Video Poker Pay Tables: How To Guide

Why are Pay Tables Important?

A pay table is the complete listing of the payouts for each hand for a video poker game. The pay table-- and the pay table alone-- sets the return (of the base) video poker game. So, if you have the pay table you can not only precisely compute the return of the game but also the strategy needed to obtain that optimal return.

There should be absolutely no guesswork involved with your video poker play. Video poker is not a slot machine with playing cards instead of fruit. The decisions you make when you play a video poker game matter. To play optimialy, you need to know the correct strategy. That strategy is derived from the pay table. Video poker games always show the pay table and that fact makes all the difference gambling outcomes.

If you have been to a casino lately, you may have noticed a profliferation of game options that require "additional wagers" to activate, such as ultimate X or multistrike. Rest assured, if you choose to make additional wagers, the game's return will never decrease from the stated pay table. In other words, those additional wagers are not included in the pay table. So think of the pay table as governing the return of the "base" game, not including the myriad of other game variations available today. Again, everything that makes video poker a better gaming option than many other choices in the casino begins with the pay table.

What do casino pay tables look like ?

Every pay table consists of exactly two columns of data: a "Hand" column representing the final hand and a "Payout" column. Very often mulitple pay tables are combined when displayed in a casino. If so, they always represent variations on the same game. We'll cover that later. Here's a simple example:

JACKS OR BETTER
DRAW POKER
ROYAL FLUSH......4000
STRAIGHT FLUSH...250
4 OF A KIND......125
FULL HOUSE.......45
FLUSH............30
STRAIGHT.........20
3 OF A KIND......15
TWO PAIR.........10
JACKS OR BETTER..5
Bet 5 Coins

In general, hands are listed in pay tables approximately in order of their frequency of occurance or probability, not payout. The most common wining hand (highest probability) is listed on the bottom of the pay table (ex "Jacks or Better") and the least common (rarest and highest rank) hand is listed on the top of the pay table (ex "Royal FLush"). Usually, but certainly not always, the payouts in the table increase as the frequency decreases. Again, this isn't always the case. The example above is for a game often called "Full Pay Jacks or Better". It has a return of 99.54% with optimal strategy. According to the pay table, the payout for the most common (lowest rank) "winning" hand "Jacks or Better" (that is, a pair of Jacks, Queens, Kinds or Aces) is 5 coins. Since you bet 5 coins and the payout was 5 coins-- it's not much of a win at all-- in fact, it's really only a push or tie. Fun fact: with optimal play 99.54% JoB, the probability of a flush is somewhat higher than a straight-- yet the flush payout is 50% larger!

Why do video poker machines in casinos show so many pay tables for each game?

They don't really. Typically a video poker machine will be configured with exactly two different pay tables for each game, though sometimes there might be more. Yet... for a machine that allows from 1 to 10 coins to be wagered for each play, you would see what looks like 10 different pay tables! (And even 100 pay tables for a machine that allows 100 coin max bet!) What's going on? There are always exceptions, but most of the time you would find that 9 of those 10 paytables in that 10-coin example are actually duplicates of each other-- meaning that those 9 have the exact same return and same exact same perfect play stategy! One of those pay tables-- the one for betting 10 coins (max bet) would likely have a higher return and (generally) a different optimal strategy to go along with it. If you look closely in the example below (scroll horizontally if you have to) , you will notice that pay tables with the same return have payouts that are multiples of each other. The first 9 paytables are all mulitple of the following payouts:
1-2-3-4-6-9-25-50-250
That pay table-- and indeed all 9 duplicates of it-- each have the same return, 98.37%. The last paytable is really just exactly 10 times this pay table:
1-2-3-4-6-9-25-50-800
and it has a return of 99.54%. The increase of the Royal Flush payout from 250 to 800 per coin bet-- clearly obvious form the paytabe-- improves the return by almost 1.2%. Trust us, that's huge!
JACKS OR BETTER
DRAW POKER
ROYAL FLUSH......2505007501000125015001750200022508000
STRAIGHT FLUSH...50100150200250300350400450500
4 OF A KIND......255075100125150175200225250
FULL HOUSE.......9182736455463728190
FLUSH............6121824303642485460
STRAIGHT.........481216202428323640
3 OF A KIND......36912151821242730
TWO PAIR.........2468101214161820
JACKS OR BETTER..12345678910
Bet 10

What do vpfree2 pay tables looks like?

Historically, vpfree2 pay tables were only presented per-coin bet. Since newer players sometimes found that confusing, more recently we added the ability to show the payouts in our listings for any number of coins. However, When space is limited, we often an abbreviated notation, ommiting the hands, again per-coin bet. For Example:
99.54% JOB :
1-2-3-4-6-9-25-50-800

100.76% DW :
1-2-2-3-5-9-15-25-200-800

When using these abbreviated tables, experienced video poker players know to mulitply each payout by the number of coins bet to get the table shown in the casino. Generally, the per-coin pay table is what gives rise to how players commonly refer to games. That's why 99.54% game is also known as "9/6 JoB" regardless of how many coins are bet-- as it represents the ratio of the Full House to Flush payouts.

Game names, Full Pay and other fun-- but largely arbitrary stuff.

Rather than refer to a game by its full pay table, Video poker players tend use all kinds of unoffoical short-hands. For example, players use FPJOB (full pay jacks or better) or 9/6 JoB instead of 99.54% 1-2-3-4-6-9-25-50-800 JoB. Or NSUD (Not So Ugly Ducks) instead of 99.73% 1-2-3-4-4-10-16-25-200-800 DW44 Since the full paytable (and return) are not always used when disussing VP, you have to be careful. There are, as you might guess, plenty of video poker games in a casino that have "9/6" ratio payouts-- but many of them may return less than 99.54%. FWIW, you shouldn't infer that the term "full pay" means it's a good game. The only way to be sure something is a good game is to examine the entire pay table.
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