Online video poker games offer you one of the best chances of walking away from an internet casino a winner. The wide variety of games available makes the subject more interesting to write about and read about it. It also makes this type of game more fun to play.
You’ll find plenty of reviews of online video poker games online. In this post, I’ve included some data and details about what you might want to consider when evaluating both these reviews and the games in question.
Keep in mind that the house has a mathematical edge in video poker–just like it does in any other casino game. This means in the long run, you probably won’t be a video poker winner.
In the short run, though, you have a better chance of walking away from an online video poker game as a winner than almost any other casino game online.
1- Online Video Poker Payback Percentages Are Relatively Easy to Calculate
I’ve written (and read) countless pages about the differences between slot machines and video poker games. On the surface, the games look almost exactly the same. And in terms of game-play, the differences are subtle but important.
The most important difference, though, has to do with pay tables and payback percentages. Both slot machine games and video poker games make their pay tables available to the player. The pay table is just a list of winning combinations and how much each of those combinations pays.
The difference is that online video poker games use a 52-card deck to base their probabilities on. We know the probability of getting a specific card, suit, ranking, or hand.
The probability of getting a specific symbol on a slot machine game is unknown. Different symbols are often weighted differently. This makes it impossible to calculate the payback percentage for a slot machine game.
But with an online video poker game, you just multiply the payout amount by the probability of hitting that winning combination. The result is the expected value of that combination. Add all the possible outcomes together, and you have the overall payback percentage for the game.
What’s the payback percentage?
It’s a statistical average of how much you can expect to win over the long run for every dollar you wager. It’s a percentage. For example, if I tell you a game has a 99% payback percentage, you’ll win (on average, over the long run), 99 cents for every dollar you bet.
The payback percentage for online video poker games assume that you’re playing every hand perfectly, too. I’ll have more to say about that in the strategy section below.
2- Different Video Poker Games from Different Software Providers Have Different Pay Tables
Online video poker games resemble traditional land-based casino video poker. You have multiple games with multiple pay tables available.
The differences in some games have to do with the number of wild cards. Jacks or Better video poker, for example, has no wild cards. Deuces Wild, on the other hand, counts all 2s as wild. Joker Poker has a single wild card–the joker.
The more common difference from one game to another, though, has to do with payouts. Bonus Poker, for example, is just Jacks or Better with bonus payouts for certain 4 of a kind combinations.
Each type of video poker has its own variations in pay tables, too.
Here’s an example of a 9/6 Jacks or Better video poker pay table:
- Royal flush – 800 for 1
- Straight flush – 50 for 1
- 4 of a kind – 25 for 1
- Full house – 9 for 1
- Flush – 6 for 1
- Straight – 4 for 1
- 3 of a kind – 3 or 1
- 2 pairs – 2 for 1
- A pair of jacks or higher – even money
This is an example of a “full pay” Jacks or Better game. The payback percentage for this pay table is 99.54% (assuming you make the mathematically correct decisions on every hand). The house edge is 0.46%.
You can find other pay tables for Jacks or Better, though. The payouts for almost all the hands are the same except for the full house and flush payouts. These are often lowered to provide the casino with a game which has a lower payback percentage.
For example, if you find a game that pays 8 for 1 for a full house and 5 for 1 for a flush, the payback percentage for that game is only 97.3%.
What does that do to your expected losses per hour?
Let’s assume you’re playing a dollar machine. You’re betting $5 per hand. You probably place 600 bets per hour. (Online video poker games are faster than you think.)
You’re putting $3000 per hour into action, and you expect to get back 99.54% in winnings on the full pay machine. This means you’re getting back $2986.20 in winnings per hour. You’re losing $13.80 per hour on average.
Switch to that 8/5 game, though, and your winnings per hour drop to $2919. Now you’re losing an average of $81 per hour. That’s a huge difference.
Many online video poker games offer the best possible pay table in the single-play version of their games. But their multi-hand games have a lower pay table. Be sure to look carefully at the pay tables for both kinds of games before making the switch.
It’s beyond the scope of this page to provide examples of every possible online video poker pay table, but I’ll expand the site with additional posts about specific games in the future. Those pages will have the details you’re looking for.
3- The Number of Video Poker Games Available on the Internet Is Staggering
Most online casinos lease the software that powers their casino games, including their video poker games. Some software packages offer more video poker variations than others. But they all offer multiple varieties.
Here’s an example of the online video poker games available from 3Dice:
- Aces & Eights
- Aces & Faces
- Aces & Jacks
- All American
- Bonus Deluxe
- Bonus Deluxe Wild
- Bonus Poker
- Deuces Wild
- Double Bonus
- Double Bonus Plus
- Double Deuces
- Double Double Bonus
- Double Joker
- High Fives
- Jackpot Poker
- Jacks or Better
- Jokers Wild (Kings or Better)
- Joker Wilds (Two Pair Minimum)
- King of the House
- Kings or Better
- Loose Deuces
- Lucky Nugget
- Mystery Bonus
- Nevada Bonus
- Odyssey Deuce
- Power House
- Sevens Wild
- Straight Flush Bonus
- Super Aces
- Super Double Bonus
- Tens or Better
- Triple Bonus
- Triple Pla
That’s almost 3 dozen different variations at just one casino software provider. Many of the games are common video poker variations. But a few are unique to their software.
And there are dozens of casino software packages out there, including some software packages that are proprietary to the casino in question.
4- You Need to Master the Strategy for the Variation You’re Playing to Achieve the Payback Percentage Touted
I mentioned earlier that the transparency of the video poker payback percentage is one of the most important differences between video poker and slot machines. The other major difference is the inclusion of decision making and strategy in video poker.
When you’re playing slot machines, you have no meaningful decisions to make. You insert your money and push the spin button. The game decides the outcome immediately.
But in a video poker game, you start with a 5-card poker hand. You then get to decide which cards to keep and which cards to discard. You can keep or discard any combination, which means there are 32 different ways to play each hand.
Only 1 of those ways is the mathematically optimal way to play it.
The closer you get to choosing the optimal play on every hand, the closer you’ll get to achieving the payback percentage listed for the game.
The best source I’ve found for learning various video poker strategies is Bob Dancer’s site. He sells a series of books explaining the correct strategy for the most common VP variations.
But don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because a review somewhere says that the payback percentage on video poker game X is 99.7%, you’ll achieve that result. It’s not that easy.
5- Not All Online Casino Reviews Include Complete Details about Video Poker Games
The online gambling industry, especially the casino side of it, makes its money from players who lose money to the casino. The faster they lose their money, the faster the casinos make their money. As a result, these casinos prefer to promote their games with a higher house edge.
Since video poker offers some of the best odds in the casino, they’re not usually high on the list of games to promote.
Independent websites who publish reviews usually make their money on a commission basis. They get a percentage of the money their referred players lose at the casino. Video poker players are notoriously low in player value.
VP players tend to play the games with the best odds. They also tend to play for lower stakes than gamblers who specialize in other games. This makes these customers less valuable than roulette players, for example.
The house edge for roulette is 5.26%. And many roulette players believe in cockamamie systems that do nothing to help them win more often.
So reviews of online casinos often give video poker games short shrift. Providing that information to VP players just isn’t as profitable as promoting other, more lucrative casino games.
6- Most Casinos Don’t Allow Wagering on Video Poker to Count toward Your Rollover Requirements for Your Signup Bonus
When you sign up for the first time at an online casino, the property awards you with a cash bonus that’s a percentage of your deposit amount. This usually takes the form of a percentage of your deposit with a top limit.
An example of one of these kinds of offers might look like this:
Sign up today and get a 200% bonus of up to $200.
This means when you deposit $100, the casino matches that amount with a $200 bonus. You deposit $100, but you get $300 in your account to play with.
This sounds like a great deal, especially for video poker players, but don’t get too excited too fast.
Casinos also have wagering requirements on these bonus offers. In other words, before cashing out, you have to bet the amount of your deposit plus your bonus a certain number of times.
For example, you might be required to bet that $300 35 times before cashing out. That’s $10,500 in wagers.
That sounds like a lot, but don’t forget that you’ll win some of those wagers.
But what happens if you play through the wagering requirements on a game with a really low house edge, like full pay Jacks or Better?
The house edge on that game is 0.46%. On $10,500 in wagers, that’s an expected loss of only $48.30.
If you start with $300 and lose $48.30, you have $251.70 left. Since you only started with $100 of your own money, your expected profit is $151.70.
For this reason, casinos don’t count wagers on video poker toward your wagering requirements. In fact, most casinos only allow wagers on slot machines to count toward your bonus requirements.
I don’t know what the payback percentage or house edge is for any specific slot machine game on the internet. But let’s assume the house edge is at least 5%.
On $10,500 in wagers, your expected loss is now $525. That’s $225 more than you have, so you’ll probably lose all your money before fulfilling your wagering requirements.
This doesn’t mean signup bonuses are a bad thing. You just need to understand what you’re getting into. Casino bonuses are not a means of getting rich, unfortunately.
Good online video poker game reviews include details about how the bonus works as relates to video poker wagering.
7- Sites Offering Recommendations and Reviews Are Rarely Impartial
I mentioned earlier that most internet publishers make their money via commissions from the online casinos they promote. This can take the form of a flat dollar amount per depositing player referred. More often, it takes the form of a percentage of the referred players’ losses.
This doesn’t make internet publishers bad people. It doesn’t make them dishonest or biased.
It does, however, mean they have a financial stake in whether you sign up at an online casino.
This means a healthy dose of skepticism on the part of a player shopping for video poker casinos is a good idea.
Online video poker games are some of the most fun activities you can find at an internet casino. The amount of information available on the subject is staggering, though. This post can only hope to provide an introduction to the subject.
Look for more posts about video poker games in the future.