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

Video Poker 3For those of you like me who play video poker, practice video poker and studies video poker, we have seen times a-changin’ over the past 10 years.
While we have seen casinos tightening up on amenities, raise hotel prices and resort fees, and basically squeeze as much as it can out of us – we have seen the full-pay VP go the way of the Dodo Bird.

pic_66Jerry “Stickman” Stitch has noticed it as well. In his article “Changing Times for Video Poker – Strategy changes for short-pay Jacks or Better,” he gives advice on how to cope with the lower paying VP machines we are now seeing as the norm in casinos.  The entire article is available by clicking on the title link above.

Jerry “Stickman” is an expert in dice control at craps, blackjack, advantage slots and video poker. He is a regular contributor to top gaming magazines. The “Stickman” is also a certified instructor for Golden Touch Craps dice control classes and Golden Touch Blackjack’s advantage classes.  His many other articles can be found at and

Basic Strategy Cards are available and most casinos allow you to use them. They will help you get a mathematical edge in your play.

Strategy changes for short-pay Jacks or Better

Gone are the golden days of video poker when you could readily find returns of 100+ percent. Those games are now virtually extinct. You can still find some full-pay Jacks or Better (9/6 – meaning 9-for-1 paid for a full house and 6-for-1 paid for a flush) which returns 99.54 percent with expert play. However, even these games are becoming harder and harder to locate. You are much more likely to come across short-pay version such as 9/5, 8/6, 8/5, 7/5 and even 6/5. (The only Full Pay JOB at $.25 level in New England is at Mohegan Sun)

Keep in mind that for every one unit reduction in pay, the game’s return is lowered about 1.1 percent……… it doesn’t take much to reduce the normally low house edge video poker to nothing more than a slot machine in terms of return. Also, keep in mind that these returns are for “expert” play—you need to work to get these returns!

Video Poker 2Obviously, as the pay tables change, so must the playing strategy. As the pay for one type of hand lowers, other hands start to become more desirable. In the paragraphs below I will examine some of the strategy changes required for some short-pay Jacks or Better pay tables. I am using simplified “basic” strategies when highlighting changes. Advanced strategies will likely have more changes. If you are serious about playing short-pay games, you should find a program or an app that generates strategies and abide by what is generated.

Mike Shackelford of The Wizard of Odds
Mike Shackelford of The Wizard of Odds

(Click HERE for Perfect Strategy VP for Jacks or Better 9/6) and pay table calculator from Wizard of Odds)

Now let’s assume you have scoured the casino for the best video poker you can find and came up with a Jacks or Better game that pays 9/5. The only change to the pay table is flushes are paid 5-for-1 rather than 6-for-1. While not fantastic, this game returns 98.45 percent with expert play and with the right combination of slot club points and other comp considerations, this game could offer over 100 percent return when counting the extras. How would playing strategy change with this minor pay table change?  As the flush becomes less important, the four-card straight with four high

8/6 Jacks or Better Strategy Changes – In this case, the full house pay is reduced to 8- for-1 from 9-for-1. The return of this game is reduced to 98.39 percent—just slightly less than the 9/5 version of the game.  Interestingly enough, the basic version of the strategy is exactly the same as for the full-pay (9/6) version.

video-poker8/5 Jacks or Better Strategy Changes
In these days of increased casino greed quite often the best Jacks or Better game you will find is an 8/5 version. It reduces the return to 97.29 percent from the 99.54 percent return for full-pay. If you can rationalize the nearly three percent reduction from 100 percent games by including slot club points and other promotions and comps, what changes are required to the strategy? [With 8/5 JOB] The four-card straight with four high cards and the suited QJ move up in importance. There are also several other minor changes in the strategy. (The Flush becomes slightly less important.)

7/5 Jacks or Better Strategy Changes – Sadly it is becoming more and more common that the best Jacks or Better games available are a truly atrocious 7/5. The games return a miserable 96.15 percent. In some extreme cases it may be possible to get a return over 100 percent by combining slot points, special promotions and other comps

6/5 Jacks or Better Strategy Changes – Very Simple – DON’T PLAY IT.  At 95% payback, if you play $1 slots you will make more in points, status and comps even with lower pay back of 90% – 93%.
He's happy - he played Max bet on a 9/6 machine and won 4000 coins - Royal Flush!
He’s happy – he played Max bet on a 9/6 machine and won 4000 coins – Royal Flush!

One more thing – for those of you who will play anything resembling Video poker without looking at the pay table first, you’re telling the casino “it’s OK….. I don’t care if you take more of my money quicker!  Seriously, even beginning VP players, I beg you – stay away from 6/5 VP and 7/5 if you can.

Jerry’s article goes on to discuss lower paytables, but on machines with progressive jackpots.
What are you waiting for, click the on the title above!