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HOME > Gaming > Ask the Slot Expert: Can you beat video poker?

Ask the Slot Expert: Can you beat video poker?

6 August 2014

By John Robison, Slot Expert™

I often play slot machines where you can change the denomination of how much you want to bet (penny, two cents, nickel, dime, etc.) Since it's the same machine, are my odds any better playing a higher denomination?

The answer is a definite maybe.

Some video poker machines are multi-denomination. On some of those machines, we can see the paytable improve when we increase the denomination.

The same thing could happen on a multi-denomination slot machine. The long-term payback could get higher when you increase the denomination.

You have to change the paytable to change the long-term payback on a video poker machine because you can't change the deck of cards. On the slot machine, however, we can change the layouts of the virtual reels, so the paytable can stay the same when we change the long-term payback. There's no way to know whether the quarter denomination choice of a game on a multi-denominational slot pays better then the penny denomination choice.

As I said, a definite maybe.

I watched an old lady at Windsor Casino win a $10,000 dollar video poker tournament. She had never played before. She did everything wrong. Everyone was amazed that she won the tournament.

You say you should learn how to play. I say that, just like any other machine, you cannot beat them.

Video poker tournaments and real video poker play are two completely different things. In the tournament, the only thing that matters is beating other players. You don't necessarily hold the combination of cards that are best in the long run. There is no long run. Whatever you do in the tournament has no effect on your long-term video poker results.

You might make moves you would never do when your money is on the line, like tossing a high pair to go for a 3-card or even a 2-card royal. You'll be in the top finishers if you get a royal.

Your strategy for a tournament can be very different from your strategy for normal play. If you Google "video poker tournament strategy", you'll find a number of articles about how you might want to alter your strategy when you're in the tournament.

That said, all tournaments — video poker, slot, blackjack and poker — have some degree of luck. It sounds like your lady was dealt many good hands.

You should definitely learn how to play video poker with a mathematically derived strategy. Casinos estimate that you give up about 5 percentage points in long-term payback by playing with your hunches instead of a strategy. Would you rather play 9/6 Jacks-or-Better nearly break-even with the casino or with a 5 percent house edge? You need to know the strategy to eke every fraction of a percent out of the maximum long-term payback possible on the paytable.

Still, you cannot beat a game with a house edge, no matter how small, no matter what strategy you use. But if the paytable is one of the few positive expectation paytables still on the slot floor, then you need to know the proper strategy in order to beat the machine.

Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert™, at slotexpert@slotexpert.com. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't reply to every question.

Copyright © John Robison. Slot Expert and Ask the Slot Expert are trademarks of John Robison.

John Robison
John  Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming's leading publications. Hear John on "The Good Times Radio Gaming Show," broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoons. You can listen to archives of the show online anytime.

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The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots
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