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Do Video Poker Systems Beat the Game?

26 February 2022

They are everywhere. System sellers, those snake oil salesmen of the gambling world. When I receive questions about any betting system, my answer is always the same.

First, however, a little background.

When I first started coming to Las Vegas almost 40 years ago I signed up for a Las Vegas newsletter of some sort. In it was a “sure fired” way to win at video poker.

The system said to start by betting just one credit for each hand. If you did not win anything in four or five hands (I cannot remember which), bump your bet to two credits and play for four or five more hands or until you win something.

This process kept repeating until you were betting the maximum of five credits for four or five hands. If you did not win anything after playing four or five hands at five credits, you were to start over at one credit.

It did not take very long to figure out that this method simply did not work. Most of the wins at the lower levels of play were simple one-for-one pays. In other words, you got your bet back. Sure, every now and then there would be a nice win. It never happened to me while playing this system, however. I did not play it for very long.

Imagine the disappointment of getting a royal flush with only one credit bet – a return of just 250 credits, rather than the 800-for-1 return when betting five credits.

This was a fairly simple (and free) system so expectations were not very high, but even the lowered expectations were far from being met with this system.

There are many such systems being offered. Some of them are free with a subscription of some type. Others cost a nominal amount of about $10 to $25.

All of these systems rely on one of two things. The first is to look for a “trend.” Watch the flow of the cards and when the time is right bet more into the high paying portion of the flow.

The most common type of system, however, involves increasing your bet. Some say increase your bet as you win, but most say to increase your bet as you lose.

In one of the more elaborate systems out there, you not only increase the bets as you lose, but you also migrate to increasingly higher-variance games as the bets increase.

This is done in order to cash in on the multiple high-paying hands that these high variance games offer. You do hit these high-paying hands more often than a royal flush. When you do, they give you a nice win.

All of these systems tout the fact that eventually you will hit something big.

And, eventually, you do.

They claim that by increasing your bet (and sometimes variance) you will win enough at the higher betting level to more than make up for your losses up to that point.

This may work some of the time. Maybe this even works most of the time. But what happens when you complete the betting cycle and the variance increases without catching that win?

The loss can be staggering.

Suppose you are comfortable playing video poker play at the quarter level. Betting $1.25 per hand and having the bankroll to handle that level of betting on a low to moderate variance game causes no stress or concern.

By following the advice offered in these systems, your betting level will increase from $1.25 per hand to $2.50 per hand, then $5 per hand then $10 per hand and so on.

And, there is no guarantee you will hit a win large enough to make up for your losses up to that point.

As you move to higher denomination games with a higher variance, if you do not hit one of the high paying hands (a very distinct possibility), you will be losing at a much higher rate than normal.

About two and a half percent of the total return in Jacks or Better comes from the royal flush and straight flush. You will lose at a rate of about two and a half percent more than the overall house edge of the game if you do not hit a royal flush or a straight flush.

If, instead, you play Triple Double Bonus where almost 28 percent of the return is from hands paying 50-for-1 or more, you will lose at a rate of about 28 percent, plus the overall house edge of the game, in between those high paying hands.

In Triple Double Bonus, the most frequently occurring high-paying hand occurs only once every 630 hands – on average. It could take four, five even 10 times that many hands or more before you hit any of those high-paying hands.

In the meantime, you are losing 28 percent faster. Not only that, but you are betting at multiple times your normal bet size.

There is one more thing to consider.

The playing strategy for Triple Double Bonus is different from Jacks or Better. It is also different from the other increasingly volatile games the system says to play while working your way up to Triple Double Bonus.

Can you play all those different strategies properly?

While the system may work most of the time, the results when it does not work (and there will definitely be times it does not work) can be catastrophic.

To be totally fair, many of these systems realize the dangerous territory in which they operate so they set loss limits. If you faithfully follow these systems, it is true you that will only lose the loss limit amount per session.

That does not mean that any betting system can win in the long run. As you play more, your losses will edge closer to what the math of the game says you will lose.

The only way to win in the long run is to play nothing but video poker games that return more than 100 percent to the player – and play them with perfect strategy. However, video poker games with more than 100 percent returns are almost impossible to find in today’s casinos or online.

A house edge (meaning negative player edge) is built into virtually every video poker game available today on casino floors or online.

Over time you will lose playing these games. You may be able to dodge the bullet several times while playing a betting system, but eventually you will get killed.

Betting systems, no matter how great they sound, cannot overcome the mathematical edge of any casino game. Period.

As always, may all your wins be swift and large, and your losses be slow and small.

Jerry “Stickman”

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 stickmanjerryg@gmail.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
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