Video poker is as straightforward as a machine-based casino game can get. Each variation offers predefined odds of getting each hand.
Your chances of receiving a high pair (jacks or better) are approximately 5:1. Your odds of getting a royal flush are around 40,000:1.
Therefore, video poker seems like it would be subject to fewer myths than slot machines. But this isn’t the case, because video poker is still filled with common misbeliefs.
Keep reading as I discuss nine of the biggest video poker myths. It’s important to identify these falsehoods so that you don’t fall for them and endanger your bankroll.
1 – The Royal Flush Makes Up a Significant Portion of RTP
A royal flush is the most-coveted video poker hand because it pays 4,000 coins on a 5-coin max bet. This leads many players to assume that the royal makes up a significant portion of return to player (RTP).
Some gamblers are so adamant in this belief that they use a “royal-only” strategy, which involves only keeping cards that can form a royal flush.
Here’s an example of this strategy:
- Bob is dealt 10h-Jh-Js-10c-Kh.
- Bob has a made two pair.
- But he discards Js-10c to pursue a royal flush.
The problem with this strategy is that it requires you to dump hands that sometimes have higher expected value (EV) just to keep royal flush cards. Bob would earn higher EV by keeping his two pair over three cards to a royal flush.
Video poker strategy is defined for every variation. Each of these strategies calls on you to keep certain made hands over incomplete royal flushes.
Even if you don’t adopt a royal-only strategy, though, it’s important to realize that this hand doesn’t make up much of the RTP. Instead, a royal flush typically only comprises 2% or less of overall payback for any given variation.
In Jacks or Better, for example, the royal only comprises 1.98% of overall RTP. Meanwhile, a high pair (21.46%), two pair (25.86%), and three of a kind (7.45%) form way more of the overall payback.
Other video poker games are similar in terms of their payout distribution for low hands and a royal flush. The vast majority of your wins will come from low-qualifying hands.
Of course, this isn’t to say that you can’t get excited about the prospects of a royal flush. Just don’t get carried away and focus your entire game plan on chasing this rarely seen hand.
2 – You Can Make a Living Through Video Poker
One of the biggest reasons why video poker is popular among gamblers is that it can be beaten. Certain variations offer +EV when an optimal strategy is used.
Here are few prime examples:
- Full-pay Deuces Wild = 100.76% RTP
- Full-pay Joker Poker = 100.64%
- 10/7 Double Bonus = 100.17%
- 9/6 Double Double bonus = 100.07%
Some players believe that it’s possible to make a good living through video poker due to the multiple +EV games.
This was true up until a couple of decades ago. Certain video poker variations offered as much as 103.2% payback, which was enough to earn a solid living.
But the video poker scene has changed drastically for a few reasons. First off, games with 103.2% RTP no longer exist. Other +EV machines don’t have high enough payback to deliver serious profits.
Here’s an example to illustrate how much money you’d make under ideal conditions today:
- You’re playing full-pay Deuces Wild.
- RTP is 100.76% (edge of 0.76%).
- You play 1,000 hands per hour (extremely fast).
- You bet $1.25 (five quarters per hand).
- 1,000 x 1.25 x 0.0076 = $9.50 an hour
The lack of +EV games with high coin denominations is another thing that’s changed within the past two decades. Instead, you can only bet a quarter on full-pay Deuces Wild and other +EV variations.
You can see again from my example that it’s impossible to make a decent living on quarter machines. Casinos no longer offer the $1 and $5 denomination games that made it much easier to win big with Deuces Wild.
One more problem is that casinos don’t offer as high a comp rate these days. You’re typically looking at a 0.1% rate or less on your total wagers.
Here’s an example of the miniscule rewards you’d receive under this rate:
- You bet $1,250 per hour.
- You play for four hours.
- 1,250 x 4 x 0.001 = $5 in rewards
I’m not saying that you need to avoid +EV video poker. You should definitely seek out these games if you’re in Las Vegas, where most +EV video poker is found.
But don’t expect any more than earning a few dollars per hour from your hobby. Video poker just isn’t as lucrative as it used to be.
3 – Royal Flushes Are Paid on a Cycle
Earlier I mentioned how your chances of scoring a royal flush are approximately 1 in 40,000. Some gamblers take these odds to mean that royals are paid on some sort of cycle.
These same players will sit at the same machine and continue playing in hopes that they’ll be dealt hand #40,000. They mark their machine with clothing articles any time they go to the bathroom to prevent people from “stealing” their royal flush.
What these players don’t realize, though, is that video poker machines don’t run on payout cycles. The odds presented for each hand are exactly this – odds.
Just because one has 40,000:1 odds of getting a royal doesn’t mean things will go according to plan. Instead, the top hand might be paid after 10,000 hands or 150,000 hands.
The truth is that it doesn’t really matter what machine you play on, because the odds never change. You could play one machine for 40,000 hands and never see a royal, then jump to the next game and earn one on your first round.
You don’t have to be possessive of video poker machines in a land-based casino. Instead, you can casually play on any machine without fear of somebody stealing your royal flush.
4 – Casinos Control Video Poker RTP Whenever They Want
Many gamblers have a mistrust of machine-based casino games. The reason why is because they can’t physically see the games’ inner workings. Contrast this to baccarat or blackjack, where you see the cards being dealt.
This is why slot and video poker machines are both subject to many myths. Losing players develop their own theories, most of which are aimed at the casino being crooked.
The casino controlling video poker RTP is one common misbelief that arises from this thinking. Some players believe that gambling venues simply flip a switch when they want to lower video poker payback.
Those subscribing to this myth recommend that you avoid casinos on weekends and holidays. These are the busiest times for casinos and serve as likely points for when RTP will be lowered.
The important thing to remember is that casinos are heavily regulated. Part of these regulations prevents them from switching payback whenever they feel like it to take advantage of gamblers.
State gaming regulators commonly check on casinos to make sure that everything is running fairly and smoothly. A gambling establishment isn’t going to risk their license and reputation just to earn a few more bucks on weekends.
Many online casinos are also subject to regulation by their licenser. This is especially true in respected licensing jurisdictions like the Malta Gaming Authority, UK Gambling Commission, and Denmark Gambling Authority.
These jurisdictions require internet casinos and their software providers to undergo game testing. The tests help keep gaming sites from changing RTP whenever they want.
5 – Failing to Bet Maximum Coins Is a Terrible Strategy
Video poker machines allow you to wager anywhere from 1-5 coins per hand. The common strategy suggests that you bet five coins since this puts you in line for maximum payback.
All video poker machines offer a bonus on the royal flush payout when you bet five coins. Here are the different royal flush values based on how many coins you wager:
- One coin wagered = 250 credits
- Two coins = 500 credits
- Three coins = 750 credits
- Four coins = 1,000 credits
- Five coins = 4,000 credits
All other payouts, including the royal flush, increase proportionately when you wager 1-4 coins. Therefore, you won’t gain an advantage when betting up to four coins.
But you can see that there’s a disproportionate increase in the royal payout when moving from four to five coins. This favorable increase allows you to theoretically earn higher payback when betting the max.
Many gamblers assume that they have to wager five coins on every hand or else they’re a terrible player. However, the truth is that you’re not losing that much in the RTP department by wagering four coins or less.
Earlier I covered how the royal flush doesn’t make up as much of the payback as is commonly believed. A royal only comprises about 2% of a video poker game’s overall payout percentage.
Failing to make the five coins max bet means that you’re missing out on around 75% of the max royal flush payout (1k vs. 4k credits). But you’re only missing 1.5% of the overall RTP.
If you play 9/6 Jacks or Better with less than the max bet, then you’d be in line for around 98% RTP instead of 99.54% payback. Obviously, 98% payback isn’t as appealing as the top RTP, but it’s still better than the majority of casino games.
The key thing to consider is what your bankroll can handle. You can still play video poker even if your bankroll can’t handle five coins per hand.
It’s perfectly fine to risk 1-2 coins and still enjoy good RTP. The one thing you’re missing out on is a large royal flush, which only happens on 1 in 40k hands anyways.
6 – Video Poker Machines Run Hot and Cold
Video poker volatility causes some players to believe that machines run “hot” and “cold.” This leaves them hopping around different games until they find one that’s hot.
Those who believe that machines run hot/cold have a misunderstanding of the random number generator (RNG). The RNG quickly cycles through over 2.5 million card combinations to determine hands.
This massive number of card combinations ensures that every video poker hand you receive is completely random. Assuming you sit down to a game and start winning right away, then you’re merely having a stroke of good luck.
You can’t, however, find hot or cold video poker games – no such thing exists. The RNG works too quickly and goes through too many combinations for you to accurately pick out winning games.
Many video poker myths can actually be dispelled by understanding the RNG. Knowing this program especially helps cut through the idea that certain video poker games heat up or cool off.
7 – Multi-Hand Video Poker Pays More than Single Hand
Multi-line video poker machines let you play multiple hands within the same round. “Triple play,” where you can play three hands at once, is especially common.
Some players mistakenly think that playing a multi-line game gives them a stronger chance to win. Their reasoning is that casinos reward people for playing more hands per round with higher RTP.
But this isn’t true because each multi-line game operates on its own deck. If you’re playing triple-play Bonus Poker, for example, then each of the three hands will be based on a separate 52-card deck.
The main reason to play multi-line video poker is if you’re tired of playing a single hand per round – not because you can get higher payback. Triple play and other multi-line variations offer more action on each turn.
The only video poker games that offer you higher RTP for betting more than five coins include IGT’s bonus variations. IGT has rolled out a number of unique video poker variants that feature bonuses for betting six coins or more.
Here’s an example:
- You play Hot Dice video poker.
- You can bet 10 coins per hand (instead of five) to activate the bonus feature.
- The bonus sees two dice randomly rolled.
- You get a multiple ranging from 2-12 based on the dice results.
Again, standard multi-line video poker doesn’t give you a better chance to win. Only specific bonus variations see you improve your chances by betting more coins.
8 – Using a Player’s Club Card Lowers Your Chances of Winning
Land-based casinos require you to sign up for their rewards program before you’re eligible for comps. You can do so by visiting their player’s desk or signing up online.
Once you’re a rewards member, you can use your player’s club card to accumulate comps. You’ll receive loyalty points for every wager you make through video poker and other games.
Certain gamblers avoid using their player’s club card, though, under the belief that doing so will lower their RTP. This plan stems from thinking that casinos program video poker machines to pay less to compensate for the rewards.
It’s easy to dispel this myth by comparing your theoretical video poker losses to the amount of rewards you receive.
Here’s an example:
- You play 8/5 Bonus Poker.
- You use perfect strategy to achieve this game’s optimal 99.17% RTP (0.83% house edge).
- You bet $1,000.
- 1,000 x 0.0083 = $8.30 in theoretical losses
- Your comp rate is 0.1%.
- 1,000 x 0.01 = $1 in rewards
You can see that theoretical losses are much greater than the comps being offered. Therefore, casinos are still making a healthy profit off the average player even with rewards included.
Failing to use your player’s club card on video poker doesn’t increase your chances of winning. It just robs you of the chance to accumulate comps.
9 – Avoid Any Game That Has Paid a Royal Flush
Video poker machines don’t pay royal flushes often. But when they do, some players suggest that you avoid them at all costs.
The logic is that a machine that’s just paid a royal flush won’t deliver this hand for quite some time. Most gamblers within eyesight of a machine that’s delivered a royal will steer clear of it.
But this thought goes back to the idea that video poker machines pay out based on cycles. Players who fall for this myth think that it’ll be an eternity before the game delivers another royal.
Odds are that the game won’t offer another top payout for quite some time. However, this has everything to do with the long odds of getting a royal flush in the first place rather than payout cycles.
Video poker odds are merely a guideline for how often you can expect a certain hand. But these odds can’t predict exactly when a hand will be dealt.
You can technically sit down to a video poker machine that’s just delivered a royal flush and receive this hand immediately afterward.
The chances are of course unlikely due to the 1 in 40k odds of getting a royal. But it’s theoretically possible for you to earn a royal on back-to-back hands.
You can see that the video poker world is filled with plenty of myths. Most of these illusions come from players not understanding how video poker games work.
One common misbelief is that royal flushes play a bigger part than they actually do. The truth is that royals happen infrequently and make up a small amount of overall RTP.
Other illusions involve thinking that video poker payouts operate on cycles and games run hot and cold. These myths are both dispelled by the RNG, which creates totally random results, thus negating payout cycles or hot/cold games.
It’s also important to be realistic about your chances of beating video poker. Some games do offer over 100% payback. But these variations don’t pay enough to help you consistently win big profits.
Keep in mind, though, that video poker is still one of the best casino games in terms of RTP. Many variations allow you to earn over 99% RTP, which is better than the average casino game.
Just be sure to study strategy for whatever game you’re playing. Doing so allows you to play optimal video poker and improve your chances of winning.
Also, remember all nine of the myths that are discussed here. Knowing the reality behind these falsehoods ensures that you have a stronger knowledge of video poker.