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Deal Me In: A video poker machine too good to believe

1 July 2016

By Mark Pilarski
Dear Mark: You have written that with perfect basic strategy some video poker machines will have a payback above 100%. I have also read that the machines can NOT be set to return over 100%. Can you please explain the difference of what I am reading? Dave D.

When employing expert play, a player’s strategy can affect payback percentages. A good basic strategy player who can identify decent paying machines can virtually eliminate the house advantage, bringing it down to zero, and in some cases, giving the skilled player a slight edge. An example of the machines I am speaking of are a full-pay Deuces Wild and 10/7 Double Bonus. By playing these two machines and using perfect strategy, and playing the maximum number of coins, you can achieve the following payback percentages: 100.7% on full-pay Deuces Wild and 100.1% on 10/7 Double Bonus.

But, you are also correct, Dave, to be suddenly suspicious of what I wrote. Certain states do not allow video poker machines to produce a 100% or higher return. I note here that your letter comes from Indiana, which is one of the states that limit the return. I believe your bordering state Illinois is another. I can’t think of another.

All states with legal casino gambling have a minimum payback percentage on slots and video poker. The two mentioned above also have maximums. The reasoning, at least the state’s reasoning, is to collect as much in taxes on casino revenue as it can.

What is great about video poker, Dave, that not only do you have the probability of a decent payoff, but you truly are in control of the game by your skillful decisions. The tricky part here is finding those advantageous machines. Today, they are few and far between, and generally can only be found in very competitive markets.

Dear Mark: When playing at a higher denomination, are the returns on a 9/6 video poker machine in high-roller room higher than on a 25¢ 9/6 machine on the casino floor? Mike M.

When you can find a 9/6 (9 for a full house, 6 for a flush) video poker machine and use basic strategy, you can achieve a 99.5% percentage payback on a 9/6 Jacks or Better machine.

All paytables being equal, Mike, a 9/6 Jacks or Better machine will return 99.5% over the long run with expert play regardless of whether the game takes quarters, dollars or $125 per hand ($25 x 5). What will not be the same is the net profitability from playing at a higher coinage level.

The problem with a higher denomination machine, Mike, is that IRS reporting becomes mandatory with certain jackpots. For instance, a hand pay for a four-of-a-kind or a straight flush on a $25 machine will automatically get you one. With these payoffs, you will be required to sign an IRS form W-2G before they can pay you any jackpot of $1,200 or above.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “Under the influence of uncontrollable ecstasy the players gambled their wive
 

Deal Me In: Video blackjack machines thwart counters

24 June 2016
Dear Mark: In last week’s column, you mentioned that it was impossible to count cards on a continuous shuffle machine. Can you instead count cards on a video blackjack machine since, one) single-deck games are a preferred choice to count cards on, and two) there is no one standing over you to bother your play or ask you to leave the game? Jim G. ... (read more)
 

Deal Me In: The quicker you go, the behinder you get

17 June 2016
Dear Mark: If a card counter has an advantage over the casino, wouldn’t it be to their advantage to have more hands per hour via a continuous shuffler? Travis C. You’ve read it here before, Travis, and you’ll read it again: Speed kills in a casino environment. Involving what is called "incremental game ... (read more)
 

Deal Me In: The math always favors the casino winning it back

10 June 2016
Dear Mark: I enjoyed your response last week when you played referee on what Gary R. thought was a misdeal when the dealer had a 17, kept hitting, busted, but the dealer still took his bet. I am sure you would agree that not all casinos would have scooped up his wager. Anyhow, I have a protocol question relating to what should have happened next. ... (read more)

Next 10 Articles >

  • Featured Articles

Deal Me In: What in the world is going on with craps tables in California?

Dear Mark: So I go to the craps table at Spa Resort Casino in Palm Springs, as it is my favorite casino endeavor. I place $20 on the pass line. Being the only player, I am presented the dice, pick out a pair, and send them down the road. To my delight, I see a 6 and a 1. Now, that's a great start! As I lo... (read more)
 

Deal Me In: Show me your ID, please!

Dear Mark: I have asked around, but nobody can give me a direct answer. If you get a taxable jackpot, will an expired driver's license be sufficient as an ID? Mary P.Whenever someone wins $1,200 or more, an ID is required for tax purposes because Uncle Sam claims a piece of the action. Thus, casinos today require proper identification (e.g. ... (read more)
 

Deal Me In: Just a token of your appreciation

Dear Mark: In yesterday's Detroit Free Press (10/1/15), there was a question about tipping. My question is also about tipping but more specifically as it pertains to a casino if you are lucky enough to win something big. A few weeks ago, my husband and I were vacationing in Deadwood, S.D., and I was one of the lucky ones who won at slots. ... (read more)
 

Deal Me In: Gamblers are shunning tightfisted slots

Dear Mark: In your column “I’ve Been Everywhere,” you wrote about all the casino destinations that you have visited over the years. Did you find in your travels that slot machines look and play the same from state to state? Ken K.Slot machines, Ken, are comparable from casino to casino, state to state. ... (read more)
 

Deal Me In: Where's my refill?

Dear Mark: I just wanted to share a story about your column regarding tipping. We were not at a casino, but my mom and I occasionally go to dinner or lunch. She always offers to pay, and I say I'll get it, so she says "I'll leave the tip." Probably the third time we went out we stood up to leave, and I looked down to see a quarter. ... (read more)
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.