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HOME > > Video Poker Variance

Video Poker Variance

1 August 2020

By Jerry Stickman

There are four factors to be considered when choosing a video poker game to play – return, variance, playing strategy, and game availability.

Probably the least understood is variance.


Simply put, variance (sometimes called volatility) is the measure of the intensity of swings in the player's bankroll while playing the game. The higher the variance, the more intense the swings in bankroll – both up and down.

Low versus high variance:

A good analogy of low versus high variance might be roller coasters. A low variance game could be compared to riding a kiddie roller coaster with gentle ups and downs. The ride may be fun but there are no extreme rises or drops.

A high variance game could be compared to a high intensity roller coaster with very high peaks and low valleys. The climbs are steep and the drops very sharp. It is a wild ride producing lots of adrenaline.

For most video poker players, it is the thrill of hitting the big winners that most draws them to playing the game. But there is a cost for these additional low frequency / high-paying hands.

Some games such as Jacks or Better have very few high-paying hands. Actually, there is only one – the royal flush. Other variations such as Double-Double Bonus Poker have several high-paying hands. They include the royal flush; four aces; four aces with a 2, 3, or 4; four 2’s, 3’s, or 4’s; and four 2’s, 3’s, or 4’s with an ace, 2, 3, or 4. Games with more high-paying (and less frequently occurring) hands reduce the pays for more frequently occurring hands so more of the return happens less frequently.

The frequency of high-paying hands affects the volatility of the video poker game. When there is only one high paying hand the volatility is low. A large portion of the overall return is paid by hands occurring more frequently. This means the player’s bankroll will not fluctuate a lot – like a gentle rollercoaster.

The return from the royal flush in a Jacks or Better game amounts to only about two percent of the overall return. In the Double-Double Bonus Poker game, the return from the high-paying hands amounts to about 12.5 percent – over six times as much. Even though high-paying hands happen more often, the players bankroll will suffer greater losses while waiting for those hands to occur. This is like a wild rollercoaster with very high peaks and very steep drops.

The higher the volatility the more bankroll that is required. More is required to allow the player to last through the deep drawdowns that occur between the higher-paying, hands.

Let’s look at the specifics for these two games. Here are bankroll requirements for Double-Double Bonus Poker (DDBP), and Jacks or Better (JoB). The information is based on playing 2,000 hands on a 25-cent game ($1.25 per hand).

In order to calculate the bankroll requirements, the players tolerance for completely losing the bankroll must be factored. This is commonly called the Risk of Ruin, or ROR. The bankroll amounts listed are for a five percent risk of ruin (one in 20) and a one percent risk of ruin (one in 100).

VP Game – Return – Variance – 5 % – 1 % ROR
9/6 DDBP - 98.98% - 41.98 - $485 - $580
9/6 JoB - 99.54% - 19.51 - $252 - $313

Notice the additional bankroll requirement in order to play Double-Double Bonus poker It is nearly double what is required for the same amount of play on a Jacks or Better game.

If you enjoy hitting the high paying hands (and who doesn’t) make sure you understand what it entails:

• Periods of quick losses – and –
• Larger bankroll requirements for the same amount of play

Make sure you can handle the mental aspect of the quick losses and you know the cost involved in playing that high variance game.

May all your wins be swift and large, and your losses be slow and small.

Jerry “Stickman”

Jerry “Stickman” is an expert in craps, blackjack and video poker and advantage slot machine play. He authored the video poker section of "Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo, and Pai Gow Poker!" You can contact Jerry “Stickman” at stickmanjerry@aol.com

This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at fscobe@optonline.net.

Jerry Stickman
Jerry "Stickman" is an expert in dice control at craps, blackjack, advantage slots and video poker. He is a regular contributor to top gaming magazines. The "Stickman" is also a certified instructor for Golden Touch Craps dice control classes and Golden Touch Blackjack's advantage classes. He also teaches a course in advantage-play slots and video poker. For more information visit www.goldentouchcraps.com or www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 1-800-944-0406 for a free brochure. You can contact Jerry "Stickman" at stickmanGTC@aol.com.

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