Video poker games and slot machine games share multiple similarities, but the one most pertinent to this page is that they both have pay tables. The purpose of this page is to explain why video poker pay tables are so important to experts and intermediate players alike.
In fact, there are 2 aspects to the game of video poker that we’d argue make it superior to slot machines:
Like slot machines, video poker games pay certain amounts based on the combination you get while you’re playing. The biggest difference between the 2 is that the odds of getting any particular symbol on a video poker game are calculable, because all of the probabilities mirror that of a 52 card deck. (In some cases, like Joker Poker, a 53 card deck is in use—the extra card is the joker, a wild card.)
The pay table is just a list of the paying combinations along with the amounts they pay out. All of the combinations in video poker are based on poker hands. And, as in traditional poker, the ranking of the hand determines the amount of money you can win with it. But there are some exceptions in video poker—for example, in some games, the lower ranked 4 of a kind hands offer a higher payout than those of a higher rank.
One other aspect that almost all video poker games share is the payout for the royal flush. A royal flush is a straight flush that starts with a 10 and ends with an ace, or the 10JQKA of one suit. If you’re playing with the correct strategy, you’ll only see a royal flush once in every 40,000 or so hands.
In most games, you can bet between 1 and 5 coins per hand. The payouts for all the hands are calculated in the same way, with a single exception—the royal flush. This hand usually pays off at 250 to 1 for any bet of between 1 and 4 coins. But if you bet 5 coins, the royal flush pays out at 800 to 1.
This is a huge difference, and anyone who knows anything about strategy for the game will explain to you that the first tenet is to ALWAYS place the 5 coin bet. You’re better off playing a lower-stakes game for 5 coins than you are playing a higher-stakes game with between 1 and 4 bets. The difference in the payoff on the top hand is that big.
Jacks or Better is the video poker game on which all other games are based. Understanding this pay table is one of the first things any prospective player should undertake. Here’s an example of a Jacks or Better pay table:
We want to point out a couple of things about the pay table above. First of all, notice the disproportionately higher payout for the royal flush when you bet 5 coins. See how it pays out 250 to 1 for every bet of fewer than 5 coins? But then it pays out 800 to 1 for the royal flush.
The next 2 payouts that are especially important are the payouts for the full house and the flush, in this case, 9 and 6. This is the best version of Jacks or Better that you’ll find. Pros call this a “full pay” game, or a 9/6 Jacks or Better game.
Based on the payoff amounts above, if you play with optimal strategy, this game offers you a 99.54% payback percentage. That’s the amount that the machine pays back in the long run, based on the odds of hitting these hands compared with the payoffs for these hands.
But this is not the most common Jacks or Better pay table. You’ll also see 8/5 games, 7/5 games, and even 6/5 games. Each of these has lower payouts for those hands, and correspondingly lower payback percentages.
Here’s a table listing the most common pay tables for Jacks or Better along with the payback percentage for each if you play with optimal strategy:
If you know anything about slot machines, you’ll notice that even the worst pay table at Jacks or Better video poker offers a better payback percentage than most slot machine games.
Unfortunately, other video poker games don’t necessarily make it so easy to determine the payback percentage. That’s because they vary the payoffs for more hands than just the full house and the flush. We’ll take a look at some of these other games and their pay tables below.
Besides Jacks or Better, Deuces Wild is the most popular video poker game in the casino. And if you can find the right pay table, you can even get an edge over the house. Some Internet writers claim that full pay Deuces Wild is extinct, but that’s not entirely true—you can still find low-stakes full pay Deuces Wild games at some of the casinos on Boulder Highway in Las Vegas.
Here’s the full pay version of Deuces Wild:
With the above pay table, if you play the optimal strategy on every hand, the payback percentage for this game is 100.76%. This makes full pay Deuces Wild one of the only games in the casino where the player has an edge over the house. If you’re a member of the slots club, you can get an extra 0.3% to 0.4% back in rebates, too.
But unlike Jacks or Better, you can’t just compare the payouts for 2 hands to determine the payback percentages for Deuces Wild. That’s because the casinos and manufacturers mix up the paybacks for multiple hands in this game.
Experts use a kind of shorthand to describe a Deuces Wild pay table. The pay table above looks like this in shorthand: 25/15/9/5/3/2. As you can see, it starts with the payoff for the wild royal flush and ends with the payoff for the straight.
Here’s a table with the most common Deuces Wild pay tables and their payback percentages:
You’ll notice that any of these hands is subject to a change in payout, which is why this pay table comparison has 6 potential payouts listed instead of just 2 like the Jacks or Better table. Even so, the absolute worst Deuces Wild game, like the worst Jacks or Better game, still offers a better payback percentage than most slot machine games.
The 3rd pay table on this comparison, the one with the 99.74% payback percentage, is known as “not so ugly” Deuces Wild. It’s reasonably common, and it has a payback percentage that’s even better than full pay Jacks or Wild.
One of the challenging aspects of Deuces Wild is that optimal strategy changes based on the pay table. With Jacks or Better, strategy changes are minimal or non-existent, but with the wide variations in payouts on the various hands in Deuces Wild, you’ll see subtle but important differences in strategy.
In fact, Bob Dancer, who sells some of the most detailed guides to video poker strategy in the world, has 2 separate books for Deuces Wild strategy—one is devoted to the full pay game, and the other is devoted to the “not so ugly” version.
Bonus Poker is a family of Jacks or Better variations which offer different payouts for various rankings of a 4 of a kind. But like Jacks or Better, most of these variations only differ when it comes to 2 or 3 hands in the pay table, usually the full house and the flush. The other payouts for the other hands in these games are common to any game of these descriptions.
The games which fit into this family include the following:
Let’s use Bonus Poker Deluxe as our first example. It’s called “Bonus” Poker Deluxe because of the bonus payout on the 4 of a kind. In a standard Jacks or Better game, that hand pays off at 25 to 1. But no matter what pay table of Bonus Poker Deluxe you’re playing on, the payoff for that hand is 80 to 1 instead.
The game pays for this change by reducing the payoff for 2 pairs from 2 to 1 to 1 to 1, the same as the payoff for a pair of jacks or better.
But like Jacks or Better, the manufacturers and the casinos vary the payoffs for the full house and the flush, which changes the payback percentages accordingly.
Here’s the comparison:
As you can see, the payback percentages for this game are slightly better than for Jacks or Better. The big difference is that bigger payoff for the 4 of a kind.
The other Bonus Poker variations offer different payoffs based on the ranking of the cards in the 4 of a kind. For example, in Double Bonus Poker, a 4 of a kind made up of aces pays off at 160 to 1. If it’s made up of 2s, 3s, or 4s, it pays off at 80 to 1, and if it’s any other rank, it only pays off at 25 to 1.
You can find variations of this game with a 10/7 pay table, which pays off at 100.17%, making it another game where you have an edge over the house. Like Jacks or Better, those 2 hands and payoffs are the full house and the flush.
It’s beyond the scope of this page to include the pay tables for every possible variation available, but we have a page devoted to each version of video poker that we could think of. We’ve tried to make this section comprehensive. We include pay table information for each of those games on the appropriate page.
Video poker pay tables are one of the distinguishing characteristics of the game. It’s just a chart showing the hand and how much it pays off. The differences in these pay tables are what make different versions of each variation superior to or worse than others. For example, 9/6 Jacks or Better has a better payback percentage than 9/5 Jacks or Better.
Some variations in the pay tables can also result in necessary variations to the strategy for each game. This is especially true of Deuces Wild, where you’ll play your hands differently if you’re playing the full pay version of the game versus the “not so ugly” version.