Video poker heaven

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Besides being the name of my website (www.vpheaven.com), Video Poker Heaven is the nickname my father, Lenny Frome, gave to Las Vegas.

During the mid 1990’s as video poker was growing in popularity, he discovered, perhaps more than any other game on the casino floor, that the paybacks across the country were vastly different.

Blackjack may have been played with larger shoes on the East Coast than the West, but the impact to the payback was a fraction. When it came to video poker, however, a ‘good’ paying machine might be 96 percent in Atlantic City, while 99+ was the norm for Las Vegas.

You could find full-pay Jacks or Better in virtually every casino and many even offered games paying over 100 percent (although my best guess is most, if not all, were not aware of the true paybacks of these games back then).

It was the high paybacks and the relative ease with which you could find them, combined with the less than ideal paybacks of the rest of the country, that led my father to tell everyone to come to “Video Poker Heaven.”

With low-priced hotel rooms and reasonable airfares, it might have actually cost less to fly across country and come to Las Vegas than it did to visit your more local casino resort for a week. If you look at the list of paytables in Winning Strategies for Video Poker, you’ll find some very bad paying machines – BUT, these were some of the highest paying machines in certain areas.

I guess we’ll never know for sure, but it would appear that the people listened.

Either that or casinos outside of Las Vegas decided to raise paybacks just out of the goodness of their hearts. Over the past 15 years, the obscenely low paytables have all but disappeared and have been replaced with many of the same ones found in Las Vegas. At the same time, much to the chagrin of many video poker players in Las Vegas, the paytables here have gotten a bit weaker and the really good ones harder to find.

I can’t really blame the casinos for making machines with paybacks over 100 percent a rare find (although they can still be found). Over 100 percent and a player could just play endlessly and walk away a winner. Not exactly what the casinos like to see.

On the other hand, so long as the machine is below 100 percent, the more play it gets, the less likely the overall play is in the player’s favor. Casinos have been offering up blackjack with a 0.50 percent house edge for decades. Why have they become so hesitant to continue to offer video poker with a similar house edge?

Unfortunately, to date, no casino has come to me and asked for help in creating a mix of video poker machines for their floor. While I certainly root for the player, I have no expectation the casino does too.

I have been involved in the creation of numerous table games and the successful ones all give the player a good chance to win in the short run, but little, if any, after that. All have house advantages, but that doesn’t mean the goal is to take the player’s money fast. This is short-sighted. You will lose the player for good.

The biggest problem is NOT what the casinos have done to the paytables, but rather, the way players have responded to these cuts. If the casino takes away your favorite full-pay machines and replaces them with short-pay ones you get disgusted but sit and play anyway.

A clear message is being sent to the casino that you don’t care enough to not spend your money there. I have received numerous e-mails from readers upset at their treatment by the casino, yet many still go to the same place.

This simply won’t cut it. If you want the casinos to restore the paytables to their former glory, those machines MUST sit silent.

One choice for you is to simply stay at home and find something else to do. Another choice is to find a casino that still offers the full-pay machines. With dozens of casinos in the Las Vegas area, this might take some time.

Fortunately, the Internet can greatly reduce the effort needed to do this. When I want to check the availability of machines, I use a website called www.vpfree2.com. It has a searchable database (manually maintained) to check for full-pay machines all over the country.

Sometimes you have to fight for your little slice of 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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