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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Patience is needed for volatile bonus video poker machines

24 October 2014

Dear Mark: When it comes to video poker games, which do you prefer, Jacks-or-Better, or one of the many Bonus games that are offered? I am figuring it is Jacks-or-Better as you use it as an example more often than not. John P.

There are multiple reasons, John, why I use the same ole Jacks-or-Better machines as an example in this column. They are still pretty darn popular; they are less volatile than bonus machines; the game has a respectable payback percentage and simplicity of the appropriate strategy.

When it comes to a Jacks-or-Better machine, the strategy is straightforward, whereas the strategies for bonus games are nowhere near as intuitive. Essentially, John, Jacks-or-Better is one of the easier strategies to learn.

As for the Jacks-or-Better’s payback return: here you have to give up a little. The highest paying Jacks-or-Better paytable is a 9/6 (nine for a full house, six for a flush) machine, which, with basic strategy, returns 99.5 percent. Compared to a positive expectation game like 10/7 Double Bonus Poker, you are looking at a return of slightly more than 100 percent over the long haul; that is, if each hand is played correctly.

When it comes to volatility, a Jacks-or-Better machine is not as volatile as Bonus Poker, Double Bonus Poker or Triple Bonus, as adding each additional bonus adds to each machine’s unpredictability. The more volatile a game is, the more your bankroll will fluctuate, which makes you feed the machine more just to keep you in action.

Because the payouts on any Bonus game are reduced on hands like two pairs, three-of-a-kind, etc., but increased on hands like quads, I am not one to endure the swings or keep feeding a machine to chase premium hands.

While many video poker experts believe that a such-and-such machine is the cat’s meow, I like to think that there is a place for many different video poker opportunities. The crux of the choice of any machine comes down to selecting a decent paytable, using expert play that you can easily learn, and finding what volatility you are willing to tolerate. What works for your goals, John, is what you want to be playing.

Dear Mark: When progressive slot machines are linked between casinos, are the payout percentages the same between casinos, or does each casino set its machines individually? Lenny B.

Those linked Progressive slot machines that you see in multiple casinos are known as Wide-Area Progressives.

The casinos do NOT own these Wide-Area Progressives machines, but instead, a manufacturer like IGT does. These machines are made available on a participation basis, and together, the casinos split the loot won. As for long-term paybacks, they are consistent, as casino A would not allow casino B to offer a higher long-term payback.

Gambling Wisdom of the week:
Countin' flowers on the wall
That don't bother me at all
Playin' solitaire till dawn with a deck of fifty-one
Smokin' cigarettes and watchin' Captain Kangaroo
Now don't tell me I've nothin' to do. – Flowers on the Wall, The Statler Brothers
Recent Articles
Best of Mark Pilarski
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.