Gaming the Poker Machines


Deals can be found in lots of places, including the gambling games themselves. Table games have varying rules. Machines have varying pay schedules. While it’s indisputable that playing better rules and schedules will improve results over time, few gamblers know how to tell the difference or make an effort to learn.

The most popular bar video poker game is Double Double Bonus. The reason is the lure of the big score that comes with quads and kickers, but the trade-off is lower payouts for lesser hands, most importantly the 1-coin return for a two-pair. You may be seduced by the jackpot potential of Double Double, but what you should be paying attention to is its overall return and how it compares to other options.

Return percentages in video poker can be determined by analyzing the pay table printed on the glass. The key numbers are usually those that correspond to the single-coin returns for a full house and a flush. For example, you may have heard that a “9/6” Jacks or Better game is among the best you can play, which it is, offering a 99.54 percent return (for perfect play). The 9/6 game gets its name from the 9-coin payout for the full house and the 6-coin payout for the flush. You won’t find this schedule very often in non-casino bars, so you have to know what’s best of the options that are available.

As unsexy as it sounds, the best game in about 75 percent of Vegas bars is 6/5 Bonus Poker, which has a return of 96.87 percent. Meanwhile, a 7/5 Double Double Bonus game, which is what you’ll usually find, returns only 95.71 percent. That’s inferior by more than 1 percent, and costs a 25¢ player between $5 to $7 more per hour in expected losses to play it. By sticking to better schedules, your overall result will improve significantly.

Here’s a quickie reference for handicapping the machines: Since 6/5 Bonus Poker is usually best, it should be your default game going in, but it makes sense to take a quick inventory of the other games. Jacks or Better will usually be 6/5 or 7/5, which isn’t good enough. This game has to be at least 8/5 (97.30 percent) to yield a better return than 6/5 BP. Bonus Poker Deluxe also needs to be 8/5 (97.40 percent) to choose it. And that 7/5 Double Double game has to jump all the way up to 9/5 to be a better play.

What about Deuces Wild, another sizzle game favored for its bonus for quad deuces? Analyzing Deuces Wild is more complicated than the games just mentioned, but you can trust me when I tell you that the bar schedules are usually well below 6/5 Bonus.

Like I said, it’s not sexy, but if you want the best deal when playing video poker outside the casinos, 6/5 Bonus Poker is the place to start.

Anthony Curtis is the publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor and

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