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Talk to me About Video Poker

Last edit: theROLA on Friday, 27th August 2010 4:17 pm
Last response by wetvegas 11th October 5:44pm

I wanted to get some chatter about video poker. What is it you like about it? I know a lot of people play it, but I have never understood what is enjoyable about it. I am not bashing it at all, I just have never done much more than sit down, throw in a $20 and have it gone before I finish my drink. I play poker, so I am not inept, but I feel like the machines are not set to keep you playing long...

What am I missing/doing wrong? I love the idea of hangin at the bar and playing for an hour. It just seems like an hour would take me pumping in $$ every 10 minutes...Just a bad string of VP luck maybe?

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 nullzero00 responded on Friday, 27th August 2010

i usually try to find the ones that let you play 50 or 100 hands at once. this way, if you start out with 3 of a kind, you are at least up 3x, not counting quads/full houses that could still come.

i also dont play the max credits - the odds of the full house are soooo astronomically against you that it is a sucker's bet.

it's not really that enjoyable overall - it's just a way to kill time and hopefully make some cash. i've turned $20 into $240 on 50-hand VP, and several times i've at least doubled up or more.

at least there is some modicum of skill/human interaction involved, as opposed to slots.

also the ones located at the bar always seem to drain your bankroll very quickly - you're better off finding a bank in the middle of a dead-ish wing of the casino than playing at the bar.

 thecosmicjester replied on Friday, 27th August 2010

Not playing full coins is the sucker bet. While one in every 40,000 hands is going to give you the Royal Flush, it counts for over 1% of the machine's total return. If you're playing full coins on a Jacks or Better machine, you'll get a 99.54% return. If you don't play full coins, it drops to 98.37%.

 nullzero00 replied on Saturday, 28th August 2010

i"m assuming you are counting the extra coins you win on the royal flush into the different percentages, since the only thing that changes per coin is the payoff for the royal flush on max credits.

since i never expect to hit the royal, and never try to go after it, my percentages would be exactly the same per coin played. the sucker bet is throwing away the break-even jacks-or-better while chasing the infinitesimally small % of getting a royal.

is it "perfect play", according to the books? no. it's more or less "realistic play". i've only been dealt 4 out of the 5 (one of which is the 10) suited cards for the royal once, let alone 3 of the 5. if i had 4 of 5 to start, then at least i have the chance for the flush (not the royal variety) and i'll keep the 10 in there. if i have 2 pictures and the 10 suited, i'll throw away the 10 and hope for either 1 or 2 pair or better.

this game is beatable based on trying to get 2 of a kind or better (on a Jacks or Better game) rather than hoping against hope for the royal, then wasting coins trying to get the royal.

it's also beatable on the short term. if you're going to play for 8 hrs, you may hit a royal. i usually don't play for more than a half hour to an hour at a time. even playing on a 50 or 100 hand version, you just won't see it.

 thecosmicjester replied on Monday, 30th August 2010

The return percentages stated take into account the extra coins on a royal flush, AND adjusting play for less than full coins so it doesn't favor getting a royal.

Nullzero00, the casinos LOVE you. Here's why.

Let's say we're both playing 9/6 Jacks or Better machines. I'm playing at 50 with full coins bet ($2.50 per hand), you're playing at $1 with one coin bet ($1 per hand, of course). We both play at the same rate of 400 hands per hour (not nearly as hard to do as it sounds). Over half an hour, you're going to spend, on average, $3.26. Meanwhile, I'm only spending, on average, $2.30. That's right, I'm playing 2.5 times the bet you're playing, and I'm losing LESS money. However, you've said you play "more or less realistic play", meaning you're making mistakes that in the long-term cost you even more money.

"the game is beatable"? NO, NO, a thousand times NO. You think these casinos are solely built on hotel and convention revenue, and they pass the savings on to you in games of chance? You may sometimes walk out with extra money in your pocket, but you'll put it right back into the machine eventually. That's why gambling is so much fun, right there: There's the *potential* to walk in, play some games, and walk right back out with hundreds, thousands, maybe even millions of dollars of what was someone else's money. However, you're going to leave with less money more often than you do with more money. If that potential for short-term gains wasn't there, nobody would gamble!

As for "you won't see it", you never know. A royal flush could be around the corner at ANY moment, and that's why you ALWAYS play full coins... just in case it happens. You could hold one little jack of clubs, and all of a sudden here come on the draw the 10, queen, king, and ace. Like I said in a reply to the OP, a friend of mine was playing in a casino and he hit a royal when he wasn't playing full coins. He was on a 50 machine. He could have walked out of the casino with $2,000, but instead had to settle for only $125. I was trying out DreamCard video poker on a play for free website. It was a 3-play program, and one time TWO of the three hands hit royals. Boy, how I wish I was playing in Vegas that day!

 sandyastrogl1de responded on Friday, 27th August 2010

I've never lost money at video poker, but I've done marathon sessions of breaking even and drinking for free at the Excalibur.

 thecosmicjester responded on Friday, 27th August 2010

Oh, you play actual poker... video poker is a bit of a different beast. There are hands that would be played one way at a poker table that would be played a different way on video poker. Such incorrect plays can cost you a hefty chunk of change. On the bright side, since the possible outcomes of any video poker hand can be mathematically determined, there are definite strategies of how to properly play a video poker machine. There are a couple of different websites that offer strategies for video poker. Foremost is the excellent Wizard of Odds, which has a couple of simplified strategies that take a small loss in favor of trying to memorize a long list of rules. Play at home a few times with one of the many free online video poker games (Wizard of Odds has his own, and the one in the free casino at Bodog is pretty nice) so you can get some practice before trying it for real money. And even at the casino, you might want to keep a small card with the strategy on it, much like blackjack players use to remind themselves of basic strategy.

There's two main draws for video poker: First, it's like playing slots but you actually have to think a little bit. The second is that if you're playing a $1 machine and hit a royal flush, you're walking out of the casino with $4,000. A secondary draw is that a machine with a good paytable can have a very low (less than 1%) house edge, and some off-Strip casinos even have machines with every gambler's holy grail, a negative house edge (yes, that means in the long run the casino pays you to come gamble). A down side to video poker is that it is a much more volatile game than most; while you can be up hundreds or even thousands of dollars in the blink of an eye, if you don't have a sufficient bankroll to weather the down swings you might break your bank in minutes. If you only have $20, you'd better be playing quarters or less, which means you'll almost certainly have to go off-strip.

There are some tips to make video poker more enjoyable: First, always play maximum coins. That Royal Flush could come down the pipe at any moment, and you want to make sure you're getting 800 per coin for it rather than 250. It happened to a friend of mine, and I've been reminding him of it ever since. If you aren't comfortable playing 5 coins at a time, drop to a lower denomination machine. Second, always use your players club card, and check it every few minutes to make sure the machine still knows it's there. Video poker is a fast-paced game (400 hands an hour is not unheard of), and you'll have LOTS of coin-in to rack up points. Last, and this is possibly the most important, make sure you're playing machines that have good pay tables. The difference between machines can be astounding. On a Jacks or Better machine (my favorite because it's the least volatile, spreading out payouts more), you ideally want to play what's known as a 9/6 machine. It will pay per coin:

800 for a Royal Flush (for 4000 coins total with full coins played)
50 for a Straight Flush
25 for Four of a Kind
9 for a Full House
6 for a Flush
4 for a Straight
3 for Three of a Kind
2 for Two Pair
1 for a pair of Jacks or Better (i.e. you get your original bet back)
And diddly squat for anything worse than a pair of Jacks.

This pay table has a house edge of just 0.46%. Much more common are 8/5 machines, which pay one coin less on the Full House and the Flush. That one little coin bumps the house edge up to 1.61%, fully 3.5 times worse than the 9/6 table! That's even worse highway robbery than the difference between regular blackjack and 6:5 blackjack. Some of the Indian casinos around here drop it all the way down to 6/5 for a downright insulting 5% house edge.

 theROLA replied on Saturday, 28th August 2010

Awesome. This is very helpful. I have never looked at the intricacies of the game (which is what the casino is hoping for of course). I will check the sites you recommended out before my trip next month.


 thebucket responded on Friday, 27th August 2010

Video poker is, odds wise, one of the better bets in the casino. Even the reduced paytables one finds on the strip are still better than slot odds. However, VP is a very high variance game compared to most table games (I'm not sure if it is possible to calculate variance on live poker (probably variable and play-dependent), but VP is probably in general much higher.

This brings me to what I consider to be the cause of your experience so far with the game:

"I just have never done much more than sit down, throw in a $20 and have it gone before I finish my drink"

Assuming that you are talking about a bartop machine, you are likely playing at least for $0.25 credits. In that event, $20 isn't nearly enough of a session bankroll to last very long at all unless you happen to get very lucky, very early (I might liken it to buying into a 4/8 LHE game with $20). Personally, I would expect to load at least $100 into the machine to play for quarters for a significant period of time, and wouldn't be surprised if in a bad session I bottomed out on that within an hour. $200 would be more comfortable, and for an extended session $400 wouldn't be unreasonable. Over the long term, one might want to have $2000 or so as a total bankroll to survive the swings inherent in such a high-variance game.

If one wants to play for comp drinks at a bar that has $0.25 machines in it, my advice is to look for video blackjack on the machines. The variance is low enough that $20 (at $1/hand or so) is enough to play for a while, even though the odds aren't as good as the VP offering (most video blackjack only pays 1:1 on blackjack)... At least the variance won't get you, and you'll often walk away from the bar a few bucks up or down, whereas with VP one may often walk away a great number of bucks up or down.

Just my $0.02... ($0.10 at max bet ;) )

 theROLA replied on Saturday, 28th August 2010

Makes total sense. Thanks. I have never wanted to throw down more than $20 or so because of my losing history, but it makes sense as to why that is contributing to the losses!

 nullzero00 responded on Saturday, 28th August 2010

lets take the pay table one step further - the also gives a probability & return tabe based on all sorts of types of VP, but i'll just focus on 9-6 jacks or better.

the combined probabilities of getting the usual payoff hands (jacks or better thru 4 of a kind) is roughly 45.44%. if you include the probability of the non-winning hands, the probability increases to 99.987%. that means your combined probability of getting either a straight flush or a royal in any hand is 0.013%.

the return on any hand is also given on the as well. the combined returns on jacks or better through 4 of a kind is 97.02%.

so you're basically looking at the following:
to get a "regular" hand (anything that pays excluding the straight flush and royal flush) - 45% probability, and your return will be 97%
(for 8/5, it's 45% prob, 94.8 return)

straight flush - .011% probability, .55% of your total return
royal flush - .0025% prob, 1.98% of your return

to me, the miniscule probability of a royal does not make up for throwing the extra credits in the machine that you will lose (just about) every time in order to get the added bonus.

if you can afford to play full credits, fine - go for it. most casinos are also counting on you to play full credits in the hope you will chase the royal and lose your extra $1.25 or $5 or whatever leve you're playing at.

you will also probably run into the same hold percentage voodoo that occurs at the slots - a nickel slot will have a higher hold percentage for the house, but a dollar slot will have a lower hold %. why? because the house knows that someone will see the higher payoffs and take their $20 to the dollar slot, knowing that they will play it all very quickly and ose it very quickly in the hopes of that one quick score. the smarter player will either attack a $1 slot with several hundred dollars, or play a lower denomination with an appropriate bankroll.

i havent paid much attention, but i am assuming that most casinos will give the better VP game (ie the 9/6) to the $5 amd up machines, and keep the 25cent and lower VP machines at 8/5 or worse. i just try to scour the floor in my price bracket for the best game.

so yes, you will give up some of your theoretical return, but the probability of that return actually occuring is not worth wasting the money that is better used to get a regular hand, keep playing, and try for the smaller return of a 3 of a kind or something else.

 johntree responded on Saturday, 28th August 2010

Video poker can be great fun, but instead of just staring at the machine and jamming the cash in, my beautiful other half and myself take time to relax, converse and sip a cocktail, each at a machine, playing the max, but taking turns enjoying watching the other play. I have 'watched and enjoyed" my lucky lady win two Royals in vegas.

 MattK responded on Saturday, 28th August 2010

Nullzero00, I agree that you can play single credits on a lousy paytable machine and have a grand ol' time. You'll enjoy the drinks, you won't lose too much $, and maybe you'll hit 4 of a kind for 125 quarters. Been there, done it. Hell I do it at McCarran.

But if you're looking to play long sessions of VP, or play it long term, or commit high proportions of your bankroll - then my friend, the whole point of this game is to hit the royal. You will lose most sessions. Even on Jacks or Better or Bonus Poker where two pair pays 2 units and the volatility is as low as it gets. It's a game, like craps I guess, where you trade lots of small losing sessions for a few big wins. If the most you are comfortable wagering per hand is $0.25, then hie thee to a nickel machine and play max credits there. Playing anything less than max credits on any VP machine is a sucker bet unless your play is entirely recreational.

Video poker, as someone mentioned higher up, is about low house edges, skill play and lots of quick coin-in. There are even video poker teams, where a bunch of teammates will play to a joint bank (and therefore can afford higher denominations than they could if playing alone) so as to rake in mucho points on their cards.

Best of luck to all the VP players out there.

 MizzouGypsy responded on Saturday, 28th August 2010

I look for machines that offer a "Let it Ride" button for blackjack...try to ride it twice after every hand. Exponential winning combined with a couple splits and/or double downs and you can be up very quickly.

Do the machines at gas stations and grocery stores tend to be loose or tight? I turned $1 into $70 at a 7-11 on Tropicana/Jones last month...after that I opted for the extra large Slurpee.

 thecosmicjester replied on Monday, 30th August 2010

The only time to do any sort of letting it ride is when you get better odds on the secondary bet. There's two places this happens: One is the odds bet on craps, and the other is a double-up feature on video poker (seen more online than in Vegas). Both of these additional bets offer ZERO house edge. They just make the game more exciting through additional volatility. Letting a bet ride in blackjack is bad because that original bet has to go through the wringer twice or more; since the bet is in the casino's favor, it increases the house edge slightly to go double-or-nothing on the second bet. Figuring decent odds with a 99.25% return, if you try to go double-or-nothing once before cashing out, the return goes down to 98.51%. If you go for it twice, the return drops to 97.77%. I'll stick with three separate bets, thanks.

The machines at gas stations and grocery stores are tighter than Joan Rivers's face.

 thecosmicjester responded on Monday, 30th August 2010

Whoops, hit the wrong button, don't mind this post...

 Drake responded on Thursday, 2nd September 2010

Go to wizardofodds and play the free game that corrects you when you make the wrong play strategy-wise. And by all means, pick one game to master because perfect play varies significantly from game to game.

I prefer Double Bonus Poker because of the higher "four of a kind" payoffs. Hit a quad for 250, 400, or 800 coins (max play) and you can walk off with a little money or play quite a while on their money.

I never play Jacks or Better because there's really no "walk off" hit except the straight flush (250) and the Royal, both of which you could go years without hitting.

I was also a steady VP loser until I actually learned basic strategy. Every "free" drink would cost me $20 in play. I couldn't understand the appeal, until I actually started making the right moves. So practice like crazy until you get the core strategy down. It really made a huge difference for me.

Good luck!

 theROLA replied on Sunday, 5th September 2010

Great stuff. I will check it out and play the right way. I am like that guy hitting 14 against a dealer 5 right now when I play VP :/

 wetvegas responded on Monday, 11th October 2010

I never had any luck with it. I play online for free and every time I manage to earn a lot of "credits" I lose them on a bad streak.