Aggressive for progressives

Nov 22, 2004 11:11 PM

Video poker progressives are games that pay a bonus when you hit a specific hand with maximum coins played. Generally speaking, for jacks or better machines, the bonus pays only for the royal flush, but there are some varieties that pay extra for straight flushes and four of a kinds. The bonus pot increases as more people play and don’t hit the royal flush. If the progressive pot is hit, the pot resets to a base figure.

In order to fund this progressive pot, the casinos reduce the payback on other hands. Usually the full house and the flush payouts are reduced from nine and six to eight and five, respectively. Because these hands each occur about 1.1percent of the time, the overall payback of the machine is reduced by 2.2 percent, down to 97.3 percent.

Normally, royal flushes account for about 2 percent of our overall payback at a payout of 800 coins per coin wagered. This means that if the progressive jackpot grows to 1,600 coins, the payback should increase by the same 2 percent, bringing the payback to 99.3 percent. However, the increase to 1,600 coins causes changes to our strategy table that can raise the payback to 99.5 percent. If we can increase the payout to about 1,880 coins, the machine will be at an even 100 percent.

In order to benefit from progressive games paying 100 percent or better, a player faces three challenges. The first is finding progressive jackpots this large, and when they do, finding an available machine. There are a number of ”˜professional’ teams that are always on the lookout for large progressive jackpots and attack them en masse when they occur, making finding an available machine difficult.

The second challenge is altering the strategy to take advantage of the progressive jackpot. One problem with this is that the strategy is constantly changing as the jackpot grows. Any hand that has the possibility of becoming a royal flush shows a marked increase in expected value. This includes four-card royals, three-card royals, two-card royals and a single high card.

As the jackpot grows, these hands slowly move up the strategy table. Hands that can result in a flush or a full house have their expected values decrease, and thus, can move down the strategy table. Four-card royals have their expected values increase, but not to the point of being greater than a straight flush unless the jackpot grows significantly above 1600. The effect on three-card royals, however, is much more dramatic, as they overtake high pairs on the strategy table by a fairly wide margin. The expected value of the three-card royal is greater than two, while the high pair is ”˜only’ 1.5.

Two-card royals (without a 10) jump over three-card straight flushes with no high cards, three-card inside straight flushes with one high card and three-card double inside straight flushes with two high cards. Also, the A-10 royal now becomes playable, although it ranks below two high cards. The single high card remains in its place on the strategy table. The increase in the royal flush payout is offset by the reduction in the payouts for full houses and flushes.

The final challenge the progressive player faces is actually hitting the royal flush. The strategy changes will increase the frequency of the royal flush from one in 40,400 to one in 32,700 hands. The problem is that these are still long odds. Additionally, the royal flush will be contributing 4-5 percent of the payback instead of 2 percent in jacks or better. This means that if you don’t hit the royal flush, you’ll be playing a game paying about 95.5 percent, which can punish your bankroll quickly.