When video poker was first introduced, few people realized that the pay tables would play such a large role in determining how much and how frequently the machine made payouts. Since serious players began to analy e the pay tables, it has become apparent that choosing the correct machine to play makes all the difference.
There are generally two types of video poker games – non- wild card games, such as Jacks-or-better and Bonus Poker, or wild card games, like Jokers Wild and Deuces Wild. While this is a general classification, there are many versions of these machines, and that’s why it is so important to understand what makes a good pay table.
To begin with, let’s concentrate on the non-wild card games. The first rule of thumb is never play a machine that does not return your investment on a high pair – a pair of Jacks to Aces. Although these machines are thankfully disappearing, it used to be common to find machines that required the players to make a two pair before returning their bet. This is an unacceptable option, and there really is no need to play these machines given the proliferation of Jacks-or-better machines.
Let’s examine a Jacks-or-better pay table. This is usually located above the screen, and it generally gives you the payouts for the number of coins inserted, usually from one to five. On most modem machines, the pay table is located on the screen itself, just above the area where the hands appear. Look at the various rewards. You’ll notice the hands correspond with the poker hands we discussed earlier. But because you’re not playing against opponents, you get paid back at a progressive rate beginning with the high pair
The area you should concentrate on is the payout for the full house and the flush. In Jacks-or-better games that do not have any bonus for four-of-a-kind hands (ie, all four-of-a-kind hands pay 25-1), the best machines are ones that pay nine coins (for one coin) on the full house, and six coins for the flush. This is called a “9/6” machine. This machine, of course, is preferable to an “8/5” machine that pays eight coins for the full house and five for the flush. Other
machines – 7/5 and 6/5 machines – are far less favourable and should be avoided unless there is no other choice.
Bonus Poker and its variants, most notably Double Bonus and Double Double Bonus, increase payouts for different four-of-a-kind hands, and have different full-house and flush “keys” to watch for. The best Bonus Poker machines
offer a payout of eight for the full house and five for the flush. The best Double Bonus Poker machines offer payments of ten for the full house and seven for the flush. In Double Double Bonus, go back to the original 9/6 pay table. Machines that don’t reach these levels have a lower payout percentage. You will note that in Double Bonus and Double Double Bonus, the two-pair hand returns the same as the high pair – a return of your initial wager. This is more than offset, however, by the huge returns for four-of-a-kind hands. The best Double Bonus pay table, for instance, returns over 100 per cent payout with optimal play.
One other factor is important when choosing the best video poker machines. Las Vegas, and other areas in Nevada, are video poker heaven, where you’ll find the best and most generous pay tables in the casinos in the Silver State. Generally, these machines cannot be found anywhere else.
Atlantic City is improving, but finding 9/6 machines requires a diligent search because very few casinos offer them. On the other hand, Atlantic City is far superior to some riverboat or dock side casino jurisdictions or Indian casinos (with the notable exception of the two Connecticut Indian casinos, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun), for a couple of related reasons. Most of these new casinos cater to relatively new players, who usually gravitate to the slot machines because they are not intimidating, and it takes little knowledge to play them. When they do wander into the video poker area, they don’t really understand the game, so the slot executives have little reason to offer them the best payouts. Even if a player is educated, he most often has no alternatives.
In the UK, video poker is one of the most popular A WP games. Players will sit for hours in the slot arcades or in their local pubs playing these machines. But the same principles we’ve discussed in this chapter apply to thes machines. Pay attention to the pay table. Understand how a small change in one category on the pay table can affect your chances of winning. Educate yourself, and you’ll have a better chance of winning.