EVALUATING JACKS OR BETTER GAMES

You are at a local casino where you see a Jacks or Better machine with the Royal at $5000. Your fingers begin to tingle… Is this game an opportunity? You take a close look at the pay schedule but is unfamiliar. So, how can you quickly figure the return of that video poker machine?

That’s a common situation for the video poker players – the goal is to determine whether the machine provides a reasonable return…Reasonable? Mmm…how much is reasonable?

Well, for most Jacks or Better-style games the evaluation it’s very easy:

We know that a Royal will occur about once every 40,000 hands and from that, it’s easy to figure that a 4000-coin Royal adds 2% to the total return of the game. Wuth the Royal at 5000-coins (25% larger), its contribution to the overall return of the game has gone up to 2.5%.

Remember, this applies only to Jacks or Better-type games where two-pair pays 2 for 1, a straight pays 4 for 1 and a flush pays no more than 6 for 1. Other games, such as Deuces Wild, have a different rate of occurance for Royals, so different numbers apply.

Back to our example. If the game is a 9/6 Jacks or Better, we also know the base return is 99.54%, so a 5000-coin Royal moves the total return to 100+%. But what if the machine isn’t a 9/6 format? For example, if it’s an 8/5 format, how big must the Royal be to return 100%?

That’s a good question.

The total return on the game has been reduced because the Full House and Flush pay less. Just like the Royal, changes in the payout of any hand will add or subtract from the total payback.

You must only remember that a player (utilizing proper strategy) can expect to receive a Full House once every 90 hands and a Flush once every 87 hands on average.

So Full House has a probability of 1 divided by 90 or 0.011, and Flush has a probability of 1 divided by 87 or 0.014.

It follows then that a reduction of the payout from 9 for 1 to 8 for 1 will reduce the overall return by 1.1%. The same way a reduction of 1 for the Flush will reduce the overall return by 1.14%.

If a 9/6 Jacks or Better game has a long term return of 99.54 %, an 8/5 game has a return of 99.54 minus 1.1, minus 1.14 = 97.3%. So now we know we need 2.7% from the progressive Royal to get the return up to 100%.

Since each 1000 coins over the “4000 level” adds 0.5% and we need 2.7%, it will take 2,7 / 0,5 = 5400 more coins to give us a 100% return. Thus, on a quarter game a Royal of 9400 coins or $2350 is needed to get the long term return on an 8/5 Jacks game to 100%.

This is how we can evaluate Jacks or Better games.

NOTE: In Jacks or Better games the payouts which have the most effect are the Full House and Flush, so you need to remember that a 1-coin change in each adds or subtracts 1.1%.
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