I love the look on people’s faces when they hear me say there are some video poker machines with paybacks over 100%.
First, it goes against what we all know to be true – all games have a casino advantage. Second, they don’t even fully realize what I’m saying. So, let me make it quite clear. A payback over 100% means in the long run, the player will win money. This is the total opposite of our thinking for virtually every type of game.
Normally, a casino game offers the player the opportunity to win in the short run but the player will still lose over the long run. With these games over 100%, or what we call positive games, the player might lose in the short run, but his bankroll should increase over time.
Now, these games are much harder to find than they used to be. Almost all of them will be in Las Vegas (or at least Nevada). Competition has a tendency to create more competitive paytables. Unfortunately, the Strip has learned the player will play anything you put in front of them, so almost all of these machines will be in the off-Strip properties.
Which games are you looking for? Most of the positive machines are some form of Deuces Wild. The other more commonly found game will be Double Bonus.
Double Bonus can pay at about 100.17%. You can find these machines at most of the Station properties and several casinos in downtown. The machines will range from a nickel up to a $1.
There are two important things to remember about games over 100%. The first is the payback is immaterial in this regard – the Royal tends to still be about 2% of the payback. So, if you don’t get your fair share of Royals, you’re playing a machine below 100% and you won’t be winning any money over time. For the most part, you might have a hard time distinguishing between playing a full-pay Jacks or Better at 99.6% and a Double Bonus paying 100.17%.
If you make this your primary game and track your results over a year or two (depending on how much you’ll play), you will find your bankroll is increasing ever so slightly as opposed to decreasing (by about 2-2.5x as much).
The second point to remember is just how much you can expect to win over this long run. 0.17% is not a huge player advantage. And while it still is far better than 0.4% house advantage and massively better than a 2% house advantage, it is still an overall small amount.
So, let’s say you’re on a quarter play, playing max-coin. After all, at below max-coin, you’re no longer playing a 100.17% machine. If you play 600 hands per hour, you’ll wager $750 an hour. You’ll win 0.17% of $750 in an hour. That just over $1.25/hour. Better than losing, but not really worth thinking about making a career out of it.
If you ramp up to play a $1 machine, all the numbers multiply by 4 and you’ll be at just over $5 an hour. If you were to make this a full-time job, this would amount to just over $10,000 a year. A nice amount to win, but if you’re playing 40 hours per week, it has become your job. A job with no benefits and one where your average income will be about $10,000 per year but it will be a bit volatile, greatly dependent on drawing your Royals.
If we look at some of the Deuces Wild games, we can find some paybacks around 100.76%. This is 4x greater than our Bonus game and thus, a $1 player could make upward of $40,000 per year playing video poker. I’m not recommending it, but this does become a more substantial salary. With a payback this high, you can find yourself closer to even, even when not hitting the Royal and/or 4 Deuces Jackpot hands.
Before you quit your job and become a professional video poker player, you also have to remember these games use strategies vastly different from Jacks or Better. In the case of the Deuces Wild game, the hands are broken down by the number of Deuces. In reality, the strategy might be easier to learn than Jacks or Better.
The last key point you have to remember is you don’t earn these high paybacks if you’re making mistakes. So make sure you take the time to learn the proper strategy for the actual game you are going to play.
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Elliot Frome is a second generation gaming analyst and author. His math credits include Ultimate Texas Hold’em, Mississippi Stud, House Money and many other games. His website is www.gambatria.com. Email: [email protected].