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7 Sad Facts About Video Poker


The list of casino games I play is short, but video poker is still on the list. With the right games and the right pay tables, I know how to use strategy to achieve a high return to player number. But this is getting harder to do every day.

You should learn how to play video poker, but before you waste too much time you need to know a few things. Here’s a list of 7 sad facts about video poker that every gambler should know.

Once you learn these sad facts you can decide if learning everything you need to know about video poker is worth it.

1 – Confusing Video Poker Pay Tables

Every video poker machine has a pay table, and the pay table dictates the range of return to player percentage that is possible. The pay table isn’t the only thing that influences the return for a video poker machine. The way you play each hand, which is called strategy, also influences the return.

You’re going to learn more about video poker strategy in another section in this article. But the important thing to understand at this point is that no amount of strategy can make a bad pay table good.

A bad pay table can have a return to player as much as 5% worse than a good pay table. This means that if you play on a bad video poker table, you can lose $5 more for every $100 that you risk than when you play a machine with a better pay table.

This might not seem like a huge amount, but on a quarter video poker machine you can risk over $500 an hour. On a $1 machine, you can risk over $2,000 an hour.

It’s difficult to compare pay tables because the pay for 1 hand might be higher on 1 machine and the pay for a different hand might be lower. The only way to compare video poker pay tables is to find examples online that include the return percentages.

The best thing to do is decide what kind of video poker you want to play and look at all of the possible pay tables before you go to the casino. This way you know which machine and pay table you’re looking for.

2 – Too Many Video Poker Games

I used to try to keep track of all of the different video poker variations. This included all of the best pay tables and all of the different strategies that I needed to use. But it simply got to be too much.

If you play real money video poker you need to know everything you can about each game you play. This is the only way to have a decent chance to win. But it’s easy to get confused if you try to remember everything about too many different game variations.

I made things simpler by focusing on only 2 video poker games. Eventually I added a third game, but this is as much as I’m willing to work with. You might be able to remember everything you need to know for more games than me, but I recommend starting with 1 variation and then adding 1 at a time to keep things as simple as possible.

You just can’t be a master at every type of video poker game. When you try to do too much you’re more likely to make mistakes.

3 – Good Video Poker Games Are Hard to Find

I mentioned that pay tables are important on video poker machines. The first step is to decide what base video poker game you want to play. The second step is to find that game with a good pay table. The third step is to use the correct strategy for that game.

The main problem with this is that even if you know which game you want to play and know the best way to play it, you still have to find the right machine. And this is getting harder and harder to do all of the time.

Video Poker Machines Aren’t Very Profitable

So the casinos offer fewer video poker machines, and most of the video poker machines they do offer don’t have great pay tables.

Unless you’re playing at a big casino, you might have to play mobile or online video poker to find machines with good pay tables.

4 – Comps Are Too Small

You used to be able to find comps deals that really helped offset your video poker losses. In fact, if you got the right comps deal you could pretty much break even when you played certain video poker games. But those days are long gone.

Most casinos don’t tell you exactly how much you receive in comps on your video poker play, but it’s rare to get more than .1% in comps. Notice that this number isn’t 1%; it’s .1% or 1/10 of 1 percent.

If you look at this from a return to player point of view, if you play Deuces Wild with a good pay table and the best strategy, the return to player is around 99.75%. Jacks or Better tops out at around 99.5%.

With .1% comps it basically makes these numbers 99.85% and 99.6%. The important thing to understand is that with small comps you’re still not going to reach the 100% return to player magic number that’s required to break even.

5 – Even Good Games Require Advanced Strategy

Assume that you know exactly what video poker game you want to play and that you know the pay table that gives you the best chance to win. And you’ve been lucky enough to find a machine with this pay table. Sadly, your work isn’t done.

If you want to play with the highest return to player you have to make the single best play on every hand that you play. Every video poker hand only has 1 best way to play it. You can’t ever guess which way is the best to play a hand.

This makes playing the best video poker possible challenging. Every time you make a mistake it costs you a little bit of the return that you can get out of a machine. And if you make several mistakes it costs you a lot of money over time.

You shouldn’t even bother playing video poker unless you use strategy. If you don’t use strategy it can cost you as much as $50 or more every hour you play.

6 – Video Poker Bonuses Are Terrible

Online and mobile video poker bonuses look like a good way to offset your losses and make the return to player numbers go up. But they don’t really work this way. In fact, most video poker bonuses are actually worse than playing without a bonus.

This doesn’t make much sense until you understand exactly how video poker bonuses work.

When you accept an online gambling bonus to play video poker, you agree to play a certain amount of video poker before you can get money out of the casino. And the amount of video poker that you have to play is set so high that you almost always lose all of the bonus and all or most of your deposit before you can get money out of the casino.

7 – You Can’t Beat Video Poker

Everything that you’ve learned so far points to 1 sad fact. The days of beating video poker are over. You can get lucky and win a session, especially if you hit a top paying hand, but overall you’re not going to win.

The best pay tables are too hard to find, and advanced strategy doesn’t leave any room for mistakes. And you can’t get enough comps or a good enough bonus to overcome the edge.

Does this mean you shouldn’t play video poker?

The answer is no. Video poker still offers 1 of the best chances to win in the casino. Along with certain blackjack games, with the right machine and strategy video poker is a top 2 casino game.


Video poker is still 1 of the best options in casinos, but that doesn’t mean that everything is great. As you just learned in the 7 sad facts about video poker, there are plenty of things you need to be aware of.

Concentrate on 1 or 2 variations, learn about the right pay tables, and always use the best strategy. When you do these things you can play video poker with a higher return to player number than most other casino games.

You can find easier games to play in the casino; but the trade off is that you play with a lower return to player number.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for since early 2016. …

View all posts by Michael Stevens

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