Gambling Tips > Video Poker

The Significance of Scounting Video Poker Machines

By Henry Tamburin


Most video poker players plop themselves down in front of any video poker machine and start playing. That is a big mistake. The first thing you should do is scout the machines to find the game(s) that have the highest expected return (ER).

 

Let us suppose you want to play a jacks-or-better video poker game. You should first check the pay schedule on the video poker machine’s screen to see which machine has the highest payoff schedule. You goal is to find the machine that offers the highest payoff schedule because this will give you the greatest expected return (assuming you play accurately).

 

The table below summarizes four pay schedules that you are most likely going to encounter for jacks-or-better. Note: The payoff schedule listed in the table is for a one-coin payoff. You use that as your guide to determine if the game is “good” or “bad.”

 

Notice that the four jacks-or-better games have almost the same one-coin pay schedule except for the pay off for the full house and flush. In game 1, the full house and flush pays 9 and 6 coins respectively, in game 2 it’s 8/6, in game 3 it’s 9/5, and game 4 it’s 8/5. These small changes in the payoffs for these hands make a significant change in the theoretical or expected return (ER) for these games. Notice that the ER for the 9/6 game is the highest at 99.54%, and as the number of coins you win decreases for the full house and flush, the ER also decreases. (A good rule of thumb is for every one coin short in the payoff, the ER will decrease by about 1.1%.)

 

Now the casino manager might have many video poker machines with jacks-or-better but he isn’t going to show you which machine has the highest pay (full pay) schedule. This is your responsibility to locate the machine that offers the highest E.R. for jacks-or-better and play that machine.

Let me show you the significance of spending some time scouting machines in dollars and cents. We will keep this simple by assuming you are going to play one hour (800 hands) on a quarter-denomination machine. The chart below shows what your theoretical loss per hour for playing a 9/6 game compared to an 8/5 game. In dollars and cents you will save $22 per hour on average by playing a 9/6 JOB game vs. an 8/5 JOB game. If you play at a dollar denomination, the savings per hour becomes even more significant ($110).

 

Game

ER

Theoretical Loss/hr

9/6 JOB

99.5%

$5

8/5 JOB

97.3%

$27

 

The payoff schedules that have the highest ER are known as “full pay” (such as 9/6 for jacks-or-better) as opposed to the “short pay” schedules that have a lower ER (such as the 8/6, 9/5, and 8/5 jacks-or-better). Just like there is a full pay schedule for jacks-or-better (9/6), the same holds true for the other video poker games (such as Bonus Poker, Double Bonus, Double Double Bonus, Deuces Wild, etc.). You should also keep this in mind. Just because the best pay schedule for jacks-or-better pays 9 for the full house and 6 for the flush, this doesn’t mean that a 9/6 Double Bonus game is a good game (for Double Bonus the full pay schedule is 10/7 for the full house and flush respectively). Each video poker game has its own full pay schedule and you better know what it is before you play it (I will reveal the full pay schedule for other video poker games in future articles in Casino Pulse).

Progressives
Some jacks-or-better games offer a progressive jackpot, meaning the amount of money that you can win for a royal flush playing max coins rises based on a percentage of the number of coins played. For example, the standard pay out for a royal flush with five coins wagered is 4,000 coins. As players feed coins into the machine, the jackpot for the royal flush will increase above 4000 coins. The greater the jackpot, the higher the ER for the game.

Here is a rule of thumb that you can use to estimate what the ER is for any quarter progressive jacks-or-better game that you might come across: For every 250-coin increase in the royal flush, the ER of the game will increase by roughly 0.5%.

For example, suppose you find a 9/6 quarter progressive jacks-or-better game with the royal flush at $1,250 (which is a 250-coin increase over the non-progressive $1000 jackpot). You can estimate the ER for this game by adding 0.5% to the ER of the non-progressive game (99.5%) to give an estimated ER of 100% for this progressive game. If the royal flush jackpot were $1,500, the ER would be roughly 100.5%.

If you decide to play a progressive machine, be sure to play the maximum coins; otherwise, you will not be eligible for the bonus payout for a royal flush.

I’ll have to more to say about progressive jacks-or-better machines in a future article.

 

                                          Jacks-or-Better Single-Coin Pay Schedule

 

Game 1

Game 2

Game 3

Game 4

Royal Flush

800

800

800

800

Straight Flush

50

50

50

50

4-of-aKind

25

25

25

25

Full House

9

8

9

8

Flush

6

6

5

5

Straight

4

4

4

4

3-of-a-Kind

3

3

3

3

Two Pair

2

2

2

2

Jacks-or-Better

1

1

1

1

ER

99.54%

98.39%

98.45%

97.30%

 

Here’s another tip. The web site vpfree2.com lists the highest paying video poker games for every casino in different regions in the U.S. When you go to the main page, click on the drop down menu and click on Gulf Coast to find the list of best video poker games available in the casinos along the Gulf Coast including Florida.

 

Until next month, I wish you good cards when you play video poker.