QUESTION: I have been enjoying video poker slot machines in Atlantic City lately and I understand how I should examine the payout table before choosing a machine. I just don't know which numbers are the desirable ones.
On Jacks-or-Better I look for 6-for-1 for a flush, 9-for-1 for full house and 25-for-1 for four-of-a-kind. Are there any other numbers I should look for?
How about the numbers for Deuces Wild or Joker Poker? Same numbers as standard machines?
ANSWER: For Jacks or Better, the full pay table for one-coin bets should look like this:
Royal flush, 250-for-1; straight flush 50-for-1; four of a kind 25-for-1; full house 9-for-1; flush 6-for-1; straight 4-for-1; three of a kind 3-for-1; two pairs 2-for-1; pair of Jacks or better 1-for-1.
With multiple coins wagered, all payoffs except for royal flushes are multiplied by the wager. For royals, there's a big jump to a 4,000-coin jackpot when you bet five coins. Because of that, the payback percentage is highest when you bet the maximum five coins.
By far the most common way to change the payback percentage on a video poker game is to change the return on full houses and flushes -- hence the emphasis on "9-6" Jacks or Better. For each unit the payback is reduced on those hands, the overall return drops by a little more than 1 percent. A 9-6 Jacks or Better machine returns 99.5 percent with expert play, while an 8-5 Jacks or Better machine returns 97.3 percent.
Other games where the bottom payoff is on a pair of Jacks or better follow the same pattern. An 8-5 Bonus Poker machine returns 99.2 percent with expert play, while a 7-5 version pays 98.0. In Double Bonus Poker, where the best-paying versions return 5-for-1 on straights but some pay only 4-for-1, we have to take those hands into account. So instead of just listing 10-7 Double Bonus Poker, we refer to it as 10-7-5 Double Bonus, returning 100.2 percent with expert play, compared to 9-7-5 DB (99.1 percent payback), 9-6-5 DB (97.8) and 9-6-4 DB (96.4).
It's rare that other payoffs are changed. I once spotted an 8-5 Bonus Poker game that paid only 2-for-1 on three-of-a-kind. That's a killer, dropping the return all the way to 96.2 percent.
The wild card games, Deuces Wild and Joker's Wild, are much, much different. Those are families of games, with dozens of variations. For Deuces Wild, I'd suggest you look for games with "4-4-3" pay tables, paying 4-for-1 on four of a kind, 4-for-1 on full houses and 3-for-1 on flushes. The best-paying Deuces game, full-pay Deuces Wild, pays only 2-for-1 on flushes, but it's rare in Nevada and nonexistent in most of the country. Other Deuces games that pay 2-for-1 on flushes tend to be low payers.
The best of the commonly available 4-4-3 games is one players call Not So Ugly Deuces Wild, and it returns 99.7 percent with expert play. The full paytable for one-coin bets looks like this:
Natural royal flush, 250-for-1 (jumps to 4,000 with five coins wagered), four deuces, 200-for-1, royal with wild cards 25-for-1, five-of-a-kind 16-for-1, straight flush 10-for-1, four-of-a-kind 4-for-1, full house 4-for-1, flush 2-for-1, straight 2-for-1, three-of-a-kind 1-for-1.
If the five-of-a-kind/straight flush returns drop from 16-10 to 15-9, the game returns 98.9 percent with expert play. If there are changes on the rest of the pay table, be wary.
For Joker's Wild, there's a ton of variation. Does the pay table start at two pairs or a pair of Kings? Is the big jackpot on a royal flush or on five-of-a-kind? If you want to tell me a specific pay table you've found in a casino, I can tell you how it compares to others of its general kind. Alternatively, you can compare pay tables at the VPFree2 website, http://www.vpfree2.com/video-poker/pay-tables.
QUESTION: If two players play different slots with one person's player-loyalty card, will that person receive more in the way of comps, free slot play and tier level that if both play on their own cards?
ANSWER: That depends on the specific loyalty program. Two people building points on the same account will move you up faster to the next tier. In programs where you redeem points for free play AND there's a points multiplier at the higher tier, then you will earn more free play with the same amount of play that if you were both wagering the same amount but stayed at a lower tier on separate cards.
However, there's also the value of direct mail offers to take into consideration. Most programs offer some amount of free play, meal vouchers or other incentives to return even to low-tier players. It's possible the value of such offers to two low-tier cards might offset the increased value of having one higher-tier card.
So the answer to your question is a firm "maybe."
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