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VP Return and Variance

5 February 2022

Video poker is different from other casino slot games because the player can actually determine the return and variance of the game. This is not true of slot machines. Only those with access to the slot machine’s programming information can make that determination.

A large portion of video poker players do not have a clue as to the return and variance of the game they are playing. Many of them don’t even know what the term variance means, much less why it matters.

They are the type of gambler that visits a casino a few times a year. They began playing video poker because they heard that the game has a much lower house edge than slot machines. They also like the fact that unlike slots machines they have some say in the outcome of each hand.

They may play Jacks or Better because they read somewhere (or someone told them) that it has a high return. Or, they may play Double-Double Bonus Poker because someone told them how much fun hitting the four-of-a-kind hands can be. They will play the game until they hit one of the quads, then cash out and move on.

They may even sit down at a progressive game with a jackpot of 5,000 credits or more prominently displayed, hoping to have lightning strike.

Most of these average players play the game intuitively. They may have been told to never save an inside straight, so they don’t. But they will play hunches. They may play along with what they think is a streak. It is possible that they have researched video poker strategy in a book or on the Internet.

I would venture to guess that well over 50 percent (and possibly as high as 95 percent) of all video poker players do not know the return or variance of the game they love to play. I would also guess that at least that many do not play using any formal, mathematically developed playing strategy.

The average casino goer is not well versed in the math of the games. If they were, the gambling landscape would be dramatically altered as players flee the low-return games for the more player friendly ones.

So, how can players determine the return and variance of a specific video poker game?

Unfortunately, there is no button to press to see the return and variance of each game. But all is not lost. Unlike slot machines where the gambling public has no idea of the return and variance, the information needed to determine these for a video poker game is readily available.

Players can get a feeling for the variance by checking the pay table for the number of high-paying winning hands listed. By high paying, I mean hands that pay more than 50-for-1. The greater the number of these hands, the higher the variance.

Jacks or Better only has one – the royal flush. It pays 800-for-1 (the 5-credit win is usually 4,000 credits so 4,000 for 5 equals 800-for-1).

Double-Double Bonus Poker has five such winners; the royal flush (800-for-1), four aces with a 2, 3, or 4 (400-for-1), four 2s, 3s, or 4,s with an ace, 2, 3, or 4 (160-for-1), four aces (160-for-1), and four 2s, 3s, or 4s (80-for-1). Double-Double Bonus Poker has a higher variance than Jacks or Better.

As a general rule, in order to get the return of a video poker game the player should make a note of the name of the game (Jacks or Better, etc.) and the amount in each line of the maximum credit column (usually 5 credits) of the pay table.

The player would then go to the internet and search for “video poker return.” Several choices should appear where the return (and sometimes variance) information can be found. The player can then decide which is the best game and pay table at their casino of choice.

Just remember, the higher the return, the better for you (or rather your bankroll). The lower the variance, the less severe your bankroll swings.

If someone is going to take the time and effort to determine the return and variance, they should also consider getting the proper playing strategy. This can be done for some of the most common games by, once again, searching the Internet for “video poker strategy.”

If they plan on playing regularly, it makes sense to get a video poker program or smartphone app that will calculate the return and variance for virtually any game as well as producing the proper playing strategy.

For a cost that is usually under $50, they get all the proper information. With most of the programs, they can practice playing and have the app tell them when they make mistakes. Before long they should be playing like a pro.

Even if they do not take the leap and get a video poker program or app, they should at least find out which video poker games have the highest return and stick to playing only those games.

That will pay off in the long run.

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