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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Video Poker Requires Homework

20 November 2002

There exists a popular perception among casino players that video poker is more advantageous than the traditional reel and new wave video slot games. This perception is true and bolstered by mathematical statistical studies, but it can result in maximum benefit for players ONLY under the following conditions:

  • You learn proper strategy and employ correct playing decisions, and
  • You become a discriminating video poker player by learning to read pay tables AND you avoid like the plague video poker machines that are designed to extract a greater percentage of your gambling dollars.

Unless you adhere to the above conditions, the potential benefits of playing video poker diminish drastically, almost putting the game on a par with the slots.

It’s an unfortunate fact that the climate for video poker players in the Chicago-area market is, for the most part, a hostile one. Good, player-friendly video poker is hard to find. When you do find good games, the machines are so popular that it is often difficult to find an open position.

Allow me to illustrate how the structuring of pay tables by the individual casinos can affect the long-term benefits of playing video poker. Take the game of "Jacks or Better" as a prime example. When video poker was introduced to casinos in the mid-seventies, this was THE game of choice, but it has since lost its popularity to such games as Bonus Poker, Double Bonus Poker, Double-Double Bonus Poker.

A "Jacks or Better" pay table that offers nine coins for every one played for a Full House and six coins for every one played for a Flush (9/6) returns 99.5 percent to players over the long run (with optimum strategy) and is regarded as "full pay". But if the pay table is altered to eight for one for a Full House and five for one for a Flush (8/5), the return dips to 97.3 percent. If the pay table is altered even further to 6/5, the return plummets to 95 percent.

How about "Bonus Poker"? This game gained instant popularity among players because of the bonus paid on four-of-a-kind in Aces and four-of-a-kind in two’s, three’s, and four’s. The "full pay" 8/5 version of this game returns 99.3 percent over the long haul. However, if you sit down at a 7/5 game the return dips to 98 percent. Slash that pay table even further to a 6/5 game and you’re talking about an anemic 96.8 percent return.

Full pay "Deuces Wild" video poker has a cult following among experienced players because of its 100.7 percent long-term return when you find a game that pays you five coins for very one played on any four-of-a-kind. But with a Deuces Wild game that gives you just four coins for every one played on that same four-of-a-kind, the return nose dives to 94.3 percent, making it a very unattractive game even when compared to traditional slots!

Now let’s turn our attention to Double Bonus Poker. This game differs from "Jacks or Better" and "Bonus Poker" in one key respect: Two pairs hands pay only one coin for every one played as opposed to the two coins in the other games. The big draw, however, is the enticing fact that Double Bonus Poker pays double in the four-of-a-kind categories. There is also an increase of one coin on straights.

If you find a 10/7 Double Bonus Poker machine you will be playing a "full pay" game with a return of 100.7 percent. But that same game in the 9/7 version drops to 99.1 percent (still a very attractive wagering proposition). Take it even further down to 9/6 and the return settles at 97.8, which may be low by Double Bonus Poker standards but is still far better than traditional slot play.

When you are not held captive by hostile video poker playing conditions, the above guidelines can and should be used to your advantage. When you are making the rounds in the Chicago-area, be a good video poker student and look for the best games. Don’t feel that you’re "forced" to play a bad video poker game with stingy, casino-friendly pay tables.

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp