Payback’s a function of strategy

August 28, 2007 12:29 AM
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Last week, I explained how the frequency of hands is impacted by the specific paytable. As an example, I used a game called All American Poker that pays 1 credit for a two pair, but 8 for a straight, flush or full house. It also pays 40 for quads and 200 for a straight flush.

It has a payback of 100.7%. I went to check my sources to find out where you can find full-pay All American machines. I was surprised to find that that there are more places in the Midwest than in Las Vegas that have this high paying machine.

Why would All American Poker be so rare? Just because of its 100.7% payback? Many might think so, but this doesn’t make a lot of sense. Casinos offer other games with similar paybacks, from Double Bonus (100.1%) to a variety of Deuces Wild games paying over 101%.

It is possible that the casino would remove a game if it is losing money on it, but there is clear evidence to show that even video poker machines paying over 100% do not actually lose money for the casino. If this were the case, there would be none of them.

What do I really think caused the demise of All American? I think it was a combination of two things. The first is that the players simply did not like the paytable. There was obviously nothing wrong with it mathematically. I just think that players felt it wasn’t fair.

Why should you get paid the same thing for a straight or a full house? A full house outranks a straight, even if in many forms of video poker (including full-pay jacks or better) it is actually more common.

The second reason is that despite the high payback, too many players got crushed playing this game. Most players don’t use proper strategy to begin with. Those that do tend to focus their attention to full-pay jacks or better.

This strategy will cause sub-optimal results for games like Double Bonus Poker. For a game like All American, the impact will be even greater. As I showed last week, if you want to earn the high paybacks, you have to learn the strategy that goes with that particular paytable.

This is the very reason why casinos are willing to allow video poker paytables with a payback of over 100%. They know that the majority of players will never achieve those paybacks.

This is not because it takes a lifetime of play to achieve the payback or because it takes playing the game at 100% perfect accuracy for hours upon hours. It is because they know that so many players play SO wrong that they don’t even come CLOSE to the theoretical paybacks.

 Between the players that use the wrong strategy and the ones that play hunches, the casinos get the best of both worlds. They get to make money, all the while honestly telling people that they offer games which offer an advantage to the player.

This means that for the payer who learns the right strategy, the casino is just inviting you in to play games that you have an advantage on in the long run. They know that once in a while an "Expert Player" will come along with a strong likelihood of winning.

For each expert player, they are likely to get nine others playing without any idea of what they are doing. All American Poker, if you can find it, is a great example of this. An expert player could (and should) take advantage of the situation.