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Last week, I went over the basics of Expert Strategy. One of the key principles is to know which games to play.

For the most part, this means play the games with the highest paybacks possible. If this is all that mattered, there would be a very long line waiting to play whatever game has the highest payback.

So, I say “for the most part” because I recognize that if I’m going to argue casino gaming is a form of entertainment, then the game you choose to play has to be fun for you. This is a subjective decision.

You may hate playing video poker or sitting around a table playing blackjack having people analyze all of your plays. So, the concept of playing the games with the highest possible payback means within games you enjoy playing.

Once you decide which games this includes, you should seek out the variations that have the higher paybacks. So, if you decide you’re going to play blackjack, find a table that pays 3-to-2 on “21” and not 6-to-5.

If you are going to play video poker, find one with the best pay table. Video poker has literally dozens (if not hundreds) of different variations when you take into account all of the different pay tables. Some have Jokers Wild. Some have Deuces Wild. Some have no wild cards.

I recommend you start with a simple Jacks or Better version of video poker, which is more or less the original version. In this version, there are no wild cards, so reading hands is a bit easier.

Also, all four of a kinds pay the same amount, so you don’t have to give any thought to this as you might in the Bonus video poker versions. With the multi-game versions that are prevalent today, you can find most versions of video poker just about anywhere.

You will find jacks or better to still be the easiest to find of all the variations. You can also find it in almost any denomination you would want to play. So, if you’re just starting out, this is where to start.

Of course, you still have to find jacks or better machines that are what we call “full-pay” machines. Full-pay machines refer to the pay table of the machine. These are the pay tables that have the highest payback for each variation.

Once in a while, there might be a pay table that pays even more, but these would be hard to find. So, full-pay machines are the ones with the highest payback that are commonly found in a variety of casinos.

In the case of Jacks or Better, the pay table you want to find is the one shown here:



Royal Flush 800/250; Straight Flush 50; Four of a Kind 25; Full House 9; Flush 6; Straight 4; Three of a Kind 3; Two Pair 2; Pair Jacks or Better 1.

The 250/800 for a Royal Flush is the difference between betting max-coin and anything less. The pay table above pays over 99.5%. It is tough to find much higher than that in a casino.

Once upon a time you could find this in most any casino in Las Vegas. Nowadays, you’ll most likely find it only in “locals” casinos – those that cater to the people who live in Las Vegas.

The most common variations of this pay table will reduce the payouts on the Flush and the Full House. Each unit reduction reduces the payback by about 1%. So, if you sit down to play a 5/6 paytable instead of the given 6/9 one, you’ll be playing a game with a 95.5% payback.

This is a house advantage of 4.5% vs. 0.5%, which will greatly reduce your chances of winning in the short run and greatly increase your losses in the long run.

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 Contact Elliot at [email protected].

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About the Author

Elliot Frome

Elliot Frome’s roots run deep into gaming theory and analysis. His father, Lenny, was a pioneer in developing video poker strategy in the 1980s and is credited with raising its popularity to dizzying heights. Elliot is a second generation gaming author and analyst with nearly 20 years of programming experience.

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