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Estimating Paybacks for Video Poker

13 December 2014

By Jerry Stickman
Years ago “full pay” video poker games were readily available. Machines paying back 99.5 percent to more than 100 percent were available in almost all casinos. With the corporate takeover of casinos and corporate accountants trying to extract as much profit as possible from gamblers, sadly, “full pay” games are an endangered species.

Any player who is serious about video poker knows to look for the full pay schedules. Full pay Jacks or Better pays 9-for-1 for a full house and 6-for-1 for a flush. Almost all Jacks or Better games pay 250-for-1 for a royal flush (4000 for a royal flush with five coins played), 50-for-1 for a straight flush, 25-for-1 for four of a kind, 4-for-1 for a straight, 3-for-1 for three of a kind, 2-for-1 for two pair, and 1-for-1 for a pair of jacks or better. The “full pay” version of Jacks or Better pays 9-for-1 for a full house and 6-for-1 for a flush. Normally casinos reduce the payback for the full house, the flush, or both.

The savvy video poker player will seek out only the best games. If a full pay game is not present this player may look for the best possible pay schedule before deciding to play or possibly to not play at all if a suitable game is not available.

Suppose you are in a casino and you have scanned all the Jacks or Better machines and none of them are full pay. The best games you can find are 9/5 (9 for 1 for a full house and 5 for 1 for a flush) and 8/6 (8 for 1 for a full house and 6 for 1 for a flush). Which of these games offers a better payback?

A logical assessment might conclude that the 8/6 game is better. The thought process is; because reducing a 6 for 1 payback to 5 for 1 is a 16 percent reduction where reducing a 9 for 1 payback to 8 for 1 is an 11 percent reduction. While this is true, it fails to take into account the frequency of hitting a full house or a flush.

With perfect play the actual paybacks for these two machines are 98.45 percent for the 9/5 game and 98.39 percent for the 8/6 game. So the 9/5 game gives a slightly better return. Actually the difference is so small (0.06 percent) that it probably doesn’t matter which game you choose. The important thing is that reducing the payback of either the full house or the flush by one, reduces the payback by over one percent.

Here is a table of paybacks with varying payouts for a full house and a flush. All of the paybacks assume max coin of 5 played which increases the payback for a royal flush from 250 for 1 to 800 for 1 (4000 for 5). You will seldom see a Jacks or Better game that pays less than 5 for 1 for a flush, so the table doesn’t go below 5 for 1 for a flush. I some casinos, however, you will find payouts on a full house reduced to as little as 6 for 1, so those numbers are included in the table.

Full House/Flush Pays Payback w/Perfect Play Difference from Full Pay
9/6 (Full Pay) 99.54% --
8/6 98.38% -1.15%
7/6 97.24% -2.30%
9/5 98.45% -1.09%
8/5 97.30% -2.24%
7/5 96.15% -3.39%
6/5 95.00% -4.54%

As the table shows, for each payout reduction of one for a full house the payback is reduced 1.15 percent. With a reduction of one in the payout for a flush the payback is reduced 1.09 percent. It doesn’t take long for the payback to be seriously impacted.

If there are no full pay Jacks or Better games available, either a 9/5 or an 8/6 game are reasonable alternatives. However, be careful when selecting anything less. When playing a quarter machine with five coins played each reduction of one in the payouts will cost you about just under 1.5 cents per hand. At a relatively leisurely pace of 500 hands per hour, it will amount to an additional $7.18 in lost bankroll each hour.

Be careful of the pay table you choose. It could cost you dearly.

May all your wins be swift and large and all your losses slow and tiny.

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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