Video poker is one of the few casino games that carry decent odds and are worth playing for a few quick bucks. Unlike slots, where only the casino and the developer know your odds of winning, video poker has the transparency for you to calculate your chance to beat the house. You can even devise a strategy based on the game that you play and have full control over your winnings.
So, what video poker game is the best to play? Based purely on odds, Double Bonus Poker is the best video poker game to play. Statistically, your odds in this game are so high that you’ll get paid to play. Jacks or Better is another great choice because of its popularity and an outstanding balance of payout and house edge.
All video poker games have transparent odds. It means that you, or anyone, can calculate your chances of winning and overcoming the house edge. So, instead of laying out the best games, let’s go through the thought process of calculating your odds with video poker first.
Calculating the Odds to Find the Best Video Poker Game
Video poker games use the same 52-card deck as other poker games. That means you have 1 in 52 chances of getting any particular card, 1 in 13 chances of getting any number that you want, and 1 in 4 chances of getting a specific suit.
Those are the base odds in any video poker game. Since you know what your chances are in getting any particular card, you can use it to calculate a video poker game’s expected return.
How do you calculate your odds, you ask? It may seem complicated at first, but you only need simple math to figure out which video poker game is the best. Here’s how you can calculate the casino edge in video poker:
- List all the possible outcomes at any game.
- Use the base calculation to get the probability of getting the cards you need.
- Add the possible results, the probability of getting each outcome, and the probability of getting any particular card.
What you’ll get from this calculation is what we refer to as the “Payback Percentage.” It’s somehow similar to the house edge, but it only applies when you’re playing with a machine.
House Edge vs. Payback Percentage
When playing an actual card game at a casino, like blackjack, you calculate your odds using the house edge. When playing with a machine, you calculate the game’s payback percentage.
They may differ in some ways, but both refer to the chances of someone beating the house. House edge is the percentage that a casino will, statistically, win in the long run. The payback percentage is the amount that a casino expects to pay over tens of thousands of hands.
Assuming that you’re playing blackjack and you’re exploiting the basic rules to bring the house edge down to 0.5%. If you play with the same dealer over and over, the casino expects that you’ll lose 101 times out of the 200 hands that you played.
When playing Jacks or Better, you can improve your payback percentage to 99.54%. What this means is that the casino expects to pay you $99.54 for every $100 that you wager. In house edge, this payback percentage translates to 0.46%.
Casinos may calculate the house edge and payback percentage differently, but it’s still spread throughout a large number of sample bets. Still, it’s the best way to determine your chance of beating the house when playing the game.
With that out of the way, let’s go through some of the most popular video poker games based on the payback percentage.
Video Poker Games with the Best Odds
Pay tables vary in video poker games, but any game with a payback percentage higher than 99% is worth playing. A game with a payback percentage lower than that isn’t bad, but it’s probably not worth your time if you want to make serious cash from it.
Jacks or Better
This video poker game doesn’t have the best odds, but it’s most likely the game that you’ll find in every casino. Before you start playing Jacks or Better, it would be best to look for one that offers a 9/6 paytable. The payback percentage for this game shoots up to 99.54%, which is better than the odds of experts who play blackjack.
The game is pretty straightforward and eerily similar to 5 Card Draw. You’ll get five cards, and you choose the ones that you keep, then rank the hand using poker rankings. The payout that you’ll receive depends on the rank, with pairs being the lowest-paying hand and the royal flush with a payout of 800 to 1.
Deuces Wild is almost the same as Jacks or Better, but with a very distinct variation — the 2s in the deck are wild cards and can be used as any card that you might need to complete a hand.
This variation changed the game’s dynamics, so the lowest-paying hand in Deuces Wild is a 3 of a kind. The royal flush remains the highest-playing hand, with 800 to 1 in a five-coin game.
The payback percentage for Deuces Wild is higher than Jacks or Better at 99.73%, but you won’t see this game often. If you’ve found a casino with Deuces Wild, it’s probably one of the best-paying games around.
When I first saw Bonus Poker, I thought that it was Jacks or Better because the difference was so subtle that a beginner might not even bother to check. In Jacks or Better, the payout when you complete a 4-of-a-kind is the same, regardless of the card; in Bonus Poker, the payout depends on the rank.
The payback percentage for Bonus Poker is 99.17%, which isn’t the game that you’d want to play over and over. The game is very volatile, and your winnings may fluctuate. However, any video poker game that has a payback percentage higher than 99% will always be one of the highest-paying games in most casinos.
Double Bonus Poker
Double Bonus Poker is for you if you’re looking for a video poker game that’ll pay you to play! The payout for a 4-of-a-kind is twice of what you’ll get from Bonus Poker, which brings the payback percentage for this game to a whopping 100.17%! Casinos counter the generous payout on complete hands by reducing the pair payout from 2 to 1.
The question you probably have right now is, “Can you make a living from this video poker game?” Probably not! If you play this game non-stop for one hour with five coins each, you’ll be spending $750 and earn $1.275 per hour. If you kept playing Double Bonus Poker for 40 hours a week, you’re looking at a whopping $51 per week income.
Best Online Place to Play Video Poker
For American players, I recommend Ignition Casino. There are numerous video poker and slot options available. You can also expect quick deposits and withdrawals. Bitcoin is the best way to move money to and from the casino.
Video poker games aren’t equal. Some games have low payback percentages with large payouts, while others have the best odds with acceptable payouts. Having the best odds doesn’t necessarily mean bigger winnings.
Casinos always calculate the house edge over a large number of sample bets. So unless you play the same game over and over, the payback percentage can only serve as your reference.
There’ll always be risks involved in gambling, and payback percentage can only help you determine whether a game will be profitable in the long run or not. It’s not guaranteed, and even the ones with more than 100% payback percentage may not be as rewarding as you might expect.
Main photo courtesy of East Coast Gambler.
Jim James has over 15 years of experience playing professionally and is the author of the best-selling book called Automatic Poker. Using a no-nonsense mathematical and logical approach to beating the games, he has won 7 figures at the poker table. Jim is well-known as the world’s leading expert on playing short or mid-stacked poker.
Today, he helps other players demystify what it takes to win money in No-Limit Hold’em and has helped countless people become winning poker players through his Online Poker Academy.