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Video Poker History and Rules

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Content

History

Video poker first became commercially viable when it became economical to combine a television-like monitor with a solid state central processing unit. The earliest models appeared at the same time as the first personal computers were produced, in the mid-1970s, although they were rather primitive by today's standards.

Video poker became more firmly established when SIRCOMA, which stood for Si Redd's Coin Machines, and which evolved over time to become International Game Technology introduced Draw Poker in 1979. Throughout the 1980s, video poker became increasingly popular in casinos, as people found the devices less intimidating than playing table games. Today, video poker enjoys a prominent place on the gaming floors of many casinos. The game is especially popular with Las Vegas locals, who tend to patronize locals casinos off the Las Vegas Strip. These local casinos often offer lower denomination machines or better odds.

The Game

Game play begins by placing a bet of one or more credits, by inserting money (or in newer machines, a barcoded paper ticket with credit) into the machine, and then pressing a "Deal" button to draw cards. The player is then given an opportunity to keep or discard one or more of the cards in exchange for a new card drawn from the same virtual deck, after which the machine evaluates the hand and offers a payout if the hand matches one of the winning hands in the posted pay schedule.

On a typical video poker machine, payouts start with a minimum hand of a pair of jacks. Pay schedules allocate the payout for hands based partially upon how rare they are, and also based upon the total theoretical return the game operator chooses to offer.

Some machines offer progressive jackpots for the royal flush, (and sometimes for other rare hands as well), thereby spurring players to both play more coins and to play more frequently.

Regulation

Video poker machines operated in state-regulated jurisdictions are programmed to deal random card sequences. A series of cards is generated for or a 53 card deck if using a joker).

It is unclear whether all video poker machines at Indian gaming establishments are subject to the same Nevada-style regulations, as Indian casinos are located on reservations that are sovereign to the tribe which holds the gaming license.

Newer versions of the software no longer deal out all 10 cards at once. They now deal out the first five cards, and then when the draw button is pressed, they generate a second set of cards based on the remaining 47 cards in the deck. This was done after players found a way to reverse engineer a random number generator's cycle from sample hands and were able to predict the hidden cards in advance.

Kinds of video poker

Newer video poker machines may employ variants of the basic five-card draw. Typical variations include: Deuces Wild, where a two can serve as a wild card and a jackpot is paid for four deuces or a natural royal; pay schedule modification, where four aces with a five or smaller kicker pays an enhanced amount (these games usually have some adjective in the title such as "bonus", "double", or "triple"); and multi-play poker, where the player starts with a base hand of five cards, and each additional played hand draws from a different set of cards with the base hand removed. (Multi-play games are offered in "Triple Play", "Five Play", "Ten Play", "Fifty Play" and even "One Hundred Play" versions.)

In the non-wild games (gamesile a player may play for many days or weeks before receiving an extremely rare royal flush.

Full pay games

Full pay video poker machines are games which offer the typical maximum payback percentage for that game type. The payback percentage on a full pay game is typically close to and sometimes over 100% when played with perfect strategy. Full pay Jacks or Better, for example, offers a payback percentage of approximately 99.5% when played with perfect strategy.

Casinos often place full pay machines alongside other machines with pay schedules that offer less attractive payback percentages, leaving it up to the player to identify which video poker machines offer full pay schedules.

Most full pay machines are configured with a pay schedule that is only full pay when the maximum amount of credits is bet. (See the pay schedule tables later in this article for details.)  

Jacks or Better

"Jacks or Better" is the most common variation of video poker available. Payoffs begin at a pair of jacks or better. Full pay Jacks or Better is also known as 9/6 Jacks or Better; the 9 refers to the payoff for a full house and the 6 refers to the payoff for a flush. Full pay Jacks or Better has a theoretical return of 99.54% when played with perfect strategy.

Hand 1 credit 2 credits 3 credits 4 credits 5 credits
Royal Flush 250 500 750 1000 4000*
Straight Flush 50 100 150 200 250
Four of a kind 25 50 75 100 125
Full House 9 18 27 36 45
Flush 6 12 18 24 30
Straight 4 8 12 16 20
Three of a Kind 3 6 9 12 15
Two Pair 2 4 6 8 10
Jacks or Better 1 2 3 4 5
Theoretical Return 98.05% 98.05% 98.05% 98.05%% 99.54%*
  • *Notice the gap between the payoff for a Natural Royal Flush played with 4 credits vs. one with 5 credits. The payoff schedule for most video poker machines has a gap like this, such that players who do not play with the maximum number of credits at a time are playing with a negative theoretical return.

Deuces Wild

"Deuces Wild" is a variation of video poker in which all two's are wild. (Wild cards substitute for any other card in the deck in order to make a better poker hand. In Deuces Wild, the payout for a four of a kind makes up approximately 1/3 of the payback percentage of the game, and a four of a kind occurs on average once every 15 hands or so. Deuces Wild can be found with pay schedules that offer a theoretical return as high as 100.762%, when played with perfect strategy. It is also available with other pay schedules that have lesser theoretical returns:

Hand 1 credit 2 credits 3 credits 4 credits 5 credits
Natural Royal Flush 300 600 900 1200 4000*
Four Deuces 200 400 600 800 1000
Wild Royal Flush 25 50 75 100 125
Five of a Kind 15 30 45 60 75
Straight Flush 9 18 27 36 45
Four of a Kind 5 10 15 20 25
Full House 3 6 9 12 15
Flush 2 4 6 8 10
Straight 2 4 6 8 10
Three of a Kind 1 2 3 4 5
Theoretical Return 99.679% 99.679% 99.679% 99.679% 100.762%*
  • *Notice the gap between the payoff for a Natural Royal Flush played with 4 credits vs. one with 5 credits. The payoff schedule for most video poker machines has a gap like this, such that players who do not play with the maximum number of credits at a time are playing with a negative theoretical return.

Double Bonus

"Double Bonus" video poker is a variation of Jacks or Better with a bonus payout for four aces. This variation offers up to a theoretical return of 100.1725%, when played with perfect strategy. It is also available with other pay schedules that have lesser theoretical returns:

Hand

1 credit

2 credits

3 credits

4 credits

5 credits

Royal Flush

250

500

750

1000

4000*

Straight Flush

50

100

150

200

250

Four Aces

160

320

480

640

800

Full House

10

20

30

40

50

Flush

7

14

21

28

35

Straight

5

10

15

20

25

Three of a Kind

3

6

9

12

15

Two Pair

1

2

3

4

5

Jacks or Better

1

2

3

4

5

Theoretical Return

99.1079%

99.1079%

99.1079%

99.1079%

100.1725%*

  • *Notice the gap between the payoff for a Royal Flush played with 4 credits vs. one with 5 credits. Players who do not play with the maximum number of credits at a time are playing with a negative theoretical return.

Double Double Bonus

"Double Double Bonus" video poker is a variation of Jacks or Better which offers bonus payoffs for different four of a kinds, as seen in the payout table below. Full pay Double Double Bonus can be found with pay schedules that offer up to a theoretical return of 100.067%, when played with perfect strategy. It is also available with other pay schedules that have lesser theoretical returns:

Hand

1 credit

2 credits

3 credits

4 credits

5 credits

Royal Flush

250

500

750

1000

4000*

Straight Flush

50

100

150

200

250

Four Aces w/2, 3, or 4

400

800

1200

1600

2000

Four 2, 3, or 4 w/A-4

160

320

480

640

800

Four Aces

160

320

480

640

800

Four 2, 3, or 4

80

160

240

320

400

Four 5-K

50

100

150

200

250

Full House

10

20

30

40

50

Flush

6

12

18

24

30

Straight

4

8

12

16

20

Three of a Kind

3

6

9

12

15

Two Pair

1

2

3

4

5

Jacks or Better

1

2

3

4

5

Theoretical Return

98.9154%

98.9154%

98.9154%

98.9154%

100.067%*

  • *Notice the gap between the payoff for a Royal Flush played with 4 credits vs. one with 5 credits. Players who do not play with the maximum number of credits at a time are playing with a negative theoretical return.

Other positive expectation games

Other kinds of video poker only have positive theoretical returns when the progressive jackpot is high enough. Many establishments advertise with a billboard when the progressive jackpot is high enough.

Locating positive expectation games

Although positive expectation and full pay video poker machines are found in many "locals" casinos (located off the Strip) in the Las Vegas market (and in a few Reno casinos), most Strip casinos and casinos in other markets offer less attractive video poker pay schedules.  

Players' clubs

Many casinos offer free memberships in "player's clubs" or "slot clubs", which return a small percentage of the amount of money that is bet in the form of "comps" (complementary food, drinks, hotel rooms, or merchandise), or sometimes as cash back (sometimes with a restriction that the cash be redeemed at a later date). These clubs require that players use a card that is inserted into the video poker machine to allow the casino to track the player's "action" (how much the player bets and for how long), which is often used to establish a level of play that may make a player eligible for additional comps.

Comps or cash back from these clubs can make a significant difference in the theoretical return when playing video poker over a long period of time. In some cases, usage of a club card can even add enough value to the pay schedule of a video poker game with a negative theoretical return to make that same game have a positive theoretical return.

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