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Ask the Slot Expert: The Max Bet button on a video poker machine

2 May 2018

Question: I would like to point out a suggestion concerning the use of the max bet button in video poker.

For the majority of your article I totally agree. However, not all VP machines are the same.

For example, in some jurisdictions, hitting MAX doesn't play 5 credits, it plays 20. At Mohegan Sun, for example, players have to be careful. Hitting MAX could make your initial bet $5 instead of $1.25 (single line) until you realize the difference. The same is found on Triple Play, Five Play and Ten Play machines.

I have always suggested that on the first play, use the Bet 1 button to be sure that the MAX play is the usual five credits. After knowing that, you can hit DEAL or MAX -- whatever floats your boat.

Answer: You're right. Although the vast majority of single-hand video poker machines have five-coin max bets, there are some that have 10 or 20 coins for a max. Even some multi-hand machines have max bets greater than five.

A few weeks ago, my favorite multi-hand machines in a casino's high-limit area were in use, so I went to another multi-hand machine that I knew was in the area. I selected the Five Play paytable I wanted to play. I hit Max Bet and was surprised to see 50 credits disappear.

After the hand -- dealt a high pair, which one or two of the hands improved, so I had a small profit -- I took a close look at the machine. There were indications, which I don't remember now, that a max bet was 10 coins per hand, not five. I cashed out and switched to a multi-hand machine with a five-coin max.

I frequently jump from Triple Play to Five Play to Ten Play depending upon how well I'm doing. I've started hitting the Max Bet button each time I switch to ensure I have five coins bet per hand. I've been tripped up by the last player's betting one or two coins per hand and my not noticing it before hitting Deal. I prefer when a machine does not enable the Deal button for the first bet after switching games. That safety ensures that I set the bet that I want.

Some machines have lower maxes than five. I've become fond of a 3-coin $5 machine. I get the 800-coin payoff per coin on the royal without having to risk $25 on a single hand. Playing the three-coin machine is like playing a Triple Play dollar machine, with a bit more volatility.

It's important to note that so far none of the machines mentioned have a gimmick in the paytable. Machines with gimmicks -- like UltimateX, Super Pay, a bonus wheel, Quick Quads, Split Cards, Dream Cards, etc. -- require anything from one to five extra coins per hand to enable the gimmick. These machines can give you a surprise when you hit the Max Bet button.

Regulators don't want players to be shocked or wiped out when they hit the Max Bet button. Every machine will have notices of the max bet on the screen or on the graphics on the cabinet.

As an aside, I'm mostly disappointed with the paytables on the gimmick machines in my casinos. Am I not paying for the gimmick with the extra coins bet per hand? Why do the casinos also then offer lower paytables on the machines than they do on machines without a gimmick?


Question: Why is the payoff for a straight flush so low? I know that odds dictate payoffs, but it seems it’s more difficult to get a straight flush than four aces. Throughout the years I’ve played, it seems I could the count the number of times I've gotten a straight flush on my fingers.

Answer: It's generally true that the rarer a hand, the more it will pay, but that rule is only generally true. There are always exceptions.

Because you mentioned four aces, let's look at 8/5 Bonus Poker and an exception to the rule. According to calculations done by the Wizard of Odds, the probability of hitting a full house is 0.011514 and the probability of hitting a flush is 0.010880. You're actually more likely to hit the full house than the flush, yet the full house pays eight coins and the flush only five.

Quads are a special case in Bonus Poker. The designers wanted to give a bonus for certain four-of-a-kinds, so they had to fund those bonuses with changes on other hands. They, like almost all other designers, made changes lower on the paytable. They could have made two pair a push, as many bonus paytables do, but they dinged the full house and flush payoffs instead.

The probability of hitting four aces is 0.000196 and that of the straight flush is 0.000107. Again, the more likely hand, the four aces, pays more than the less likely hand. In this case, the anomaly is due to the purpose of the paytable -- paying bonuses for quads. For comparison purposes, the probability of hitting a straight flush on 9/6 Jacks is 0.00010931 and the probability of a four-of-a-kind is 0.00236255. Things are as expected in this section of the paytable, but two lines down we have the same imbalance between probability and payoff for the full house and flush as we had in the 8/5 Bonus paytable.

I played about 1200 hands of 9/6 Jacks the past two days. I didn't get a single four-of-a-kind, but I did get a straight flush. Anything can happen in that small a sample size.

Finally, there's a reason why players may not see as many straight flushes as they should. Players miss many straight flush draws. You're not likely to miss three aces, for example, but you might miss a double-inside straight flush or hold one or two high cards when holding a partial straight flush is actually the better play.


John Robison

John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots
John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots