THE ORIGINAL VIDEO POKER VARIATIONS

Before we get into the discussion of video poker strategy let’s take a look at some of the variations that you’ll encounter on the casino floor. Video poker was first introduced in the late 1970’s and for the next couple of decades changed very little. Variations were introduced slowly and they didn’t catch on with the gambling public overnight. That changed dramatically in the past 10 to 15 years and now there are dozens upon dozens of video poker variations.

Why the dramatic change? Player attitudes are one major factor—the reality is that the modern casino patron is less ‘gambling savvy’ than his predecessor. I’ll leave it to the gaming industry analysts to argue about whether this is a good or bad trend but until recently the idea of a major land based casino deriving the majority of its revenue from ‘non gaming’ sources was laughable. When I was first ‘coming up’ I was taught that any derivation from the traditional ‘Jacks Or Better’ game was a ‘sucker bet’. That wasn’t true then and it isn’t true now, but that perception was very common. In fact, some of the best paying video poker games are ‘Deuces Wild’ and ‘Jokers Wild’ variants.

Another change—technology has made machines that allow players to select from a variety of games highly practical. That hasn’t always been the case. In the early 1980’s, if a casino wanted to change from one video poker variety to another it took some effort. Today, it requires little more than a flip of a switch. In fact, the majority of video poker games that you’ll find at land based casinos offer a number of variations meaning that changing them around isn’t necessary.

These are the most common video poker variations and the most ‘traditional’. In the next section, we’ll look at some of the more popular recent vintage variations.

JACKS OR BETTER

The original video poker machine. Players are dealt from a 52 card deck and must get a pair of Jacks or better for a winning hand. Full pay Jacks or Better machines return around 99.5% with proper play. Compared to many of the other player friendly variations, Jacks or Better machines are less volatile than games like Deuces Wild or Jokers Wild. That’s one of the reasons this relatively simple game is still popular today.

DEUCES WILD

If I had to generalize and say that any one video poker variation was the ‘wise guy’s favorite’ it would be full pay Deuces Wild. With proper play, a full pay Deuces Wild machine returns approximately 100.7%. How is that possible? The operative term here is ‘proper play’. Few people understand how to properly approach the Deuces Wild strategy. It’s a specialized and often counterintuitive skill. It’s not as easy to find full pay Deuces Wild machines as it once was but they’re still out there.

As the name suggests, players are dealt from a 52 card deck with all four deuces wild.

JOKERS WILD

Jokers Wild machines aren’t quite as popular as Deuces Wild. Recreational players that like wild card ‘action’ can find games with more to their liking and the relatively low return percentage for expert play (98.6%) results in ‘sharp’ video poker players looking elsewhere. Players are dealt from a 54 card deck—52 cards plus two jokers—with both ‘jokers wild’.

ALL AMERICAN POKER

One of the first of the ‘new wave’ of video poker variations, All American Poker boosts the payouts on the ‘middle hands’–straight, flush, four of a kind and straight flush pay higher than usual returns Payouts for two pair and full house pay lower than usual. Several different manufacturers produce this variation with a payout percentage ranging from 98.5% to 99.5%.

BONUS POKER

There are many different versions of ‘bonus poker’–on a casino floor you’ll see Bonus Poker, Double Bonus Poker, Triple Bonus Poker, Bonus Bonus Poker, so on and so forth. You’ll also see Bonus Deuces Wild Poker, Bonus Jokers Wild Poker, etc. The basic premise is that certain hands are awarded a ‘bonus’. For example, on ‘Bonus Poker’ four aces returns 400 coins, four of a kind (2,3,or 4) returns 200 and every other four of a kind the usual 125. The bad news is that straights, flushes and full houses pay off less. We’ll talk more about these variations as they’re one of the better paying machines in current circulation.