One of those steady recommendations that can float out there about Video Poker is to make sure you bet the appropriate amount to ensure you qualify for a full payout on Video Poker, and/or any progressives when they exist, because otherwise you’re accepting a subpar payout structure on the game.
Saying to always max bet is certainly a simple message to remember and understand, but is that actually the best advice?
STATUS: You do not need to always max bet. Always max betting should ensure you don’t miss out on anything, but some casinos will play on that knowledge and configure machines that don’t require a max bet to be fully paid on all hands.
Primarily, the advice revolves around the Royal Flush payout, where this advice come from to begin with – on most Video Poker machines today, if you wager less than five credits, you’ll receive a smaller pay on a Royal Flush. Traditionally it’s 250 credits per credit wagered on credits 1-4, and jumps to 800 per credit wagered once you reach five credits. Since most machines max out at the 5 credit point, that’s where the streamlined advice comes from.
Different games have different advice, so let’s break things down a bit and discuss what to consider for each.
Single Hand Video Poker
The standard advice is to max bet, but you should always check the machine’s pay table to understand a few things:
- Does the game allow you to bet more than 5 credits? Some Video Poker machines can be configured to allow for a larger than 5 credit wager. Knowing this when you sit down can avoid accidental overbets if that’s not your intention.
- When does the game pay 800 credits per credit wagered for the Royal Flush? If you encounter one of those machines that lets you wager more than 5 credits, when does the Royal Flush payout flip to full pay? Many times, those machines will offer it at the 5 credit level. If so, you don’t have to wager more than 5 credits to get the maximum payout; also important to note, at the quarter level betting that 6th credit makes the Royal Flush a handpay at $1,200, which comes with tax forms and may not be what a player necessarily wants. On the other hand, some machines may require more credits to get the full payout, and so if that’s the case, and you want to maximize your payout, adjusting your wager will solve it.
Ultimately, a quick check of the pay table can make sure that you’re not going to misbet for what you need to achieve the best payout percentage; after that, wager what you feel comfortable wagering.
Multi-Hand Video Poker
When it comes to multi-hand, there are a few additional considerations:
- How many hands do you have to wager? Some will require you to play all the hands a given game offers – this is pretty common when you choose between 3, 5, and 10 hands. Some will let you more granularly control how many credits you wager, and it assigns them proportionally to the hands. This happens with more frequency on the larger hand variations like 50 and 100 hand video poker, but can happen on triple play and other formats as well.
- What do you need to wager to maximize payouts for all hands? Similar to single hand, I’ve encountered Triple Play machines that let you wager more than five credits per hand, and similarly such a wager was not required to maximize the Royal Flush payout. So I would have to manually set the credits per hand wager instead of hitting max bet to avoid wagering more than was required per hand to ensure my Royal Flush paid out at the full rate.
- Do all hands have the correct number of credits? In scenarios where you can granularly control the credit count, making sure all hands have the appropriate wagering is important, since it’s not as automatic. A sticky button or a miscount could lead one hand to be wagered a credit light and so on.
Specialty games tend to work a bit differently, because they require an additional wager of some kind to activate the special features. In those cases a 5-credit per hand baseline is standard, and the additional wager gets added on top of it.
In those cases, you simply need to make sure that you’ve activated all the hands and wagered what you intended. Take a game like Super Times Pay – it’s one extra credit, per hand, to activate the feature. But you can on many versions of it play the standard five credits per hand, and at that point it’s regular video poker pay tables and rules without the multiplier opportunity.
The same goes for Ultimate X, except the additional credits are five per hand, making it a total of ten credits per hand to be eligible to generate new multipliers.
So in the case of specialty machines, the second thing to verify and decide beyond the Royal Flush payout is if you want to play with the special features enabled, and if so ensuring your wager accounts for it.
Certain versions may let you choose how many hands you wish to play, and with it still have the additional wager activated for the number of hands visible. So take a 10-play setup – you may be able to decide to play 8 hands, and still play with the special feature active. This can depend on the variation of the game, the machine it’s on and the casino’s choice of configuration, however, so this is not always available.
This post was inspired by a conversation on a forum with the founder of NETimeGambling.com, who regularly writes about Video Poker, including myths and truths. Check out the post that inspired the conversation here. Binbin’s website is a great resource for New England players as well as casino visitors as a whole, and well worth exploring.