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Playing Positive Machines

18 October 2014

By Jerry Stickman
Positive expectation video poker can be found in casinos throughout the country. Positive expectation means that with perfect play the game will pay back more than 100 percent of what is played over the long run.

You don’t believe these games are available?

To be fair 100+ percent payback machines most often are progressive machines – those where the jackpot for getting a royal flush increases as a bank of machines is played. The jackpot continues to increase until the royal flush is hit at which time it is reset to the base value which is usually the same as non-progressive games.

In order to fund increasing the progressive amount, paybacks for some of the lower paying hands are reduced. For example a 9/6 (9-for-1 paid for a full house, 6-for-1 paid for a flush) Jacks or Better non-progressive would be reduced to 8/5 as a progressive – reducing the payback to just over 97.29 percent at reset from 99.54 percent. In order for this game to have the approximate payback of a 9/6 non –progressive game, the progressive amount would have to double to about 8,000 credits.

For the game to become positive, the progressive amount would have to reach 8,700 credits. Having so much of the payback tied up in so few hands causes the variance (volatility) of these games to go from 19 to 96 meaning huge swings in your bankroll. This means playing positive expectation progressive video poker games requires a much larger bankroll than non-progressive games.

It is also still possible to find positive non-progressive video poker games. If you search hard there are still “full-pay” (10/7) Double Bonus games which pays back 100.17 percent with perfect play. There are also a few (very few) “full-pay” Deuces Wild games that pay back 100.76 percent with perfect play. These games also concentrate more money into fewer hands and reduce the pays on some lower paying hands. This raises the variance (volatility) of these games to the mid to upper twenties from about 19. A larger bankroll will be required when playing these games than when playing lower variance games such as Jacks or Better.

The main thing to remember when you play a positive expectation video poker game is that even though the overall payback will be positive over the long run, you are playing in the short run. Variance will impact you much more than the positive expectation. By switching from Jacks or Better to Double Bonus Poker your variance is increased by about 50 percent, so you will have a wilder roller coaster ride with your bankroll when playing Double Bonus.

With progressive games that have become positive you may have huge – really huge – drawdowns in your bankroll. Just because you are playing a game that returns more than 100 percent doesn’t mean you are going to make money every session. You will probably lose many more sessions than you win, but in the long run, you will come out ahead. Just make sure you prepare for the “short run” losses.
May all your wins be swift and large and all your losses slow and tiny.

Jerry “Stickman wrote the video poker section in “Everything Casino Poker.” You can contact Jerry “Stickman” at

This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at


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Jerry Stickman
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. He also teaches a course in advantage-play slots and video poker. For more information visit or or call 1-800-944-0406 for a free brochure. You can contact Jerry "Stickman" at

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