I visit Las Vegas for about 14-20 days out of the year. After reading so many articles stating that video slots are undoubtedly the best slots to play, I took the advice and played video poker, intently, about 2 years ago, for the first time.
I convinced my friend to do the same, and we both enjoyed it a lot, as it was so much more interesting than plain old boring slots, and the winning hands were much more frequent than most slot machines. We played at the several casinos around town, but I noticed the pay tables of the same exact game were very different in some casinos. In fact, only one casino, which is where we first played the video slots, had the pay table I will classify as the "good" pay table.
The game was "Double Bonus Deuces Wild," and I noticed at one casino the pay table was not only higher for the same exact expense per hand (a $1.00 machine where we pay max credits for $5.00 per hand), but the game had MORE options to win, and to win big. While at other casinos, about 3-4 options were deleted and not even offered, or were offered in a different way with a very poor return, given it was, basically, a $5.00 machine.
In the "good" pay table, if you get 5 Kings or lower, with only ONE wild deuce, you received $800.00 for a max credit hand at $5.00. (4) Aces plus a deuce = $2,000.00. Four deuces = $1,000.00. And the royal flush, no deuces was worth $4,000.00. (I actually hit a royal no deuces, and (4) wild deuces, and (5) of a kind with one deuce, twice! It was across a 12 day period, with a $100.00 investment).
Meanwhile, at the other casinos, the same game, same amount of $5.00 per hand had a totally different pay table with much less offered for the "big hands." In fact, "5 of a kind with only one deuce" wasn't even listed as a separate payout, but as a general "5 (2's through 5's)" no matter how many deuces for a very low, $100.00, I believe. The pay table looked so "boring" if you will; we refused to play, and kept going back to the original casino with the "good" pay table.
I understand you might hit "bad" table more often, as the machine would be geared to throw out more deuces to hit 5 of a kind, but why is the pay table so varying on the same game at different casinos is my overall question?
As you have discovered, there are a myriad of different video poker games available. Even within a specific class of video poker games such as deuces wild, there are dozens of choices in games. And within each game, such as Deuces Wild Double Bonus there are multiple pay tables. There can be multiple versions of a pay table for the exact same game sitting side-by-side in the same casino. Most video poker players don’t even bother to check the pay tables; they just pick a game they like.
By not checking pay tables and playing a game that returns less, players are giving the casino extra money they don’t have to.
On a Jacks or Better class video poker game, each reduction of one credit in return for a full house or flush lowers the overall return of the game by over one percent. In other words, by playing an 8/5 Jacks or Better game rather than a 9/6 version, the player is giving the casino an additional 2+ dollars for every $100 run through the game. This mounts up fast when playing at the dollar level ($5 per hand) as you are.
The reason for your confusion on the pay tables is the two games you mention are actually two different games. The “good” pay table you mention is most likely for a game called “Super Bonus Deuces Wild” but I cannot tell for sure because you did not give me enough detail on the game. Super Bonus Deuces Wild does pay an extra bonus for five-of-a-kind with one deuce, but others could also do so. If a game has an extra paying hand such as the five-of-a-kind with one deuce you mentioned, generally that means the game has a different name. Games that have the same name usually have the exact same number of pay lines in the pay table, though the amounts for these pay lines can vary – and sometimes by a lot.
One thing you noticed was the “good” game seemed to be more fun because of the possibility of more, higher-paying hands. This is what draws people to these games. Unfortunately, because more of the return is tied up in fewer but higher paying hands, the volatility (swings in bankroll – both up and down) increases.
I am not going to tell you which to play, it is your money you are risking. I will give you some advice, however, on how to select and play your game of choice. I personally prefer to play video poker games that have a low variance. Even though those big wins can be fun, riding the time between those big wins can get very expensive.
I prefer games such as Jacks or Better, or Deuces Wild. What I really look for, though, is the highest return from a game. After playing 14-20 days on dollar machines as you mentioned you do, increasing the return by just one percent (one more credit for a flush or full house) can really add up. In the case of the games you play, both Deuces Wild Double Bonus and Super Bonus Deuces Wild can return very nearly 100 percent (99.81 and 99.67 respectively) – if you find the proper pay table and play the proper strategy. The variance for these two games is a moderate 36-40 (Jacks or Better and Deuces Wild are around 19-20), so the variance is not too bad. If you have an adequate bankroll and can find a good pay table, these games are a decent play. There is actually very little difference in return and variance for these two games.
My advice to you is to get some video poker software and determine the actual long-term return for the games you want to play and then generate the proper playing strategy using the software. Then practice the strategy and go have fun playing the game. Just know that in the long run, you will lose what the math says you will lose so be prepared for that.
Have a large enough bankroll to ride through the inevitable downswings that occur and you will have fun playing your favorite game.
One last thing – I am the author of the video poker section of "Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo, and Pai Gow Poker!" It includes information about pay tables, returns, and playing strategies for dozens of different video poker games including the ones you play. It also includes information about how pay table changes affect returns, as well as information on variance and bankroll sizes. I think it will give you a great back foundation for your video poker play. It is available from Amazon, should you be interested.
May all your wins be swift and large and all your losses slow and tiny.
You can contact Jerry “Stickman” at firstname.lastname@example.org
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