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# Video poker progressives

4 May 2010

The math of video poker games tells us average payback percentages given expert play. If everyone played at expert level, 9/6 Double Double Bonus Poker would return 98.98% of money wagered to players, and casinos would have it off the floor in a hurry in favor or more profitable games.

Once we get to games with progressive jackpots, the numbers become fluid no matter what the skill level of the player. A video poker game that's paying 4,400 credits on a royal flush has a higher payback percentage than one that returns 4,000 credits.

What brings this to mind is a game I encountered that has a three-way progressive. It was 9/6 Double Double Bonus Poker, but a percentage of each bet was added to progressive jackpots not only for a royal flush, but also for four aces with a 2, 3 or 4 as the fifth card, and for four 2s, 3s or 4s with an ace, 2, 3 or 4 as the fifth card.

In a non-progressive game, the royal returns 4,000 credits with five wagered, four aces accompanied by a 2, 3 or 4 returns 2,000, and four 2s, 3s or 4s with an ace, 2, 3 or 4 returns 800. As I sat down to play, the progressive meters stood at 4,318 credits on a royal, 2,187 on the quad aces plus low hands, and 833 on the four low cards with kicker.

I wrote all that down, and when I got home I ran it through the computer. Given those jackpots, 9/6 Double Double Bonus returns 99.47% with expert play — the increase in the payoffs on those three hands basically added half a percent to our optimal return.

Keep in mind that in sessions that you don't draw one of those hard-to-get hands, you're not getting any more out of the game than you would on a non-progressive game. But if you played only with the jackpots at those levels, and played long enough that you received a normal share of jackpot hands, the expected return with expert play would be half a percent higher with the progressives than without them.

I decided to play around a little and find some jackpot levels that would give us a break-even, 100%-return game. If the only progressive was on royal flushes, 9/6 Double Double Bonus would become a 100% game with the royal payoff at 5,846 credits. If the only progressive was on four aces with a 2, 3 or 4, the break-even point is a 2,760-credit return. If a progressive only on four 2s-4s with an ace, 2, 3, or 4, the magic number is 1,152.

But with three progressive levels, all contribute to raising the payback percentage. One way to get to 100% is 5,500 coins on the royal, 2,100 on the aces plus kicker and 827 on the quad low cards plus kicker. Another way is jackpot levels of 4,800, 2,249 and 900 credits.

Not everyone is an expert, and not everyone will really get 100% at those levels. Most players get a few percent less than experts do. For those who take time to practice their strategies, understanding how the progressives affect the percentages can open opportunities. But even for average players, more is more. If the rest of the pay table is the same, your long-term return goes up as progressive jackpots increase.

** * ** * **

Games with multiple progressive levels, such as Cash Express, Fort Knox or Sex and the City are growing fast in low-denomination slot machines, but multi-tiers in video poker jackpots have been with us for a couple of decades.

In the early 1990s in Las Vegas, I played in a casino that had two different banks of multi-progressive video poker. At a bank of quarter machines, there was a different jackpot on each royal flush suit — a club royal might be above \$1,400 with diamonds barely above \$1,000, depending on which had been hit more recently.

I settled in at a dollar Double Bonus Poker game that had progressive jackpots on royal flushes, four aces, four 2s, 3s and 4s, and four 5s through kings — four progressive levels. The jackpot on the 2s-4s was pretty high, more than 600 coins on a hand that normally pays 400.

Three times in about 15 minutes, I was dealt three of a kind, but couldn't draw the fourth. Finally, three 3s came up on the deal, and when I hit the draw button, up popped the fourth 3 and the \$600-plus progressive was mine.

A fellow had been standing behind, watching. "It made you work for that one," he said. I laughed. With my bankroll replenished, I didn't mind the wait at all.

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

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Winning Tips for Casino Games
John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.