If you don’t like a casinos video poker paytables, don’t play.

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This will be my final column – written from the East Coast. I’m trying to come up with some incredible words of wisdom.

What keeps popping into my head is I’m going from just outside of Atlantic City to Las Vegas (aka video poker heaven!). There’s a good lesson for everyone to learn from that. No, I’m not suggesting everyone pick up and move – at least not their homes.

When my father, Lenny Frome, began writing about video poker, Atlantic City was essentially a wasteland of games. The standard game was a 6-5 Jacks or Better paying about 95.5%, barely above the payback of slot machines!

The landscape was so different from Las Vegas that when my dad wrote his first books on video poker, he felt the need to create totally distinct books for each locale. What good was 9-6 Jacks or Better strategy in Atlantic City.

There wasn’t a single machine with that paytable to be found! Atlantic City did have its Double Joker game which for many years thrived only there, but that by itself was not the reason for the distinct book.

As I think about it, I see two lessons here. The first is that if you’re not happy with playing 6-5 Jacks or Better, it is okay to get up and find some better paying machines – whether that means in a different part of the casino, a different casino or a different locale altogether.

A 9-6 Jacks or Better machine has a house advantage of just under 0.5%. A 6-5 machine has a house advantage nearly nine times as big!

Quite frankly, it is hard enough to win at 99.5% payback. Winning at 95.5% is that much harder in the short run and darn near impossible in the long run.

The second lesson is a little like a “Field of Dreams” in reverse. In that movie, it was “build it and they will come.” In the casino, the rule to follow is “don’t play it and they’ll take it away.”

Those 6-5 Jacks or Better games are no longer the rule in Atlantic City. They didn’t get removed out of the goodness of the casinos’ hearts. They got replaced because as players wised up they realized pay tables that bad are simply not worth playing. They started going in search of the few better paying games. They started going to another casino that perhaps offered better games.

In some cases, players realized it was cheaper to fly to Las Vegas just to be able to play full-pay machines.

The bottom line is that casinos only make money if the machine is played. If you don’t play it, they have no choice but to put something in that you might like better. More often than not that means a game that has a better paytable.

If you need proof of this concept, just take a look at Atlantic City. They may not have as many full-pay machines as Las Vegas, but that speaks to the level of competition in a place with several casinos as opposed to several dozen casinos.

If, on the other hand, you sit and play anything put in front of you, don’t expect the casinos to increase the paybacks. Many years ago, casinos shocked its blackjack players by rolling out tables that only paid 6-5 on blackjack instead of the traditional 3-2.

Many people just kept on playing. Many others said “no way” and headed to other casinos that continued to offer the higher payback. While some casinos kept the lower pay, the idea never fully caught on. If the casinos found no drop off in players then 6-5 might have become the standard for blackjack payouts.

So, these are my last words from my East Coast. You have the last word in the casino – with your bankroll.

If you don’t like the paytables don’t sit down and play. Go find a better paying options either in the same casino or a different one. Send a strong message with your money and play only games with strong paybacks.

Well, I’ll be back in two weeks, writing from video poker heaven!

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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