Wednesday, April 24, 2013

$5 video poker brings a taxing problem

Q. I started playing quarter video poker many years ago, then moved up to dollars, and now I have my eye on the $5 machines. (Don't worry! I have the money to handle the jump, and I always stay within my bankroll.) Is there anything different I should look for in a $5 game instead of a dollar game?

A. For the most part, video poker players should look for the same things in any denomination of machine. A 9-6 Jacks or Better machine will return 99.5 percent in the long run with expert play regardless of whether the game takes nickels or $5 tokens.

One thing that may be of concern to high-denomination players is the frequency of hands that will trigger IRS-level jackpots. Casinos are required by the federal government to have players sign IRS form W-2G before they can pay any jackpot of $1,200 or more.

On $5 machines, relatively common four-of-a-kind hands trigger the IRS requirement on some games. If you're playing Jacks or Better, four of a kind returns 125 coins per five wagered, a payoff of $625 that's well below the IRS threshold. But on Double Bonus Poker, where four of a kind pays 250 coins or more, the payoff becomes at least $1,250, and that must be reported.

The average player will draw quads a little more often than once an hour. I've seen fast players get in more than 800 hands an hour, and for them it's closer to two four of a kind hands per hour. If you're going to be doing IRS paperwork that often, it's essential that you keep good records so that at tax time, those who itemize can deduct gambling losses from wins.

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