Adjust to up your take

April 29, 2008 7:00 PM


Winning Strategies by Elliot Frome | Playing full-pay machines is a key part of Expert Strategy. Unfortunately, they have become scarcer over the years.

As more players play expertly, the amount of profit the casinos generate on human error decreases considerably. Casinos then turn to machines that even the best players have a tough time turning a profit. At some point, these tactics may actually change what is the ‘full-pay’ version of a paytable.

So, what is a player to do? One choice is to choose not to play at all. There is no requirement that you play video poker, especially when the paytables are bad. There are other games in the casino that may offer better paybacks.

The second option is that you travel further to find full-pay machines. In the 80’s, Atlantic City offered terrible paytables. People found it less costly to hop a flight to Las Vegas and stay in a hotel to have the opportunity to play better machines.

A third choice is to use those games available to you where you play. I would strongly recommend being more flexible regarding the type of game you play. If playing Double Double Bonus video poker at only one particular casino, regardless of the paytable, you might lose your bankroll very quickly.

It will also help to know how to calculate a rough payback by looking at a paytable and comparing it to full-pay on that game.

It is not practical to expect that you’re going to memorize the payback for each paytable variation. Sometimes, however, casinos throw you a curve so it helps to adjust.

Adjusting means recognizing what the paytable change means to the payback to know that the paytable change probably means a different strategy. Without adjusting, you won’t play at its theoretical payback.

For every casino game, the overall payback is calculated by multiplying the final result of the hand times the payout and summing up the values. A Royal Flush occurs about 1 in 40,000 hands and pays 800 units.

The Royal Flush contributes about 2 percent to the total payback of video poker. If a machine were to pay 1,200 instead of 800 for a Royal, it would raise the payback of the machine by 1 percent.

Here is a breakdown:

• Royals occur about 1 in 40,000.

• Straight Flushes 1 in 10,000.

• Quads, 1 in 400.

• Full Houses, Flushes and Straights about 1 in 90.

• Three of a Kinds, 1 in 13.

• Two Pairs, 13%.

• Jacks or Better, 22% of the time.

The casinos have very little room to change the paybacks on Three of a Kinds, Two Pairs or Pair of Jacks or Better relative to the full-pay versions. A single unit change in the payout will have a huge impact to the overall payback. Since Trips occur about 7.5 percent of the time, a one-unit reduction in the payout (from 3 to 2 in Jacks or Better) would lower the payback from 99.5 to 92 percent.

So, you don’t have to spend a lot of time memorizing the frequencies of these hands.

Most often, the casinos change the middle three hands (Full House, Straights, Flushes) which all occur about 1.1 percent of the time. For every unit the payout is altered, we increase (or decrease) the payback 1.1 percent. A Jacks or Better that pays 8-5 instead of 9-6 will have a payback of 97.3 instead of 99.5.

If you’re going to make a habit of playing a short-pay machine, learn the strategy for the specific paytable. The paytable alone will provide enough challenge to your bankroll. You don’t need to make it even easier for the casino to take your money.