A Systems Approach to Video Poker

Ellen arrived at her favourite casino with a group of friends at about noon, but it hasn’t been her day. Ellen is an avid video poker player, and understands that she should always play the maximum coins. Coin limit play is essential she believes, because if she hits the royal flush she wants to be eligible for the top award that winners who have the maximum coin-in receive. After all, the pay tables on most modern machines are set to offer the coin-limit player a better payout percentage by setting a higher jackpot on the top hand for coin-limit play. Most machines start the hand automatically when five coins are inserted. Every machine has one button that orders maximum play. Ellen believes that it is the only way to play.

But Ellen’s funds have been depleted and she believes it’s time to drop down to less than coin limit to stretch her remaining funds. She has seen players being burned by hitting a royal flush or five-of-a-kind while playing less than coin limit. The disdain from the neighbouring players was more difficult to bear than the monetary shortfall.

But before coming to the casino this time, Ellen read up on coin-limit play and was surprised to find that on her favourite 9/6 Jacks-or-better machines, she would be losing less per hand by playing one coin than by playing five coins.

By playing expert strategy, and even taking into account the 800-1 payout for five-coin play and only a 250-1 payout for anything less, Ellen can take solace in the fact that her single-coin play keeps her almost even with maximum play, even without the hitting the top jackpot.

Ellen wasn’t surprised to find that novice players who don’t understand expert strategy are much better off playing less than five coins. Occasionally her friends who love the slot machines have wandered over into the video poker sections, but have always headed back quickly. They don’t understand that it’s important to know the strategy of the game.

Progressive jackpots seem to demand coin-limit play, but Ellen learned that a typical progressive 8/5 Jacks-or-better machine pays only 97.3 per cent to experts when the jackpot is minimum at 800-1, or $1,000 on a five-quarter coin-limit machine. Single-coin play returns only 95.9 per cent so the loss rate is very poor at all levels. That’s why experts don’t play them until the jackpot is above $2,200 and then only at coin-limit. Ellen will continue to play one coin at a time until it’s time to head home. She’ll protect her funds and will have a chance to get even before leaving.