Let’s make a day dedicated to video poker

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Back in March, I wrote about National Blackjack Day. March 2 was selected for this day because it is written as 3/2 and a major push for this day was to get casinos to go back to paying 3 to 2 on blackjacks.

When I did a little bit of research on that day, I found there is no organization that officially assigns “National” anything day. Essentially, anyone can pick any day to be anything they want. There may be significance regarding which day is picked as in National Blackjack Day or with May 4 being Star Wars day. In some cases, it might be more random like “Talk Like a Pirate Day.”

While writing that column, I had an epiphany. If anyone can pick a day to be National anything day, then I could pick a day to be National Video Poker Day. Borrowing from National Blackjack Day, I picked Sept. 6. That would be 9/6 or the shorthand name for full-pay Jacks or Better video poker.

The goal of National Video Poker Day is two-fold. The first is to bring awareness to the player about a game my father coined as America’s National Game of Chance. Video poker affords players some of their best chances to win in the casino, with paybacks in the high 90%’s and occasionally even over 100%.

The second goal is to make a push for casinos to offer more full-pay machines. Over the past 20 years, these machines have become more and more rare – like 3 to 2 payouts on blackjack. They still exist but are much harder to find. Of course, as I have written in the past few weeks, there is little reason for the casinos to offer full-pay machines if players happily bang away at the short-pay versions.

Unlike blackjack, where it is easy to quantify the impact of 6 to 5 vs. 3 to 2, it is a bit more difficult to say short-pay machines pay X percent less than their full-pay variants. This is because there is a nearly unlimited number of ways the casino can lower the paytable. But, to illustrate the impact of a common version, I’m going to use the widely available 8-5 version of Jacks or Better.

The full-pay 9-6 paytable – which refers to the payouts of the Full House and Flush – has a payback of about 99.5%. The short-pay 8-5, which reduces the payout of each of those hands by one unit has a payback of about 97.6% or nearly 2% lower!

This is a bigger impact than 6 to 5 has on blackjack! Turning these paybacks around to house advantages, 9-6 has a house advantage of 0.5%, while 8-5 has a house advantage of nearly 2.5% or five times higher!

So, we’re clear what this means, you can expect to lose five times as much playing a short-pay machine. The math only gets uglier if you play a 6-5 machine!

The strategy we teach for all of casino gaming is Expert Strategy. It is composed of three key components. The first is knowing which games to play. Playing full-pay machines is the most important lesson from this first component.

The second component is knowing how to play them. Like blackjack, video poker has a relatively complex strategy that takes some time and practice to learn. This is why these games in their full-pay forms have paybacks in the mid 99% range. The casinos rely on human error for a good portion of their profits.

Over the past few years, however, as a larger percentage of players have become better, the casinos are lowering the paybacks of the game. I think in the long run, they will do more harm than good to themselves.

For casino gaming to thrive, players need to feel like they have a good chance to win occasionally, even while they are playing a game that in the long run they will lose. Trying to take as much money as fast as possible from the player is not in line with this concept.

As the summer is about to begin and I attempt to launch the concept of National Video Poker Day, I will have most of my columns focus on video poker strategy and do my very best to educate both player and casino on why full-pay video poker is the right way to go.

To kick off this campaign, we are offering up our three video poker books – “Expert Video Poker for Las Vegas,” “Winning Strategies for Video Poker” and “Video Poker: America’s National Game of Chance” for $7 each, which includes 1st class postage and handling. If you’d like to order, please send a check to Gambatria, P.O. Box 36474, Las Vegas, NV 89133 or shoot me an e-mail at [email protected] for credit card orders.

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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