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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 below to practice any of your favorite video poker games.


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.


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.


My Vegas Vacation – Trip Report, Part 2 – The Good, The Bad and the “What the _____ ?

The Las Vegas Strip

The Las Vegas Strip from high up in Mandalay Bay.

Part 2 delves into praise and sarcasm, the good, the bad and the “what the?” in our five day trip to the gambling mecca that is Vegas. First let’s take a look at the gambling.


The gaming gods did not look down in support of our play.  As George Costanza would have said, “the sea was angry that day (week), my friends, like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli!”  It was a battle all week. But let’s start with the positive.


  1. Red-Rock Resort Casino, Summerlain – Our best gambling was off-strip – surprise, surprise. I love Red Rock Resort.  Full pay Bonus Poker and 9/6 Double Double Poker.  It’s a large casino, always with the newest slots and table games.  Most table games are favorable compared to the strip, including 3/2 blackjack.
  2. Main Street Station, Downtown – the best gambling this trip was at tried and true Main Street Station.  I consider it the nicest casino downtown.  Always great beer (go for the porter), scratch offs for every video poker quad ($1 -$2 mostly), friendly staff, and great gambling.  They even have some video poker with good paytables using coins, in case you like dirty hands and coins dropping into the coin through.  Five quads in two hours for me, 3 for my wife.  Three of my quads (DDB) were Aces (no kicker). We’ve been visiting MSS since the 90’s and it never gets old.
  3. The Palms – used to be a place that had full pay everything, even for the $.25 player. I was very surprised to see at the new Palms, now owned by the same company as Red Rock Resort, the video poker pay tables diminished.  With a look around the Racebook – Eureka! there they were.  Some full pay Deuces,  JOB, DDB, NSUDueces, etc.  To me, the Palms was back.  Stations casinos now has an presence on the Strip, almost.   Across from the Palms is the Gold Coast, a good VP property from Boyds casinos. Video Poker is alive and well on Flamingo Road.

These were the exceptions of an otherwise dismal gambling trip.


  1. Mandalay Bay, South Strip – Pai Gow Poker at Mandalay Bay kicked my butt – quickest Pai Gow session EVAH!  Slots didn’t pay, except for one of my faves – Little Shop of Horrors.  It’s hard to find these days, the bonus usually pays well, and max bet is only $1.50 to get all the perks of the machine.  The sounds from the plant are funny and entertaining.
  2. Planet Hollywood, mid Strip – If you’ve played Video Poker on the Strip, you know how abysmal it can be.  Both M-Bay and Planet Ho. The few playable at Mandalay at $.25 are in Spin Poker and multi-hand games.  Full pay Bonus Poker starts at the $2 level. Planet Hollywood is worse – NO FULL PAY ANYTHING. How about 6/5 JOB at the bar tops? Terrible.  Besides that, most Caesars Properties have their little light system that tells bartenders if you deserve a free drink!  To be honest, $10 through, or 8 hands of VP max bet seemed to do it. But kiss away those low play Keno breaks with a beer.
  3. Bally’s, mid Strip – Supposedly, this casino has gone through renovations.  My question is “How can a property go through renovations and still be one of the most non-descriptive, boring casinos on the strip?  Slots need to be upgraded, the VP has been downgraded since there last from bad to terrible, and overall – blah. Needless to say, I should have paid attention to the sucking sound I heard upon entering, because it soon found my bankroll.

NETG Vegas Bad-Beats – This refers to the kind of things you just shake your head, amused but muttering “I don’t GET IT.” 

  • Men’s underwear – Do I really need to say it.  I thought that fad was gone.  I guess some boys refuse to grow up and dress like big boys.
  • $.75 for water – At Della’s Kitchen, you don’t have the option of free tap water.  You water is $.75.  Be aware, they pour before you have a chance to know! Sure, I know, it’s a little thing, but just one of many.  Parking fees, resort fees, paying for drinks while gambling…… water the next thing we will be charged for?
  • Seabreeze at Mandalay – Looking for a good, quick breakfast at M-Bay? Stay away from Seabreeze.  Our breakfast was horrible.  The breakfast special was so small, we ordered a side of turkey sausage – for $7! The special was $9.99. The sausage tasted like Jimmy Dean microwaved (luke warm and was quickly brought out) bread was dry and obviously from a store bought loaf, and service was slow and not engaging. Again, stay away!
  • Resort fees – Yeah I know, beating a dead horse.  Don’t get me wrong, I like getting comped rooms from Caesars Entertainment. But even at Diamond status, I paid $150 in resort fees & taxes at Planet Hollywood.


  • Taking JetBlue non-stop from Boston to Las Vegas and ending up in the newest terminal D is awesome.
  • How good is Earl of Sandwich?  not good – Outstanding
  • Yardhouse is a chain and has great salads and outstanding beer.  Order two flights – 8 beers – and share! Find it at the Linq and Red Rock resort.
  • Planet Hollywood Kiosks for checking in worked very well. If you’re early , concierge holds bags, they email/text you when ready.
  • Banger Brewing downtown is a must for beer aficionados. The El Heffe (a Jalapeno hefeweizen), the Morning Joe (a blond coffee kolsch) and the One Off Series (brown ale with mint chocolate) are NETG Recommendations. 
  • El Cortez – great gambling in a place out of old Vegas. Low minimums and good gambling. What trip is complete without a visit?
  • Best little breakfast at the Miracle Mile (Planet Hollywood) – La Cantina. $4.99 for 2 eggs, bacon or sausage, hash browns and two tortilla.

KENO CHALLENGE or “How to pass the time on $20 when your bankroll dwindles.”

Caveman Keno

Bert and Bin made up a new game for passing the time, whenever needed. It’s called the KENO CHALLENGE. Those competing insert $20 (it could be any amount, but same amount for all). The one at a time, play taking turns. Continue until one playerThe one left with money wins. What do they win?  Does’t matter? Meanwhile, drinks keep coming, since this can last a long time. BIG SUGGESTION – don’t use your players card unless playing $1 bets and up, (depending on your personal Daily Theoretical.)


It was a great trip, not financially, but in all other aspects.  If you can’t come back from Vegas and still feel happy about going, then you’re not going as a vacation, Advantage Players not included. Can’t wait for next summer.