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Pick Your Video Poker

How to Pick Your Video Poker Machine Wisely

As we mentioned earlier, the payout table tells you how much you win for each winning hand, and its usually posted at the top of older machines or on the video screen of the newer models. What we didnt tell you is that although you may be playing the same game (say, Jacks or Better) on different machines, the payout schedules may differ.

For instance, in some varieties of Jacks or Better a one-coin full house will pay you nine coins and a flush pays six coins. In other versions, the same one-coin full house pays only eight or six coins, and the flush may pay only six or five. The amount of money a machine pays off for each winning hand is how the casino controls the machines payout percentage, which is the proportion of your money you can expect the machine to pay you back in the long run. (The rest feeds the house!)

The average payback for video poker is between 90 and 100+ percent, with proper play. Unfortunately, you wont even come close to those figures if you dont hit the royal flush, because it too is calculated into the machines overall payout percentage.

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Many newer video poker machines have a Hi-Lo double or nothing feature that entices you to double your money after winning a hand. All you have to do is figure out whether a card selected from the deck will be a high card (9 or higher), or a low card (2 through 7). If you guess correctly, you double your winnings. If you guess wrong, you lose your winnings. After winning a Hi-Lo side bet, many machines ask if you want to do it again—as many as four more times. Now thats gambling! (If you dont want to play Hi-Lo, press the TAKE SCORE button after each win.)

The only way you can expect to win at video poker is to hit the royal flush. To hit the royal, you have to be willing to play until you get it. You know on slots that theres really no way to predict when you will get a royal (which is the equivalent of a slot machine jackpot). But, you know from the poker that a player can expect a royal flush approximately once in 40,000 hands. So, if you want to win, you have to be able to keep playing by feeding the machine from your pocket and/or by collecting more money from the intermediate hands that you do win. Table shown below will help you compare the most common video poker payout schedules.

As you can see, the payouts for all Jacks or Better machines (and most other video poker games, too) are the same except for the payout on a flush, full house and royal flush. In order to spend less of your own money pursuing the royal, you have to play only the highest-paying machines you can find, and avoid the lower-paying ones. The best machines—which are hard to find, by the way—are those that pay nine coins for a full house and six for a flush (appropriately referred to as a 9/6 machine). The next best machines are the 8/5 machines, especially if they offer a high progressive jackpot. (Well get into the difference a progressive jackpot makes in a minute.) Avoid 6/5 machines (which are more prevalent in Atlantic City and some Indian reservations than in Nevada casinos) unless the progressive jackpot more than makes up for the weaker payouts.


The payout percentage is the percent of each dollar played in a video or slot machine that the machine is programmed to return to the player over the course of a given time period. It also includes money re¬turned as the result of hitting the jackpot.


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