Smarter Gambling

Do the Video Poker Pay Tables Really Matter?

Ocean Casino 4 of a Kind on Jacks or Better Video Poker
Written by Joshua

I’ve watched an interesting debate pop up on a gambling forum regarding video poker pay tables, the topic of which I’ve broached here a couple of times recently. One gambler said that worrying too much about pay tables isn’t really worth it for gamblers who only play the occasional short session, because short term variance will outweigh the expected payback of a video poker machine if you’re only playing $20 or $100 here or there.

Other players noted that playing a machine with a worse pay table means you’re getting shorted credits that could keep a session alive, and those missed hands could be the ticket to a royal flush, for instance, or another good win that keeps it going any longer.

The debate is similar to the 6/5 vs. 3/2 Blackjack payout scenario. Such a change lowers the overall payback of a Blackjack game, but how big of a difference does it really make?

So let’s take a look at an example of video poker pay tables, as I see here in New England at my three locals, and discuss what the differences between them mean for both average players and more consistent players.

Three Casinos, Three Video Poker Pay Tables

Here is an example of three video poker pay tables I’ve encountered. For the sake of simplicity, I’m not including comp dollars in here, although I am of the belief that comp dollars earned gambling count towards payback. But let’s keep things a bit simpler for now.

Let’s take Jacks or Better scenarios at three casinos near me, at the quarter level:

CasinoMGM SpringfieldFoxwoodsMohegan Sun
Full House789
Flush556

All three casinos are about an hour from my house. As you can see, Mohegan Sun has full pay Jacks or Better (99.54% long term expected payback) whereas MGM Springfield is on the low end with 7/5 (96.15% long term expected payback). In between is Foxwoods with 8/5 (97.30% long term expected payback).

Does It Make a Big Difference?

If you play video poker regularly, Mohegan Sun should be your first and only stop – you can make a few percentage points more in payback over the long term, which if you play a lot of video poker is meaningful.

But if you’re just throwing $20 into a machine, what difference does it truly make? Well, in the case of a full-house, $2.50 for each full house, when it comes to playing at MGM Springfield vs. Mohegan Sun. That’s good for two additional hands. 10 full houses and you’re up to $25, or 20 additional hands. Of course, those hands could themselves yield more wins, and so if you’re talking about time on machine, it can be meaningful.

A flush is a $1.25 difference per win at Mohegan Sun vs. the others, which is an additional hand’s worth of money won.

Does that mean you shouldn’t play video poker among the games you play if you’re at a casino with 7/5? Well, no. What it does mean is making sure you’re playing the best game possible, in case the casino has different pay tables in different parts of the casino, or perhaps you’ve found a mistaken pay table that’s above the average.

The reality is if you’re in a casino, you’re able to play the games they make available, at the pay tables they’ve selected. So once you’re on site, there’s not a reason to stress too much because it is what it is. If you’re in a market like Las Vegas or Atlantic City, where a short walk can make a difference, you can at least consider it.

But if you’re making a dedicated casino trip with the expected plan to play a lot of video poker, knowing Mohegan Sun, in this example, has better options than the others, should definitely factor into your calculations, especially if it’s about the same drive/cost/level of effort to get there.

About the author

Joshua

My name is Joshua, and I’m a 30-something who works in tech as a marketer by day, and dabbles in casinos periodically during off-times. Know Your Slots will reflect my interests in understanding the various ways you can play slots, games that give you a potential edge, casino promotions and systems and how you can get the most out of it.

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