Video poker games that pay in excess of 100 percent with expert play are practically non-existent in the Midwest, and even in Nevada they're getting scarcer all the time. A fellow named Jack games such as full-pay Deuces Wild and 10-7-5 Double Bonus Poker on his mind when he phone me recently.
"There are video poker pros in Nevada, right?"
Yes, I told him, although there are fewer opportunities for video
poker advantage play than there used to be. And most video poker "pros"
have other jobs or businesses. You have to be well-bankrolled and able
to withstand the inevitable losing streaks to really press home the
small edge you can get at some video poker games.
"It's that bankroll part I wanted to ask about. When a pro finds
himself without enough money to bet five coins at a time, does he switch
to one-coin play?"
No, I told him.
"Never? I mean, surely, it doesn't make any more sense for a pro to overbet their bankroll than it does for an average player."
Never. A short-bankrolled pro --- if he or she is smart --- is a pro
who doesn't play until the bankroll is sufficiently padded.
"But surely a little one-coin play can help the pro through the tough
times. Can't that help build the bankroll little by little so the pro
has enough to bet it all again?"
It's more likely that one-coin play would erode the bankroll little by little until the pro hand nothing left.
"But these guys are experts, and the edge is the edge, right? They know all the expert strategy you like to write about."
Expert strategy is more than knowing which cards to hold and which
cards to fold. It's also not overbetting your bankroll, and knowing that
you can't get an edge on a video poker game unless you bet maximum
coins. That's because of the huge jump in the royal flush payoff with
five coins wagered. On most machines, a royal pays 250 coins for a
one-coin wager, 500 for two, 750 for three or 1,000 for four. But on the
fifth coin, the royal jumps to 4,000 coins --- essentially, you're
getting 3,000 coins for the royal on that final coin wagered, but only
getting 250 per coin on the first four coins.
"Royals are rare. Does that make that much difference, that a pro wouldn't even play for the smaller payoff?"
It makes all the difference in the world. Take 10-7-5 Double Bonus
Poker, where full houses pay 10-for-1, flushes 7-for-1 and straights
5-for-1. With expert play, that's a 100.17 percent game. The pro
squeezes out a small profit on the game, and cash back and comps are
gravy. But when the royal is worth only 250 coins per coin wagered, the
payback with expert play drops to 99.11 percent. It's not a beatable
Or take full-pay Deuces Wild. That yields a 100.76 return with expert
play. But with four or fewer coins wagered, that return drops to 99.75
percent, under that magic 100 percent mark.
Betting fewer than five coins turns even the best video poker games into games that will pad the house's bankroll, not yours.
"So to get the edge, you have to bet five coins?"
Right. In video poker, the house makes ALL its money on coins Nos. 1
through 4. On the fifth coin, the player has an edge. That goes even for
lower-paying games. On 8-5 Jacks or Better, the payoff on coins
1-4 is only 96.06 percent. But on the fifth coin alone, we get back
102.26 percent, raising the overall return on the machine to 97.3
"I wish I could bet just the fifth coin."
So do I. If we got that payoff on every coin, we'd all be pros --- until the games disappeared.