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# Figuring Video Poker Payouts and Percentages

11 April 2020

Hello Sir, I am fairly new at the Casino game, but have a question for you. How can tell what percentage Video Machines pay out. I don’t have a clue, except for the numbers showing how much you win if you play one or 5 coins. You can tell I am a beginner, older widow, who like to learn something new. Thanks you so much. Just maybe I should consider playing something else, but Slots are my only other vice.

Jerry Responds:

Thank you for your question about how to determine video poker payouts. I am Jerry “Stickman.” I am a gaming writer who has recently focused on video poker articles. Frank forwarded the question to me to answer.

First of all, let me say that you are not alone in wondering how to determine how well a video poker game pays. Even though you are “fairly new at the casino game,” you are asking the right type of question.

While your question asked only about the payback (sometimes called return) of video poker, other aspects of playing the game are also covered below. This may make the answer a bit longer than anticipated, but all the factors must be considered in order to play the game successfully

Video poker games tend to have a significantly lower house edge than standard slot machines. This could be true partially because the payback of a video poker game can be determined by looking at the information in the pay table. This is not true of standard slot machines. Savvy video poker players will avoid games where the payback is too low.

Determining a Video Poker Game’s Return

As you mentioned, simply looking at the pay table does not give direct answer as to the game’s particular payback. It does however have all the variable elements that are required in order to determine it. Specifically, they are the paying hand (High Pair, Three of a Kind, Full House, etc.) and how much the game will pay per credit bet when that hand appears.

A common Jacks or Better pay table has information similar to this:

• A Royal Flush pays 250 credits for one credit bet, 500 credits for two credits bet, 750 for three credits bet, 1,000 for four credits bet and 4,000 credits for five credits bet.
• A Straight Flush pays 50 credits for one credit bet, 100 credits for two credits bet, 150 for three credits bet, 200 for four credits bet and 250 credits for five credits bet.
• A Full House pays 8 credits for one credit bet, 16 credits for two credits bet, 24 for three credits bet, 32 for four credits bet and 40 credits for five credits bet.
• A Flush pays 5 credits for one credit bet, 10 credits for two credits bet, 15 for three credits bet, 20 for four credits bet and 25 credits for five credits bet.
• A Straight pays 4 credits for one credit bet, 8 credits for two credits bet, 12 for three credits bet, 16 for four credits bet and 20 credits for five credits bet.
• A Three of a Kind pays 3 credits for one credit bet, 6 credits for two credits bet, 9 for three credits bet, 12 for four credits bet and 15 credits for five credits bet.
• Two Pairs pays 2 credits for one credit bet, 4 credits for two credits bet, 6 for three credits bet, 8 for four credits bet and 10 credits for five credits bet.
• A Pair of Jacks or Better pays 1 credits for one credit bet, 2 credits for two credits bet, 3 for three credits bet, 4 for four credits bet and 5 credits for five credits bet.

Normally the only changes in the pay tables for various versions of Jack or Better are the pays for a full house and/or flush, the common names given to Jacks or Better games refer to those pays. This particular pay table is for an 8/5 Jacks or Better game. This means the full house is paid at a rate of 8 credits per credit bet and the flush is paid at a rate of 5 credits per credit bet.

Believe it or not, the information this pay table has all the variable information that is required in order to calculate the percentage of payback (or house / player edge) of any video poker game. The other information required can be calculated using the probabilities that each paying hand will occur.

Here is a look at the additional information required and the actual payback results for the 8/5 Jacks or Better game.

• Royal Flush, Payout: 4000, Occurs Every: 40169.75, % of Return: 1.99%
Straight Flush, Payout: 250, Occurs Every: 9288.133, % of Return: 0.54%
• 4 of a Kind, Payout: 125, Occurs Every: 423.2108, % of Return: 5.91%
• Full House, Payout: 40, Occurs Every: 86.85323, % of Return: 9.21%
• Flush, Payout: 25, Occurs Every: 91.72997, % of Return: 5.45%
• Straight, Payout: 20, Occurs Every: 89.00658, % of Return: 4.49%
• 3 of a Kind, Payout: 15, Occurs Every: 13.42953, % of Return: 22.34%
• Two Pair, Payout: 10, Occurs Every: 7.734047, % of Return: 25.86%
• Jacks or Better, Payout: 5, Occurs Every: 4.649635, % of Return: 21.51%
• Nothing, Payout: 0, Occurs Every: 1.834787, % of Return: 0.00%

With Perfect Play the total return for this game is 97.2984%

The Payout information is taken from the five-credit column of the pay table. Since there is a healthy bonus for getting a royal flush when five credits are bet, that is the only column used. Playing with less than the maximum gives the casino too much of an edge.

The other columns are calculated based on the math of randomly dealt cards. By totaling all of the individual percentages of return for each paying hand, the overall return of the game is calculated. This 8/5 Jacks or Better game returns 97.2984 percent.

Please note that the returns are calculated based on what is referred to as “perfect play.” Perfect play means that for each hand dealt, the player holds only the cards that will give the highest average return for that hand. This will be covered in more detail later.

While calculating the return information can be done using a calculator (or if you are really a masochist, calculated by hand), the easiest way to obtain this information for the standard video poker player is to look up the payback on the internet. Paybacks for most of the popular games and pay tables are available there.

If, however, you are playing a somewhat less popular variant of the game that is not available online, video poker apps are available. One of the most popular is Video Poker For Winners, though there are several others available. These apps have the capability of determining the return of virtually any video poker game and pay table available today. The table above was generated by one of these apps.

Because the process of determining a game’s payback is not simple and straightforward, the best way for you to handle determining the best game to play is to go through the games on the casino floor and jot down the information in the pay table. You then can either search the internet, or, if you have an app, use that to determine the return using the pay table information you have gathered.

Variance and Bankroll

Another element of video poker play to consider is something call variance (or volatility). Variance is just an indication of how much the player’s bankroll will fluctuate.

Jacks or Better has only one very high paying hand – the royal flush. Because of this the variance is relatively low, the player’s bankroll will tend to fluctuate relatively mildly. It might be considered the same as going up and down gentle hills. Other video poker games such as Double-Double Bonus poker have several very high paying hands. Because more of the total return comes from these few and less frequently occurring hands, the player’s bankroll will fluctuate more wildly – both up and down. This might be considered similar to riding a roller coaster.

Games that cause the bankroll to fluctuate more require a larger bankroll in order to ride through the losing portions of play. So, by picking a low variance game such as Jacks or Better players with the same bankroll will be able to play longer than when playing on a high variance game.

Perfect Play

But, return, variance and bankroll are only some of the tools of the successful video poker player’s toolkit. In order to get the most from the game the player must employ “perfect play.” Let’s look at that some more.

Perfect play was previously defined as for each hand dealt, the player holds only the cards that will give the highest average return for that hand. Sometimes this means breaking up a paying hand in favor of a non-paying hand initial hand when the results after the draw will return more money than the initially dealt hand paid.

For example, assume you are dealt a jack or hearts, queen of hearts, king of hearts, ace of hearts and 7 of hearts. This hand is a flush which pays 25 credits per five credits bet. While that is a relatively good pay, holding the four cards of a royal flush and discarding the 7 of hearts would return, on average, 91.38 credits for five credits bet. While it is true that with this hold most of the hands would not be winners, there are enough hands that win something, that, when combined with the 4,000 credits paid for a royal flush pushes the average return to almost four times that of a flush.

How can a player know which cards to hold and which to discard? By employing a playing strategy.

Playing Strategy

How can a player get the proper playing strategy? It works just like getting the return for a game. Strategies for many of the popular games and pay tables are available online. Notice it is games AND pay tables. The playing strategy could actually change with each different pay table for the same game. It is important to notice both the game and pay table of that game.

Also, similar to getting paybacks for the less popular games and pay tables, playing strategies for these games require the use of an app. The app, Video Poker for Winners, mentioned above can also produce playing strategies for any game and pay table for which it can provide a payback.

Since you are a relative newbie, what should you do?

That depends on your plans. If you are going to go to a casino only a few times a year and play only a limited amount of time, simply picking the game with the highest return might work. You might be playing a short enough time that your amount bet and gut instincts about which cards to save will be enough to limit your losses to something you can easily afford.

However, if you want to get the most from your play and/or you will be playing a decent amount of time, you really want to take payback, variance, bankroll and playing strategy into account. Using a strategy takes a certain amount of work. For each hand you are dealt you must search through the strategy chart to determine the proper cards to hold. This can become very tedious while playing.

A better option is to purchase a video poker app such as Video Poker for Winners mentioned above. This app (as well as others) not only produces the proper strategies but also provides a means to practice. You can select your game and pay table, produce the playing strategy, print it out, and play the game on the app. Every time you make a mistake, the app will tell you. It will also tell you how much that mistake will cost you on average.

The more you practice, the better you will become and the less you will need to reference the strategy sheet.

As you can see, getting the most from video poker play is a lot of work. Are you willing to commit to doing that in order to obtain the best results? Only you can answer that question.

I certainly hope that his long answer does not put a damper on your desire to play video poker. Even though you may not play video poker correctly, it is likely you will still be better off than playing slots. I find that playing slots is a mind-numbing, boring exercise. While playing video poker you need to use your mind to try to determine the best hold. For this reason (as well as the higher returns), I feel that playing video poker is far superior to slots.

Just make sure that when you play, you only play with money that you can easily afford to lose. That way, playing video poker can be a very enjoyable casino activity.

If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact me by return email.

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 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 stickmanjerry@aol.com
Recent Articles
Best of Jerry Stickman
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 Websites:

www.goldentouchcraps.com
www.goldentouchblackjack.com
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 Websites:

www.goldentouchcraps.com
www.goldentouchblackjack.com