Video poker poses as a good alternative to slots as the two games share some common features, not to mention this is the game which offers players the best odds and comes with the lowest house edge. One of the biggest similarities between the two is that both have paytables which are, in fact, the most important components of the games as they indicate what payouts players can expect on winning hands or symbol combinations.
The truth of the matter is the paytables are precisely what gives video poker players an overwhelming advantage over slot fans. With slots, there is no way for players to accurately determine a given game’s payback percentage. This is not the case with video poker, where the paytables allow for a greater transparency of the odds – it is possible to calculate the game’s expected value and hold percentage by using the information that is readily available in the paytable.
Learning to Read Video Poker Paytables
Similarly to slots, video poker games reward winners with specific amounts depending on the combination (in this case of cards) they have formed. Video poker players can calculate the odds of getting a given card since all probabilities are based on a standard deck containing 52 cards. Of course, there are exceptions since in some variants like Joker Poker a 53-card deck is in play because there is one additional wild card, the joker.
What the term “paytable” stands for is fairly obvious – this is where all qualifying hand rankings are listed along with the sums they pay out depending on the number of credits players have bet. The hand rankings are listed in descending order in the first column of the paytable while the other five columns contain the number of credits winners receive when betting one, two, three, four or five credits per hand.
The winning combinations are largely based on the standard rankings of hands in traditional poker. Similarly to standard poker, here the profits you collect depend on the ranking of the hand you have formed. Of course, there are some exceptions since in certain video poker variants, Four of a Kind hands containing cards of lower ranks may offer players better payouts than those consisting of higher-rank cards.
One of the biggest advantages of video poker results from the casinos’ inability to affect the cards’ distribution. Video poker games run on Random Number Generators (RNG) whose purpose is to determine the outcome of each hand by simulating a perfectly shuffled deck of cards. But what is more important, the number of possible outcomes in this game is finite and calculable.
In commonly played variants like Jacks or Better, there are 52 cards in play which makes it possible to form as many as 2,598,960 different combinations. This number cannot be changed by the casinos themselves, not to mention law prohibits them from doing so. The only legal way for gambling establishments to affect how much a given video poker machine pays is by adjusting its paytable.
This is the reason why players should always take the time to inspect and compare the paytables of different video poker games. Some expert players are of the opinion the paytable should be the single most essential criteria to look for when choosing a video poker game.
Adjustments of the Payouts of Full House and Flush Hands
Most variations of the commonly played Jacks or Better tend to offer similar payouts on lower-ranking hands so there are no major discrepancies from one paytable to another. When such discrepancies exist, they are to be observed in the payouts for a full house and flush hands where adjustments in the payout ratios are the most likely to happen. That is why the paytables on some video poker games are called 9/6, 8/5, 7/5, 6/5, and so on. On a 9/6 game, full house hands reward players with 9 credits per every credit wagered, while the flush will pay 6 credits per every credit wagered. Such games are considered “loose”, while those with 6/5 paytables are rather tight and as such, should be avoided.
Such adjustments in the payouts have a direct impact on a given game’s payback percentage or the amount of money it pays back to players over prolonged periods of time. The payback percentage is calculated on the basis of the probability of forming qualifying winning hands and their respective payouts in the paytable. Thus, if you go for a 9/6 Jacks or Better game, the payback percentage will be roughly around 99.54%, with a standard deviation of 4.42.
In comparison, a 6/5 Jacks or Better variant has about 95% return percentage and a higher standard deviation of 4.35. As you can see there is almost a 5% discrepancy in the two games’ return percentages which is by no means an insignificant difference – it is more than obvious which of the two Jacks or Better variants a smart player would choose. These reductions in the payouts may seem minuscule to less skilled players but the truth is they lead to great differences in how beatable a given video poker variation is.
There is no excuse for players who skip on inspecting the paytables in detail, but more importantly, there are numerous online payback percentage calculators available for free that can help you calculate the games’ return without putting too much sweat in it.
You simply need to input the payouts of all qualifying hands and the software will calculate the game’s return percentage for you along with its standard deviation. The latter is also a crucial factor to consider as it indicates how volatile a given video poker variation is. High standard deviation translates in greater swings in results and therefore, in higher volatility.
Expected Value in Video Poker
The term expected value stands for the potential return players can collect from a specific hand provided they make a correct decision on the draw. Mathematically speaking, the expected value represents how many units players will potentially win back per every unit they have wagered. When the expected value is higher than 1.0, it is considered to be positive. A positive expected value translates into a long-term profitability for the player. A negative expected value is lower than 1.0 and results in players losing money in the long run.
The odds of winning with made hands are 100% which corresponds to an expected value of 1.0. To calculate the expected value of a hand, players need to multiply the odds of winning with it by the payout it awards them with. For example, the expected value of a made flush like [Q] can be expressed as 1.0 x 6 which corresponds to $6.
Of course, in a game of video poker players cannot expect to win with made hands all the time. Draw hands are not immediate winners but their expected value can be calculated in a similar manner. For instance, you may be dealt the following hand , in which case you will need to determine whether keeping the pair of nines and replacing the remaining three cards is worth it.
In order to do this, you will need to consider all possible hand combinations. The number of possible draws stands at 16,215. This number includes 45 combinations for Four of a Kind, 165 combinations for a Full House, 1,854 combinations for Three of a Kind, 2,592 combinations for Two Pair and 11,559 for losing hands which do not qualify for a payout at all.
The expected value of drawing hands is determined by multiplying the combinations of forming the respective hand by the payout it offers and then comparing the result with the overall number of possible draws. Let’s go back to the draw hand from the above example. The number of possible draws that may result in a payout for this hand is 13,356 while the overall number of possible draws is 16,215. The payout for low pairs is even money, so the calculation will be expressed in the following manner: (13,356 x 1)/16,215 = 0.824. It is this number that corresponds to the expected value of the hand from our example, which is $0.82.
There is no need to get scared since you will hardly have to go through such calculations. This was just an example to demonstrate why video poker players should always play the hands that offer them the highest value. Furthermore, players can find free software online which would enable them to calculate the expected value of each hand they are dealt.
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Full Pay Video Poker Paytables
If you spend some time in the company of an experienced video poker player, you might hear them refer to some games as “full pay” machines. What they mean to actually say is that such video poker variations offer players the highest payouts. If you browse through the catalogues of online casinos, you will surely notice stark differences in the paytables of different variations of video poker.
You can determine whether or not a game offers you a full pay by taking a quick look at the payouts for a flush and full house, listed in its paytable. There are Jacks or Better variants where full house offers you payouts of 9 times your wager while flushes pay out 6 times your bet. These are known as 9/6 games and are considered full pay variations. It makes sense that if you happen to come across a 9/6 game, you should prefer it over Jacks or Better variants which offer you 8/5 or 7/5 payouts for full house and flush.
Some casinos attempt to trick less experienced players by offering them higher payouts for the best-ranking hands that are formed rarely, such as the royal flush and the straight, while at the same time reducing the payouts of lower-ranking hands that occur more frequently with a credit or two. Players see the lucrative payouts on top of the paytable and interpret this as a good sign when in fact, it is not. Even a small, one-unit reduction in the payouts for a flush and a full house can decrease your overall profitability from these hands with 1.1%.
|Full Pay Video Poker Paytables|
|Four of a Kind||25||50||75||100||125|
|Three of a Kind||3||6||9||12||15|
|Jacks or Better||1||2||3||4||5|
Selecting the Highest Value Video Poker Games
Many video poker novices are facing difficulties when selecting which variation of the game to play, mainly because they lack the necessary experience to make a well-informed choice. Then again, there are hundreds of variations to choose from. While the level of excitement a given game offers can affect your decision to a certain extent, this is not the most important factor to look for. Your decision should be based predominantly on what the game’s paytable reads.
If Jacks or Better is your preferred variation, you should look for a full pay game that offers 9 to 1 payouts for full house hands and 6 to 1 payouts for flushes. Such games are considered an industry standard and generally offer players the best payouts they can possibly hope to get for these hand combinations. Players who have adopted the correct strategies will benefit from a low house edge of only 0.50% on 9/6 video poker games.
Jacks or Better variants that offer lower payouts on the flushes and the full house hands are frequently referred to as “short payback” games. You may come across variations with 8/5 payouts on these two hands, in which case the house edge is boosted to 2.70%. Such games should be played only if they have a progressive jackpot attached to them – only in this case they may provide players with an advantage over the house. Whether or not a progressive game compensates for the reduced payouts of the flush and the full house, depends on the size of the jackpot.
When the top prize progresses to 7,900 credits, the game would take away only 0.50% from the advantage of the player, which corresponds to a standard 9/6 Jacks or Better variation. An even-money game usually comes with a jackpot that has reached 8,700 credits. The player gains an edge on variations where the jackpot exceeds 8,700 credits, which results in a positive, long-term expectation.