Classic Dancer's Answers
Your monthly serving of tips from the video poker expert, Bob Dancer
Each month, VideoPoker.com brings you exclusive tips and inside scoop from Bob Dancer, one of the best known video poker authors and writers.
Q1: (This originally appeared in May 2001 Strictly Slots) When I lose at video poker, I just feel awful. I practice before I go to the casino, am pretty sure I play every hand correctly, and still lose. It drives me crazy! What should I do?
A1; Take up bowling. To be happy playing video poker, you need to come to grips with the fact that you are going to lose more often than you win. Either learn to accept that, change hobbies or go around miserable all of the time.
If the loss of money is what is driving you to despair, perhaps playing for lower stakes would ease the pain. It wouldn't help you win more often, but it might allow you not to feel so bad when you lose.
Q2: (This originally appeared in May 2001 Strictly Slots) I like to play Double Bonus or Double Double Bonus Poker rather than Jacks or Better. I figure that I have to hit fours of a kind to win, so I might as well be paid well for them when I hit them. What do you think of this strategy?
A2: Any of the three games can be relatively good. Any of the three games can be very bad. The Double Bonus and Double Double Bonus games have bigger highs and lows --- and may or may not return more in the long run.
Compare the following parts of the pay schedules:
JoB DBP DDBP
4 Aces 125 800 800/2000
4 2s-4s 125 400 400/800
4 5s-Ks 125 250 250
Straight 20 25 20
Two Pair 10 5 5
All Jacks or Better games pay 125 for quads and double on Two Pair. Double Bonus and Double Double Bonus pay more for quads but only even money on Two pair.
But it is the amount paid on Full Houses and Flushes that determines how much a game is worth. On a five coin basis:
Jacks or Better: 45/30 99.54%
Double Bonus 50/35 100.17%
Double Double 45/30 98.98%
So choose the volatility you want, but be aware that the amounts you receive for full houses and flushes are important too.
(Bob Dancer's 2010 update: My book "Video Poker for the Intelligent Beginner," (available at www.bobdancer.com, among other places) gives this kind of breakdown for more than 60 games. It differentiates each game from all of the others and tells you what each of the pay schedules returns.
Q2: (This originally appeared in May 2001 Strictly Slots) I am trying to learn a version of Joker Wild that you claim returns 101%. But it is so difficult! When I practice on the computer, my session results are only about 98%. Is this good enough?
A2: The reason the 101% version of Joker Wild continues to exist is because it is so difficult. Players are attracted to the game because of its over-100% potential and casinos tolerate the game because they make money on it. And the reason they make money on it is that players do find it so difficult. (It wasn't DESIGNED to be difficult. It just turned out that way.)
To determine whether you have the advantage or not, you need to multiply the game's return by your session return. In this case 1.01 x .98 = .9898, or just a tad under 99%. So the casino has a 1% advantage over you, less whatever the slot club returns.
For me personally, this would not nearly good enough. I am totally uninterested in playing games where I am not the favorite. But many people have different goals. For many, life is too short to become expert at video poker games. For them, video poker is one of hundreds of things they do in their life and getting to the computer-perfect level would require them to neglect too many other things in their life. For people like this, playing at a net-99% level may well be good enough.
But even if this is true for you, any casino that has 101% Joker Wild games likely has a number of other games over 99% (such as 9/6 Jacks or Better or 8/5 Bonus Poker) which are relatively easy to master at the 99.9% accuracy level. So even if the 99% total level is acceptable, if you are good enough to reach this level at Joker Wild you are more than good enough to reach the 99.4% level at Jacks or Better. Then you need to ask yourself whether the extra enjoyment or challenge of Joker Wild is worth paying a bit more than playing Jacks or Better would cost you. For many people, the fact that Jacks or Better is easy equates to Jacks or Better being boring.
Bob Dancer's 2010 update: 101% games were rare in 2001, and VERY RARE today. Still, the process of multiplying the game by your accuracy level still applies. Use "Video Poker for Winners" to evaluate how well you play.