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22 October 2016
By Jerry Stickman
In recent years returns on video poker have taken a hit. It doesn’t seem that long ago casinos offered a generous variety of nearly 100% return and even over 100% return video poker games. Sadly, those days are gone. Competition and corporate greed have decimated the video poker return landscape.
There are still opportunities, however, if you take the time to ferret them out. When you do actually run across such a game, however, it often comes with reduced or even non-existent slot club points. Is it worth your time and money to play a high-return video poker game that offers no slot club points?
Let us examine some of the specifics.
I have seen full-pay 9/6 (9-for-1 for a full house, 6-for-1 for a flush) Jacks or Better returning 99.5%, 10/7 Double Bonus Poker games returning 100.2%, and even 9/7 Jacks or Better returning 100.8% games. In many cases, these games did not earn any slot club points. Would you play these games?
The most common Jacks or Better pay table it seems (especially on the Las Vegas strip) is 8/5 returning 97.3%. This is 2.2% less than the 9/6 full-pay version. Casinos generally return about 0.1% to 0.5% to players in slot club point benefits. An 8/5 Jacks or Better game would effectively return 97.8% including a 0.5% slot club bonus. This is still woefully shy of the 99.5% return for a full-pay game.
As an example, someone playing a quarter machine at $1.25 per hand for an hour at moderate 500 hands an hour would run $625 through the machine. A full-pay game would cost our player about $3.13 per hour on average. At the same play rate, the 8/5 machine with the slot club bonus would cost our player $13.75 on average. This amounts to over $10 per hour additional.
How about the other games mentioned? Today, the most common pay table for Double Bonus poker seems to be 9/6, which returns 97.8%. Add the 0.5% slot club bonus and the return is 98.3. This is better than 8/5 Jacks or Better, but still not great. Over the same hour playing $625 through a quarter machine, our player will lose about $10.63 rather than winning $1.25 on the full-pay game, an $11.88 difference.
What about the 9/7 Jacks or Better game? The casinos that had this game also had several 9/5 Jacks or Better games that returned 98.4%. Add the 0.5% slot club bonus and the games return 98.9%. A player would lose $6.88 on the 9/5 game but would win $5.00 on the 9/7 game, a difference of $11.88 per hour of play.
Looking at these numbers it seems a no-brainer to play the higher pay without slot club points. If you were only going to play for an hour or so each visit to a casino, this is probably the correct way to go. The amount of action ($625) is not a large amount in the casino’s eyes so there would most likely be no additional comps.
But what if you play several hours at the same casino? How might that change things?
As an example, let’s assume eight hours of play a day for three days and a stay at the casino of two nights. That amounts to $5,000 of play a day for our sample player. The trip total would be $15,000. For the games mentioned the average amounts won or lost are:
Full-pay 9/6 Jacks or Better - $75 loss
8/5 Jacks or Better with 0.5% slot bonus - $330 loss
Difference = $255
9/7 Jacks or Better - $120 win
9/5 Jacks or Better with 0.5% slot bonus - $165 loss
Difference = $285
Full-pay 10/7 Double Bonus Poker - $30 win
9/6 Double Bonus Poker - $255 loss
Difference = $285
Now remember, for these totals our player has run $15,000 through the machines. This is a level of play where casino management might take notice.
Depending on the casino, $5,000 of play per day could garner RLFB meaning room, limited food (no gourmet restaurants), and beverage. It could possibly even qualify for RFB (room, food-including gourmet restaurants, and beverage). It would most likely also generate some bounce-back cash or free play coupons from the casino in order to get the player to return.
If you play at this level, are the additional comps from your play worth the added loss?
Well, I can’t answer that. You will have to take into account what your hotel room, meals and drinks (most likely just at dinner since they are normally included while playing) are worth and decide for yourself. In the examples above, would you rather have a free room, some meals and drinks or would you rather save $255 to $280 more in your bankroll (depending on the games you play)?
Which would you choose? The answer really doesn’t matter as long as you make it knowing all the facts and are willing to live with the results.
May all your wins be swift and large and all your losses slow and tiny.
Jerry “Stickman” is an expert in craps, blackjack and video poker and advantage slot machine play. He is a regular contributor to top gaming magazines. He authored the video poker section of Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo, and Pai Gow Poker! You can contact Jerry “Stickman” at email@example.com
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