Gambling Tips > Video Poker

Calculating Cash Back Offers

By Henry Tamburin

There are two components to be a successful video poker player. The first is the expected return (or ER) of the base video poker game that you are playing and the second is the ER of the cashback (and bounce-back cash) offers that the casino will give you for playing. By adding up these two components, you will be able to calculate what your overall ER will be. Your goal should be to get the overall ER as close to or over 100 percent and I will show you how to do it.


Here is an example. Suppose you want to play NSU Deuces Wild. The ER for this base game is 99.73%, which means a player playing this game with computer perfect playing strategy can expect to lose about three tenths of a percent of all the money wagered in the long run. If there was no other way to boost the ER of the game, a player will eventually end up a loser (because the ER is less than 100 percent). However, you can get the ER of the game to greater than 100 percent by taking advantage of the ER of the cashback and bounce-back cash offers. In order to do this, however, you need to know how to compute the ER’s of these casino benefits.


The ER of a cashback offer is simply the ratio (or percentage) of the amount of cash the casino gives you over the coin-in. Therefore, if a casino gives you $3 in cash for every $1,000 of coin-in, the ER is 0.3%. Here is how you would arrive at the ER using a calculator.


  1. Divide 3 by 1000 ... answer is 0.003.
  2. Multiply 0.003 by 100 ... answer is 0.3 (in percent).


Here is another tip to make the calculation even easier: after you divide the cashback by the coin-in, move the decimal place in the result two places to the right to arrive at the ER in percent.


Once you know the EV of the cashback offer, you can add it to the EV of the base game to arrive at your overall EV. Therefore, if you were to play, say, a NSU Deuces Wild game, your overall EV with the 0.3% cashback would be 100.03 percent ( 99.73% + 0.3% = 100.03%). Easy enough?


Unfortunately, some casinos will complicate things by only advertising how many points you need to get a specific amount of cashback. For example, some video poker players at the IP Casino in Biloxi, MS will get $5 in cashback for every 100 points earned on their Player’s Reward Card (other players will receive $5 in free play). It takes $20 of coin-in at video poker to generate 1 point so the ER is calculated as follows:


  1. First, determine how much coin-in it will take to earn the $1 in cashback (or free play). To arrive at this figure, multiply the amount of coin-in required to earn 1 point ($20) by the amount of points you need to earn $1 in cash (100 points).  If you multiply these two figures, your answer is $2,000 coin-in. In other words, you need $2,000 in coin-in on a video poker machine to earn $5 in cashback.
  2. To determine the ER of the cashback, simply divide the cashback ($5) by the coin-in ($2000) and then multiply the result by 100 (or move 2 decimal places to the right). The result is 0.25 percent (or 0.25% ER).


Now let us suppose you play a 9/6 Jacks-or-Better game at IP with an ER of 99.54%. If you add in the 0.25% cashback (or free play) that will receive from the Player’s Club, you can increase your overall return to 99.79%.


To further boost the EV of any game, you should take advantage of a casino’s multiple-point promotions and their bounce-back cash offer in their mailers. For example, suppose a casino offers 2x points on certain days of the week (or month). When you play video poker during these 2x point promotions, your ER for the Player’s Club cashback (or free play) will double. Here is a real-world example of how this works.


Periodically, the South Point casino in Las Vegas offers double points. The ER for their cashback on single-point days is 0.3% for video poker but if you play when they offer 2x points, your free play doubles to 0.6% . South Point has NSU Deuces Wild video poker games and if you play this game on the days they offer double points, your overall ER will be 100.33% (99.73% + 0.6% = 100.33%).


Getting mailers from a casino is also another way to boost your overall ER. Most casinos have different Player Club Tiers (or levels) and each Tier is determined by a player’s coin-in (sometimes it is based on the amount of coin-in over a month, other times it’s based on a daily average ... I’ll have more to say about this in a future column). Each Tier gets a different mailer and obviously the greater the coin-in or daily average, the more lucrative will be your mailer including the bounce-back coupons for cash (or sometimes free-play).


In order to determine the ER of the bounce-back cash offer, simply divide the amount of cash (or free play) you will receive over a month by the amount of coin-in required to achieve that level.  Here is another example to show this.


Currently at the South Point casino in Las Vegas, you can earn 4x $30 cashback (downloadable at the machine free play) monthly if your monthly coin-in is $20,000 (this will get you their A mailer). Divide the $30 in cash (again it’s downloadable on your machine) by the required $20,000 coin-in yields a 0.60% ER. Say you play their NSU Deuces Wild game. They offer 0.3 percent cashback to all machine players so if you add up the ER’s of the base game plus the cashback plus the free play that comes in the A mailer your overall ER would be 100.63% (99.73% base game + 0.3% cashback + 0.6% free play from mailer). And if you played this game when they offered double points, your overall ER would jump to 100.93% (and this does not include the ER’s of the free or discounted restaurant and buffet coupons, and sometimes free show ticket offers, that is in the mailers).


South Point’s next Tier level is A+ and this requires $60,000 in coin-in to achieve $50x 4 in bounce-back cash. The ER for this benefit is 0.33%.


Of course, no two casinos are identical when it comes to the base games they offer, the amount of their cashback and bounce-back cash. This is why it is important that you be able to evaluate these casino benefits to determine your overall ER for playing. If you happen to be math challenged, you can always go to the excellent site where they summarize the cashback ER for casinos in different regions of the U.S. (just click on the name of the casino and then click on Player’s Club). Likewise, you will find a detailed cashback comparison chart for Las Vegas casinos on the Viva Las Vegas page at Also keep in mind that casinos can and often change their requirements for different levels of their slot clubs and also how much coin in you need to receive a specific amount of cashback (and bounce-back cash). This is even more reason to consult the above web sites to stay abreast of changes.


Also, remember that a game’s ER is a theoretical return assuming you play your hands computer perfect. That seems like a tall task for ordinary players to achieve but it actually is achievable and in future columns I will show you how to do this.