Is max coins a must?

Jan 31, 2005 7:26 AM

For some unknown reason, many players consider it mandatory to play all video pokers at maximum coins, usually five coins. This is not always the smart play. Even if we follow the directions given about finding the only machines to play, those that pay the full-pay schedules which returns from 99.6 to 100.6 percent (without a progressive jackpot), we should consider some other factors.

BANKROLL: If we are not adequately bankrolled, even favorable pay schedules may not save us from the gamblers ruin phenomenon, which wipes us out early with just a few short cold streaks. We should bankroll at an 80-bet level, but if we can’t come up with this, then we are better off playing below coin-limit level, at minimum level is best, and hope that we’ll be able to close the gap. Of course, that’s one big advantage of playing in casinos where the full-pay machines are available at several denominations, so we can stay coin-limit at some lower denomination.

EXPERTISE: If we are novice players and have not come up to the expert play level, we should stay below coin-limit while we are in the learning process. Playing as a hacker can be costly so we recommend a good book or home computer software as an excellent investment. Poor play can take a few percentage points off any game, making casino practice-time expensive.

RETURNS BELOW COIN-LIMIT: Nearly anyone can use a few simple calculations to help decide what level to play at. All games reward the five-coin player with a bonus payout on royals. The most common pay 4,000 for five-coin play (800 for 1) but only 250 for 1 on play of one to four coins. Royals occur about once in roughly 40,000 hands. This varies very little from one version to another; 46,000 hands in Deuces Wild at the worst to 38,000 in Tens or Better. When paying 800 the player expects 2 percent of the overall payback to come from the royals. At 250, the payback from royals is reduced to 0.63 percent so the machine is paying out 1.4 percent less overall. A 99.6 Jacks machine is at 98.2 when played below coin-limit. Still, the player is experiencing a lower loss-rate at one-coin (0.18 coins per play). These are very close to a toss-up so you can’t go wrong at one-coin unless your marriage is too fragile to survive a $62.50 royal, which could have been $1,000.

POSITIVE PAYBACK GAMES: These should always be played at the coin-limit level provided we are reasonably bankrolled and are not novices. Deuces Wild, with its full-pay version (5 for 1 on quads) offering 100.6 percent payback is the best. Expert skill level is the easiest to attain and the dependency on royals is the lowest of all current versions. The mini-jackpot of 200 for 1 on four deuces is hit 10 times more often and is paying flat on one to five coin play.

Right behind Deuces Wild, there is the full-pay 100.4 percent Joker Wild (pays aces and kings). It’s a harder game to master, but with the proper tutoring software, this game, as well as Deuces, can be learned rapidly.

PROGRESSIVES: These should always be played at maximum coins regardless of bankroll or skill level, but if short in either aspect, they are best if avoided unless the jackpot is especially high. Paying a couple of percent lower, these are usually at a 97.3 percent payback level at coin-limit play and at below 96 percent at below-limits. These leave no leeway for skimpy bankrolls.