Poker on his terms. For all those who criticize, remember another player may have different expectations  – and there’s nothing wrong with that.  For my friend, his mission was accomplished – and more.

DOESN’T IT SEND THE CASINO THE WRONG MESSAGE?

I admit, I once thought that playing VP with poor pay tables sent the message to casino management that as players we condoned decreasing conditions and increasing house edge. That was then, this is now.  They don’t care what you play, as long as it means for money for them. The belief that if we don’t play the poor games, the casino bean counters will be fearful and return to higher paying slots, more full-pay video poker, exclusively 3:2 blackjack and single zero roulette is just crazy.  There will never be enough players interested in putting in the work or time to play only the best games, so move on…….get over being entitled to receive great low & medium roller games that keep the players’ bankroll in mind – it just ain’t gonna happen.

REACHING YOUR PERSONAL VP NIRVANA

Depending how much practice & thought is part of your  Video Poker play, there are many aspects to your play to ponder, such as:

  1. What games are available at your casino that you prefer? – JOB, Bonus, DB, DDB, Ultimate X, etc……
  2. How large is your bankroll? – bankroll does matter, depending what game you are playing.  For example, the money suggested for a successful session of Double-Double Bonus is more than Jacks-or-Better (JOB) because of the higher volatility. Also, denomination complicates it further depending if you are playing nickels, quarters or dollars.  Finally, playing multi-line machines like Triple Play, 5-Play & Ten-Play not only changes the denomination but also alters the game chosen.
  3. What are you willing to compromise? I enjoy playing at Foxwoods Play bar in the Cedars Casino.  It has decent nickel multi-line games and quarter single line games, but not great. However, the service is great and the bartenders make you feel like you just entered “Cheers.”  It’s a compromise I’m willing to make for the enjoyment aspect of the session. Do you make compromises playing lower percentage games for your enjoyment?  Many of us do.

    Tammy, Steve & Katherine at Play Bar, Foxwoods

  4. What is your “casino currency”?  This is a term Eric Rosenthal used on the Bettor Life. It refers to the value placed on other things besides the game itself. It may be that a worse paytable gives your more comp points. If tier credit, tier level, and comps are as important (or more) than the game itself, it is part of your casino currency. Video Poker is notorious in earning 1/2 to 1/3 of the points slots accrue, so other things make be accountable to what you play and when. Some casinos give very little back to VP players, or may even be given little in tier gains, points, and attention in offers, because casinos makes little money off of JOB full pay tables, for example. Eric mentions, “Considering what the machines cost to run, usual casino costs, and very little money made off of you, there is nothing in it for them if all you play is full pay JOB….no need to court you…..better off playing lower paytables to appear less astute…..the benefits may mean more than payout percentage.”
  5. Low rolling full pay brings little to the player – consider this: playing full-pay JOB at quarter level may not earn as much as playing one or two credits on a $1 8/5 JOB machine. Also, according to Bob Dancer, be careful of single line machines with many games. A machine that has a full pay game may earn the same minimal pittance in tier and reward points on other non full-pay games such as 8/5 DDB or lower pay Deuces Wild. It might be better to check for for  multi game machines or single game machines that will accrue a higher reward.
  6. Should you play with/without a card? I have a confession to make – sometimes I play without my card.  – Short sessions or small play sessions are bad for a player’s EV. On occasion, for a relaxing short play and free drink I willI play…..wait for it…..VIDEO KENO!  When that occurs, I play without a card so that I don’t damage my ADT (Average Daily Theoretical). I may know that time is short or bankroll is small, so why not? Consider doing the same and using your card only when playing big.
  7. What? Practice? – Yes, practice.  If you truly want to win more, give yourself a chance to win more by practicing on the many apps, software and websites that provide for instruction. Without perfect strategy on your favorite game,  the EV/ payout % will be decreased – even if it’s full pay!  Even playing 8/5 JOB using the perfect strategy of 9/6 makes a difference, not to mention using the strategy 9/6 JOB on a  9/6 DDB. Click on Videopoker.com below to practice any of your favorite video poker games.

COMPROMISE IS THY MIDDLE NAME

Here are examples of where I play and why. Notice it isn’t full-pay or nothing:

Mohegan Sun – Bars that include 9/6 JOB ($1), Cleopatra Video Keno ($.25, no rewards card), Triple Play 9/5 DDB & 8/5 JOB ($.25 or $1, depending on bankroll) Ultimate X 10 play ($.5) . Good service, decent paytables and full pay for big plays. Especially good on multiplier days.

Foxwoods – 9/5 Ultimate X 5 Play ($.5), 8/5 JOB & 9/5 DDB TP($.25 & $1) Great service at Play bar. Cedars casino also offers nickel Ultimate X Tp, 5-Play, & 10-Play (only 10-play at nickels at all bar tops)

MGM Springfield – Not much here to offer. Compromises abound.  7/5 JOB ($1) and 8/5 DDB ($.25), only on multiplier Mondays or visiting with Chris DiMauro of Art In the Game.

Plainridge Park – Ultimate X DDB 10-play ($.5).  Not much play here, but I do find this casino fun.

Tiverton Casino – talk about compromises, I love this little place – but not for the VP.  the VP is horrible, just like it’s parent company Twin River Casino.  But one thing separates it from the rest – the iPourIt Wall.  26 self-serve beer & wine taps served by the ounce, however you’d like it.  This makes 8/5 DDB a winning compromise in my book.

CONCLUSION

Play what makes you comfy – place, bar, craft beer, great drinks, bartenders, etc may mean more than best paytables and look at big picture. Play the game you are comfy with.  Play where you are comfy. Play what and where you get the biggest bang for your buck. Don’t give unsolicited advice and accept players for their recreational video poker play – what ever that means to them.

And remember, even the best of us compromise our play at times. So, chill out and enjoy putting the “recreation” back into recreational gambling.

Binbin

Video Poker – Mistakes & Myths

Our 4th day of video poker week looks at Mistakes and Myths. Let’s first do the tacky thing of “defining the gambler.”

WHAT IS A VIDEO POKER PLAYing Gambler?

Many views of a gambler paints a bleak, hopeless picture of reckless behavior leading to someone who risks loss or injury in the hope of gain or excitement. Addiction is a major concern, but I prefer to think a true gambler is someone who wagers money on the outcome of games or sporting events with strategy, knowledge, and experience to get the best chance to win by diminishing the house edge.

However, there are those who cling to gut feelings, myths, and false knowledge while whining about losing and casino edge.  If you are superstitious, or even a “Little”-stitious, read on…… Remember, for every rule, there might be an exception.

Mistakes

Not Joining the Slot Club –  Get over the fact that you think big brother is watching you and can get an extraordinary amount of information from your rewards card – it’s not as much as you think.  Also, having your card inserted does not give someone (upstairs in the secret button room) the ability to change whatever it is your playing. So, get credit for your play. Comps playing video poker are hard enough to earn. Use the card, and no, using the slot club card  won’t tighten your machine. The exception? – small play or short play sessions.  For example, I play without the card when my play might diminish my Average Daily Theoretical.  For more info on that, check out ‘“Casino Comps & Your “Average Daily Theoretical”

Playing the Wrong Games – this means a couple of things.  First and foremost, it means playing games that you don’t practice.  I don’t play “deuces wilds” because i wouldn’t play it close to perfect strategy – but that’s just me because I prefer to lower the house edge by playing only games I know well. Wrong games also includes playing highly volatile games with high variance like Triple Double Bonus or Multi-line Multi-Strike Poker which have slightly different hold cards. It should be said that the vast majority of multi-line games (Triple Play, 5-Play, 100-Play, etc) should be played exactly as the single line version.

A Low Bankroll – Different games with different denominations need different amounts of moolah to play with perfect strategy to give the player a good chance at winning. For more specific information on bankroll, go to the 888Casino and read DETERMINING BANKROLL REQUIREMENTS

Drinking too much / playing distracted – find the balance between enjoying casino amenities and playing the game.

Not Checking the Pay Table – the pay tables vary depending upon the game, denomination, and casino. Even machines side by side may be different. Look for better paying machines.  But remember, just because one game has a better paying pay table doesn’t alone increase your chance of winning, correct strategy is a bigger factor.

Playing on a problem machine / Playing a Machine with “Sticky” Buttons – some machines are just not fun because of malfunctions with buttons or rewards card entry. Bar top machines especially fall into this category.

Not Betting Max Bet – You cant win if you don’t play – and that includes Royal Flushes & Progressive Jackpots.  However, maybe you prefer a smaller denomination, or a slower pace. As long as you realize the pay table payback % has been diminished without max play, play what makes you comfy. After all, recreational gambling is for fun, isn’t it?  No judgement here.

Myths

Following Hunches & Superstitions – here are some of the ones I hear the most:

MYTH – the cards are programmed to win or lose when you press deal. TRUTH – The infamous Random Number Generator (RNG) takes care of the randomness of VP play making the game of video poker a skill game based on the math and probabilities. Check out Video Poker Math at CasinoNewsDaily.com .

The 4 is the kicker.

MYTH – “Kicker” cards, cards that increase a four-of-a-kind, should be kept. TRUTH – yes, but only when the strategy dictates it. For example, when dealt three aces with a kicker like 2,3,4 in Double Double Bonus, only keep three aces. But when playing Triple Double Bonus, you’d keep the kicker. Some think you always go for the high pay combination, but correct strategy is more about keeping you in the game longer.

MYTH – Games that offer big jackpots on four Aces deal fewer four-Ace hands. TRUTHNo. Refer Slot Machines – Myths & The Random Number Generator  concerning the “RNG.” 

MYTH – When you discard just one card, it’s usually replaced with a card of the same denomination. TRUTH – No. Refer Slot Machines – Myths & The Random Number Generator concerning the “RNG.” 

Does a dealt Straight Flush mean the game is “hot?”

MYTH – “Hot” and “Cold” machines / “Streaks” – TRUTH – These are human perceptions over a short period of time. For more info, refer to “RNG” above.

MYTH – I’ll change games and change my luck” and “The machine is “due” – TRUTH – it doesn’t matter.  If the games are the same, including paytable, switch if you want. But, it really doesn’t matter.  What matters is that the game, seat, casino area, etc is more desirable to you.

MYTH – Faster is Better – According to this theory, if you can increase your speed to complete one hand every three seconds, forcing the machine to cycle through 20 hands per minute rather than just 10, you’ll work twice as quickly toward the threshold required to trigger big winners.  TRUTH – It may get you closer to the “expected” number of hands needed to approach a certain big pay, the “RNG” could bring the wanted pay out with fewer or many more hands than the expected amount.

MYTH– Higher Denomination Machines Pay More. TRUTH – While this may be true with slot machines (typically, higher the denomination, the higher the pay out %), Video Poker machines with the same pay table, whether $,5, $.25 or $5, will have the same expected RTP (Return To Player), also called EV (expected value).

CONCLUSION

Can You Make a Living Through Video Poker?  Yes, but it is increasingly harder with every year as casinos lower paytables and eliminate “full pay” video poker. Now, it has to include promotions, multipliers, comps and anything else that can increase the value of grinding play on the very few full pay machines left. It’s tough to do.

So, let’s keep recreational gambling in the area of enjoyment and reality. Embrace the math, not the myth, and have fun.

Binbin

Video Poker – Basics and Choosing the Best Game

If you ask Video Poker players “what is the best video poker to play?” don’t expect an answer before they ask you some questions. It’s not a black & white answer – there’s a lot of grey area in consideration. Some questions might include:

  • What’s your bankroll?
  • Have you played before or are you a newbie?
  • Do you prefer volatile games (bigger payout possibilities with an expected quicker loss in bankroll) or do you prefer to play longer with less volatility?
  • Are you interested to learn the correct strategy to maximize your time and reduce the house advantage or do you just want to play for fun and figure it out as you go?

So Many Games to Choose From. Each game has different pay tables, denominations and can be played on a single line or multiple lines. Let’s use Jacks or Better as our base game for this post.

The deal – A FEW BASICS

The solitary play of a video poker player.

If you are new to video poker, the first thing you should understand that while it uses poker card rankings for the basis of pay out, that’s really where the comparison ends. You can’t bluff the machine or figure out OPTIMAL STRATEGY by yourself.

So, how does this game work?  A Random Number Generator (RNG) deals 5 cards from a 52 card deck. (Some games use more, such as Joker Poker). The player chooses the cards to keep, presses draw to get replacement cards for those discarded to make the second and last 5 card hand which decides the payout. Most VP machines deal the draw cards from the continuous RNG.

I refer to 888Casino concerning three major differences from slots, real poker and video poker:

  1. Unlike slot players, video poker players have a say in the outcome of the game.
  2. Because the player has a choice in video poker play, it is possible to play the hands in a way that is most beneficial to the player.
  3. Only a mathematically derived video poker playing strategy will get you the most from your video poker play.

Considering Denomination & bankroll

This is where your bankroll comes into play. Remember, a bankroll is a totally separate amount of money dedicated to casino gaming – not to the money to pay bills, or even the amount in your pocket. It’s a totally separate amount!

.You can play single line games at nickel (hard to find outside of Nevada), quarter, fifty cents, $1, $2, $5, $10, $25 and even $100 machines.  Keep in mind that this depends on your bankroll and, in this player’s opinion, playing max bet of five coins. For more info on playing Max Bet, click on “Video Poker &  Max Bet.”

If you are interested in multi-line games, such Triple Play, Five Play, Ten Play, Twenty-five Play, Fifty Play or One Hundred Play, you may want to drop down from quarters to nickels or even pennies, depending on the number of lines.

Super Times Pay Video Poker

Super Times Pay Is an example of Multi-Line Video Poker

So, you probably want to know how much is needed to give you the best chance of a winning play.

According to 888Casino, “The first rule of thumb most players hear when it comes to video poker is that for the long term you need about three to four times the amount won when you hit a royal flush on your game and denomination of choice. Specifically, if you are planning to play a 25 cent Jacks or Better game (standard game, not a progressive) where the royal flush pays 4,000 credits (which comes to $1,000), you need three to four times that amount or $3,000 to $4,000 dollars………If, instead you plan on playing a standard dollar Jacks or Better game where the jackpot once again is 4,000 credits, you will need $12,000 to $16,000 since the dollar amount of the royal flush is now $4,000.”

Please note that this for standard JOB. The higher the volatility (Bonus Poker, Double Bonus & Double Double Bonus as examples), the higher your bankroll should be.

The Draw

A very simple rule when looking for the best video poker game for your play is to look at the full house/flush payouts. Those two numbers with the specific game will usually determine the expected payout %.  Another part of the payout structure to look at is the pay for four-of-the-kinds (quads). You will find that the higher the quad payout is, the more volatile the game can be, and so, a larger bankroll is needed.

Recreational gambling is about being prepared and having fun. Video poker can be a grind, so if it’s not fun, move on to something else. But the more prepared you are, the more fun it will be.

Related articles:

Video Poker Considerations for Lower Pay Tables – Jerry “Stickman” Stitch

Video Poker Players – Don’t Rush the Royal Flush

Slot Machine & VP Etiquette – Final Part

Binbin – Remember, “When gambling, embrace the math, not the myth”