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Best of Jerry Stickman

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Bad Video Poker Can Become Good

22 July 2012

Recently my beautiful wife and I took a cruise. I always enjoy going through the casinos aboard ship to see just how good (or more likely how bad) the games of chance actually are.

I was not at all surprised by my findings. All of the Video Poker games had terrible pay schedules. Jacks or Better at the 25¢ level paid 6/5 (six for one for a full house and five for one for a flush) amounting to an expected return of just 95 percent for perfect play. That amounts to the casino taking five dollars for every 100 dollars run through this game -- truly awful. The dollar version of Jacks or Better was not much better -- 7/5, amounting to an expected long-term payback of just over 96 percent.

However, this bank of Video Poker was progressive when played at the 25¢ level, meaning the payoff for a Royal Flush grows as machines are played until some lucky person hits a royal, at which time the payoff for a royal is reset to 4,000 credits ($1,000 on a quarter game). Checking the progressive amount led to a pleasant surprise. The jackpot was at $3,375. As a very rough estimate, the payback goes up about one percent for every 1,600 credits (or $400) the jackpot raises. In this case the payback was 100.73 percent, a positive expectation game.

So this is a good game to play, right? After all it can be played for $1.25 per hand and has the opportunity to win a royal that is nearly the size of a dollar game ($5 per hand). What is not to like?

Variance for one thing. Variance indicates the amount your bankroll will, well, vary. The higher the variance, the more your bankroll will fluctuate, both up and down. So unless you're fortunate enough to collect on the upward variance before you ride into the deep valley of downward variance, a larger bankroll is required. Standard Jacks or Better has about a 19 percent variance. The game mentioned above has a variance of 233.

In order to be relatively certain of not losing you entire bankroll you need about four times the payoff for a royal in the standard Jacks or Better ($4,000 for a 25¢ game). For this game you should have 13 times the payoff for a royal in the standard game -- $13,000. However, since you will not be playing this game for days and days like you will standard VP, the bankroll requirement is reduced. Just keep in mind that you will be losing your bankroll at a faster rate on this game versus a standard game -- until you hit the royal.

The other factor to consider is playing strategy. Since the royal has such a large contribution to the overall payback and the full house and flush have a reduced contribution compared to the 9/6 version of Jacks or Better, playing strategy must be changed to reflect these facts. By not changing the strategy properly, you will be wasting some of the advantage.

To illustrate the difference the following two tables show the first several lines of strategy for 9/6 Jacks and the game mentioned above.

9/6 Jacks or Better
Pat Royal Flush
Pat Straight Flush
Pat Four of a Kind
Four of a Royal
Pat Full House
Pat Flush
Three of a Kind
Pat Straight
Four of an Open STFL (2345-9TJQ)
Two Pair
Four of an Inside STFL
High Pair JJ-AA
Three of a Royal
Four of a Flush
TJQK (unsuited)
Low Pair 22-TT
........

6/5 Jacks - 13,500 credit Royal
Pat Royal
Four of a Royal
Pat Straight Flush
Pat Four of a Kind
Three of a Royal
Pat Full House
Pat Flush
Three of a Kind
Pat Straight
Four of an Open STFL (2345-89TJ)
Two Pair
Four of an Inside STFL
High Pair JJ-AA
Two of a Royal
Four of a Flush
Four of a Straight - 3+ hi cards
Low Pair 22-TT
........

Notice how high cards that could produce a royal are on the second table. Even only two of a royal is favored over four of a flush. There are some major strategy changes that must be put in practice to preserve your advantage.

My recommendation? If you have the bankroll for the limited time you will play and you have the means to generate the proper play strategy, then by all means play this game. Even if you don't have the exact strategy and you don't really mind risking a couple of hundred dollars, then play. Who knows, you just may become lucky. I did.

Recent Articles
Best of Jerry Stickman
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 www.goldentouchcraps.com or www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 1-800-944-0406 for a free brochure. You can contact Jerry "Stickman" at stickmanGTC@aol.com.

Jerry Stickman Websites:

www.goldentouchcraps.com
www.goldentouchblackjack.com
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 www.goldentouchcraps.com or www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 1-800-944-0406 for a free brochure. You can contact Jerry "Stickman" at stickmanGTC@aol.com.

Jerry Stickman Websites:

www.goldentouchcraps.com
www.goldentouchblackjack.com