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Best of John Robison

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Is one variety of video poker better than another?

7 September 2011

In video poker, is there any advantage to playing one variety over any other, as in playing Jacks or Better instead of Bonus Poker, etc.? In other words, will the player's chance of winning be better?

Two separate questions, two separate answers.

First question: Different video poker games have different characteristics. Jacks or Better is not as volatile as Bonus Poker, which is not as volatile as Double Bonus Poker, which is not as volatile as Triple Bonus.... The more volatile the game, the wider the swings in your bankroll and the more often you'll have to feed a machine to keep you in the game. Machine designers make games more volatile by reducing the payouts you get on the more frequently hit hands (like two pair, three of a kind, etc.) and increasing the payouts on less frequently hit hands (like quads, especially with kickers).

I usually say that volatility on slots and video poker is analogous to a roller coaster -- the more volatile the machine, the more stomach-churning the roller coaster. I realize now, though, that the roller coaster ride your bankroll goes through is really a roller coaster in reverse. On a real roller coaster, you go up slowly and then drop quickly. On a machine, your bankroll decreases slowly -- the most you can lose on a spin is the amount of your bet -- and increases quickly -- when you hit a high-paying combination.

One advantage to playing one variety over another is that you can choose a game that matches your tolerance for volatility. As much as I like hitting premium hands, I don't like having to feed machines, so I like the relative calmness of 9/6 Jacks or Better over the undulations of the bonus games.

Another advantage to one variety over another is the availability of positive expectation paytables. Both Full-Pay Deuces Wild and 10/7 Double Bonus Poker pay back more than 100 percent in the long run when played with the proper strategies. The highest-paying Jacks or Better paytable is 9/6, which pays back 99.5 percent.

One final advantage to one variety over another is the simplicity of the strategy. The strategy for Jacks or Better is fairly straightforward and usually matches what you think it should be. The strategies for the other games sometimes require you to make counterintuitive moves.

The bottom line is I think should you play a game that is readily available, that has a strategy you can learn and that has a volatility you can stomach.

Second question: In the short run, different paytables and strategies have different hit frequencies, so you have a better chance of hitting a winning hand on some varieties than on others. In the long run, the higher-paying paytables give you a better chance of being a winner, regardless of hit frequency.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert, at slotexpert@comcast.net. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't reply to every question.

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