Video Poker - Paytables

I'm playing an 8/5 bonus machine that pays $1,199 for a royal flush and double for four 8's, in addition to the normal bonus schedule for four 2’s, 3’s, 4’s, and aces. My slot card and max coins are required. Is this 100%+?

Malcolm from Laughlin, Nevada USA

The $1199 payoff is amusing, just under the $1200 limit for which the casino would be obligated to report the win to the IRS. Winpoker 6 software allows for analysis of custom designed games. In this case, the return is 100.0079%.

Is there a way casinos can change the odds of a standard video poker. For example, can the game be programmed to allow certain cards to be duplicated to create a lower probability outcome or are the odds the same for every poker game and casinos just change the payout table to lower the payout.

James from U.S.

There is a strict regulation in Nevada that each card must have the same probability of being dealt. Most other legitimate jurisdictions also follow this rule. However, not every jurisdiction is entirely legitimate. Casinos can legally change the odds by changing the pay table.

The video poker machines at Casino Niagara have no progressive jackpots. According to Stanford Wong, if an 8/5 quarter video poker machine doesn't have at least a $2,200 jackpot with five quarters played, then don't play. What is your opinion on this.

Gordon Maska from Lewiston, New York

Assuming you played conventional 8/5 strategy the return in your example would be 99.68%. However, if you played optimal strategy for this jackpot the return would be 100.08%. So, Wong was not wrong.

You have the optimum strategy for jacks or better video poker for a particular pay table. I practiced for a few hours on your play for fun program - I'm ready to try the real thing - got a royal flush after about 500 hands (down about $350). I'm afraid to learn this strategy if Casino Niagara doesn't have the same pay table. Do you have an optimum strategy for "all" pay tables? (I assume there is a significant difference). Does your play-for-fun simulate the "real world"? Why do you assume the maximum coins bet? Does the pay table change?

George from Clarence, USA

I doubt that Casino Niagara would have the "full pay" pay table that my Java game is based on. With little competition they can be stingy and people will still play. I'm afraid I don't have any strategies available for other pay tables. I suspect Casino Niagara offers 8/5 jacks or better, which pays 8 for a full house and 5 for a flush. Assuming perfect strategy, this has a return of 97.30%. Using perfect strategy for full pay video poker, as found on my site, on this game the return would be 97.29%. The two strategies are almost the same and you are only giving up 0.01% by using my strategy on an 8/5 machine. Also, I assume maximum coins bet because that is what the player should do. If you play less than maximum coins you will only get 250 per coin on a royal flush, causing a reduction in the rate of return of 1.36%.

Does a video poker game, whether it be jacks or better or any wild version, play like an actual deck of real cards? In other words, the payoff schedule on the front of the machine determines what exact payback this machine has or can this be tinkered with inside with computer chips making the payoff schedule meaningless? I always thought this would be dishonest until I read an article in Strictly Slots magazine that it has and can be done. If this is true you could have two identical video poker machines side by side that have different house edges like. I know casinos can and in regular slot machines. If this is so then all this VP payback percentage on payoff schedules that I have been reading for years in magazines, software and books is useless.


I am very confident that any respectable maker of video poker machines makes them fair and accurate. Is it possible there are dishonest machines or chips out there? Sure. I would be interested to read the article you refer to.

First of all, thanks for your very informative, comprehensive, and overall helpful site. I have a couple of questions for you. I have noticed in your tables of probabilities and expected returns for video poker, that the probabilities (and corresponding number of hands) for each hand vary for the same type (jacks or better, for example) from one pay out chart to another. For example, on the first jacks or better chart, the probability of forming a three-of-a-kind is 0.074344, but on the second that same probability is listed as 0.074449. Why would this discrepancy exist? It seems that the only possibility is that the game is being played with a different strategy. Otherwise, the probability of forming any hand should be the same in that type of game, no matter what the pay outs are. If you have indeed devised a unique playing strategy for each pay out schedule, would you mind sharing that info with us?

Secondly, I am wondering which, if any, online casinos currently advise the player of a shuffle in blackjack (multi-deck, of course). Also, do you know, among the majority who do not, which shuffle after each hand and which just do not advise of a shuffle (although it actually occurs after many hands)? It would be great to have this knowledge. A follow up question would be, if they do indeed shuffle at regular casino intervals, can a player assume that if he enters a private table that he beings with a full shoe? Thanks again for your great web site, and I look forward to your response to my questions.

Tony from Columbus, Ohio

Thanks for the kind words. Yes, the probability of a three of a kind depends on the pay table, which affects player strategy. My video poker program always makes the optimal play for every hand by looping through all the possible cards on the draw. However, creating a strategy in writing is very time consuming.

At the Turning Stone Casino in NY, they offer $1 10/7 and 25-cent 9/6 jacks or better video poker. Being a low roller, I'm not prepared to bet $5 per hand. Am I better off playing 1 coin in the dollar game or 5 coins in the quarter game?

Stuart S. from Lake Katrine, U.S.

I assume by "10/7" you mean double bonus. As my video poker cheat sheet shows, the return for that game, with five coins bet, is 100.17%. However, if $5 is too rich for your blood, then you can use my video poker analyzer to get the return for a one-coin bet. Just put in 250 per coin bet for a royal flush. The calculator defaults to 4,000, so change it to 1,250. Press "analyze" and you'll see the return is 99.11%.

So, you're much better off playing five quarters in 9-6 Jacks or Better.

Here is what I was wondering. I found a few new video poker machines with what I consider to be a non-usual paytable. Can you tell me what you think about these tables, and if they should be played or not. No royal bonus for 5 coins bet (simply 2,500 for royal on 5 coins)

Jacks or better
Royal 500
St8 flush 50
4 of kind 25
Full Hse 10
Flush 6
Straight 4
Thee Kind 3
two pair 2
Jacks + 1

Aces and Eights
Royal Fl 500
Str Flus 50
4 Ace/8s 80
4 7s 50
Four knd 25
Full Hse 8
Flush 5
Straight 4
3 Kind 3
Two Pair 2
Jacks+ 1

Deuces Wild Poker
Royal Flush 500
4 Deuces 200
Wild Royal 25
5 of Kind 16
St8 Flush 10
Four Kind 4
Full House 4
Flush 3
Straight 2
Three Kind 1

Joker Poker (1 Joker)
Royal Flush 500
Wild Royal 100
5 of a Kind 50
Straight Fl 25
Four Kind 8
Full Hse 5
Flush 4
Straight 3
Three Kind 2
Two Pair 1

Tens or better Poker
Royal Flush 500
Straight Fl 50
4 of a Kind 25
Full House 10
Flush 6
Straight 4
3 of a Kind 3
Two Pair 2
Tens+ 1

Again all of these have no bonuses for max coins in Royal Flush. Is that enough to hurt these pay tables, or are they playable? (they seem decent at least) Thank you in advance Micheal.

Chris (recent convert to video poker)

Here are the returns based on optimal strategy:

Jacks or Better: 100.03%
Aces and Eights: 99.07%
Deuces Wild: 99.05%
Joker Poker: 70.23%
Tens or Better: 104.13%!

I would verify that Tens or Better pay table and if you wrote it down correctly then play it hard.

If I put a $100 bill in a 98% return video poker machine and play until I go broke then how much on average will I bet in total?


There is a simple formula for this answer. It the initial investment divided by the house edge. In this case the answer is $100/0.02 = $5000. However due to the volatility of video poker, most of the time the $100 won’t last this long.

Should I avoid the 50 play (or even better the 100 play) video poker machines? I’m weak and I love the rush but it’s been sucking down my cash. What should I know?


Generally speaking 50 and 100 play machines have lousy pay tables and thus should be avoided. However assuming you did find a decent pay table ask yourself what you would play on single play and then divide that by 50 or 100. For example if you play the $1 single line machines then you should play 2 cent 50 line or 1 cent 100 line games.

Any advice to us folks in Connecticut, with the absolute worst video poker machines in the world? Is there an accepted way to pressure a casino to improve their selection when the market doesn’t necessarily require it?


That is what happens in an environment with almost no competition. Asking the casino for better machines won’t help. If players will play games with lousy pay tables why should they change anything? Your only hope is to write to the lawmakers in Connecticut and ask them to end the two-casino monopoly on gaming in that state and allow others to compete.

I am a very big fan of using the double up feature of video poker. Is there any limit to the amount of money you can win with double up or is it pure luck. For instance does a game only pay out for instance 99% of all credits doubled, or can you win any amount not matter how much credits has been lost at double up. It is crucial for me to know this.


Any legitimate game maker has the double up feature as a truly fair bet with a 100% return. So you have a 50/50 chance of winning any given bet (not counting ties) regardless of the amount bet or the results of past bets.

Do multi-denomination video slot machines have only one payback percentage for the physical machine, or does each denomination have its own par sheet and payback percentage characteristics?


Each denomination can be set to its own payback percentage. On many IGT machines you can tell if they change the return percentage by whether or not the symbols on the screen change when you change the denomination.

Some of the online progressive video poker games, like Playtech’s MegaJacks, reset to a base after a win (I seem to recall they reset to $325). But others drop down but not to a set value. For example, the Viper game Jackpot Deuces seems to drop back a different amount each time, often to a still sizeable new level. I don’t see the "algorithm" behind this. Any insights into what they (and others) might be thinking/doing?

Gary K.

Often with progressives part of each dollar bet goes to seeding the next meter. This way when somebody pops the jackpot the next meter does not start at a small amount but the secondary meter has already grown to a respectable amount. The percentage devoted to the second meter is not necessarily constant but sometimes increases as the primary meter grows. Not that you asked, but in some games like those at Be the Dealer there is a different jackpot for each coinage, and each jackpot is proportional to the coinage. The way I think they do that is what I call a "super meter" that all coinages contribute to. Then each specific coinage gets a share of the super meter in proportion to that coinage divided by the sum of all coinages. For example if they had a progressive video poker game in coinages of 5 cents, 25 cents, $1, and $5 and the super meter had $100,000 then the $1 game meter would have (1/6.75)*100,000 = $14,814.81.

Do video poker machines that tell you what to hold, use the optimal strategy? If so, isn’t it inevitable that the machine will eventually lose money?


Most machines I’ve seen that tell you what to hold do use the proper strategy, but the better the paytable, the less likely the machine will be to offer advice in the first place. And I’ve never seen a machine with a positive expectation that told you what cards to hold.

As for the accuracy of the advice -- Microgaming Internet casinos do follow optimal video poker strategy. However I’ve played some machines at a racetrack in Delaware that advised the player on which cards to hold, and the advice was clearly incorrect.

Due to table-game tips to dealers being "highly recommended", each hand/play costs or "loses" the player a little bit (as little as ~$0.50-$1.00 just to be considered ’live’ by dealers) each time. With games of low bankrolls and minimum bids (i.e. ~$1000 in pocket and ~$2 per play), the tip & house-edge would often make games like video-poker more worth while as far as returns and (possibly) comps are concerned.


You make a good point. Tipping definitely does add to house advantage in table games. If one were to tip one bet until every 100 hands that would add 1% to the house edge. Slot and video poker players also get comped and in general treated much better. These are things to consider when deciding which game to devote your time to.

[Bluejay adds: When you consider tips, video poker can lose less per hour than table games but only slightly, while slot machines remain a money-sucker. Consider 99%-return $0.25 video poker at 500 hands an hour, which is $6.25/hr. in expected losses. This compares favorably to blackjack with an hourly loss is 0.5% edge x 100 hands x $5 = $2.50, + $5/hr. tips = $7.50/hr. A typical quarter slot machine loses more than twice that per hour.]

I do my best to make only "smart bets" and to avoid machines with lousy pay tables. I must admit I just don’t have the time to memorize the ever increasing number of different configurations out there. I do know that casinos ban photo equipment, but is it ok to bring in, say, a pad and paper so you can record the pay tables of certain machines and look them up at home? Or better yet, bring "cheat sheets" right into the casino? Right now I’m afraid to do so because I don’t see anyone else doing it and would be afraid that they’d 0ify my payout if I were to hit a jackpot based on some rule that I wasn’t aware of. Any insight? Thanks!


Yes, I take notes in the casino all the time. The only time I have had trouble was when the Suncoast prohibited me from playing slots and writing at the same time when I was taking notes for my Las Vegas slot machine survey. Camera usage seems to be much more tolerated lately, so lately I have been taking pictures of rule screens and pay tables when I have my camera available. I also usually have cheat sheets in my possession when playing video poker, in case I run across a hand I don't know how to play, which is rare. I keep the cheat sheets hidden but have never had a problem whipping them out in a pinch. The reason you don't see other players with cheat sheets is about 99.54% of video poker players don't know what they are doing and the rest have the strategy memorized.

Have you ever evaluated Spin Poker and does it pay off comparable to regular multi-hand video poker? What is unique about spin poker is that while it is a multi-hand game, is that on the draw, once a card is drawn it is gone and can not come up on another line. While I have done well at this game, I’ve been very uneasy about this aspect of it.

Jeff from San Diego, California

The same can be said about standard video poker, once a card is discarded it can not come back on the draw. Thus the expected return in Spin Poker is the same as conventional video poker with the same pay table.

On a full pay deuces wild machine how does a progressive jackpot affect the percent payback. For example on a full pay non-progressive machine the pay out for a Royal Flush no deuces is 4000 coins. This machine has a 100.76 pay out. How is the pay out percentage affected if the Royal Pays 4400 coins?


Assuming no strategy changes for every extra 100 coins in the jackpot the return goes up by 0.044%. So the return with a 4400 coin jackpot would be 100.762% + 4*0.044% = 100.939%.

When playing video poker will it decrease my odds of winning if I put a $50 bill in, instead of $5 or $10 increments?

Karen from Eastchester, New York

No. Neither the amount you put in nor the denomination affects the odds. The same is true of slots.

I play a lot of video poker, but I don’t understand why the pay off is much higher for 4 aces than 4 tens? Also why do 2’s thru 4’s pay higher than 5’s through kings? After all there are only 52 cards in a deck and 4 of each card, therefore the odds should be the same for each.

Gerald from Coal Valley, IL

In games like Bonus Poker and Double Bonus I assume they pay more for certain four of a kinds to give the player a better chance at a big win, at the cost of smaller small wins of course. It makes sense to have four aces as the premium four of a kind, because aces are the highest card in regular poker. The reason I think that four twos pays more than four kings is because players don’t hold low cards as often, and thus four twos comes up less often than four kings. So although the probability of each card is the same, player behavior causes less of the low four of a kinds, thus it makes it easier for the game maker to pay more for the low four of a kinds.

Understanding that optimal Jacks or Better play yields 99.54% return on a 9/6 machine, I have a quick question: If there were no such thing as a Royal Flush, but everything else remained exactly the same, what would the return be on the same machine? Thank you.

Michael from Seattle

If a royal flush paid the same as a straight flush then 9/6 Jacks or Better would have a return of 98.03%.

When the frequency of a Straight Flush is about four times that of A Royal Flush, how come it pays so low, about 16 times less? I concede that it is impractical. Yet, wouldn’t it be fair to set the payoffs of each hand in the inverse proportion to its frequency?

Krisha from Bel Air, MD

Good question. In 9/6 jacks or better the probability of a royal flush is 22.65% of that of a straight flush, but a royal pays 16 times more. Overall the straight flush only contributes 0.55% to the return of the game. The straight flush is the Rodney Dangerfield of most forms of video poker, it gets no respect. I can only speculate that game makers wanted a big top prize. Nobody likes to come in second, so perhaps that is why the original game makers didn’t pay the straight flush much by comparison.

Suppose a casino had a video poker game that was over 100%, but any given player is only allowed to play it until he hits one royal. Should any strategy changes be made?


If you want to be a perfectionist, yes. Let’s look at full pay deuces wild, for example. Normally the return is 1.00762 and a royal hits once every 45282 hands. That makes the expected profit 45282 × (1.00762 - 1) = 345.05 bet units. For a greater overall expected profit, I recommend using a less aggressive royal strategy to increase the total hands played.

In this case, the profit is maximized by following a strategy based on a royal win of 450. That will lower the actual return to 1.007534 and decrease the royal probability to 1 in 46415, resulting in an expected profit of 46415 ×(1.007534-1) = 349.68. The extra 4.6 bet units may not be worth the bother of learning a different strategy.

To find the optimal target royal value, you can use my video poker calculator, and keep lowering the pay for a royal until the overall return gets as close to 1 as possible. At that point, it is like playing for free until you hit the royal, at which point you get a bonus for the royal. In the full pay deuces wild example, the bonus is 800-450=350.

The situation is not entirely hypothetical. Slot managers have been known to prohibit advantage players from playing video poker, and usually such players get the tap on the shoulder shortly after hitting a royal.

Please assume the following is true about a single video poker machine.

  • 6-5 Bonus Poker progressive.
  • 2% meter rise on royal flush.
  • 5-coin game.

Now assume the following about me.

  • Minimum return to play of 100.5%.
  • I’m capable of playing a progressive until it hits.
  • I know perfect 6-5 Bonus Poker strategy for a 4000-coin royal.

What is the least the jackpot should be for me to play?


7,281.8 coins. It is interesting to note that if you played only once at exactly that meter then the return would be 98.5% only. The reason you should play at that point is because of the assumption you are capable of playing until you pop the jackpot. That is like having a 2% cash back slot club. 98.5% + 2% = 100.5%.

I might add that if you start playing 4000-coin jackpot strategy at exactly a 7,281.8 jackpot, you can expect to profit 201.18 bets. However, if you took the time to learn the strategy changes for a 7,281.8 coin jackpot, then your expected profit would be 234.31 coins.

On a related note, I just finished reading The Secret World of Video Poker Progressives by Frank Kneeland. This book has lots of formulas for much more complicated progressive situations, as well as practical advice and stories based on his years running a team of progressive hunters. I recommend it for advantage progressive video poker players.