Two major factors determine the characteristics of a video poker game. They are the payback, which can also be stated as return or calculated from the house edge, and the variance or volatility. We examined how payback (or return) and house edge are inter-related in the last section. In this section we will look at the other half of what defines a video poker game – variance or volatility.
Video Poker play is relatively straight forward. The play of the game has similarities to other casino games, but it is definitely more complex than playing slot machines. To properly play a slot machine, you simply bet an appropriate amount to maximize your return from the game and either pull the handle or hit a spin button. There is nothing else to so. While it may be true that some slot machines have a button to immediately stop the spinning and go to the final result, pressing this button does not change the outcome; it only helps you lose your money a bit faster.
You may have heard the adage that the "house always has the advantage." Video poker is an exception to that rule. If you look for the most liberal pay tables, and play them properly, you can have a thin advantage. Some pay tables, which are slightly in the machine's favor, can return over 100%, if you factor in incentives such as cash back, free play, mailers, and other comps.
The same games that players can enjoy in brick-and-mortar establishment are also available at online sites. Video poker games offer the same great odds and exciting, strategic gameplay whether you play them in person, or if you opt for video poker online instead. This makes them an excellent choice for any online gamblers who like playing games where they have an input on every hand.
Progressive games are different than any other type of game presented in this chapter of the guide. Any of the other games presented can be played at any time. The bankroll requirements will be the same. The variance will be the same. The strategy will be the same. They will all be the same regardless of when you start playing the game. They will be the same regardless of how long you play the game. Bankroll size, variance, and strategy will never change for the duration of your play because nothing about the game changes. Each winning hand pays the same for each hand on which it occurs.
If you choose the machine on the right, you'll lose your money six times faster! And your chances of winning will be far less. If the reason isn't obvious then consider this: If the player is getting back 99.54% and 97.29%, that means the casino is keeping 0.46% and 2.71%. The casino profit on the second machine is 2.71 ÷ 0.46 = 5.9 times higher.
In the early 1970s, when video poker was introduced and was still struggling for acceptance, the machines were usually referred to as "poker slots." And video poker has a lot in common with slot machines. They are easy to use, requiring no interaction with a dealer or with other players. Card combinations, like slot reels, are governed by a random-number generator.
Despite the importance of finding the best machines, most players don't. That's why casinos can offer both decent and lousy machines in the same casino and be confident that gamers will still play the lousy ones. They have to keep some good machines, otherwise they'd lose all the players who know what they're doing. But most of the machines will be bad, and most gamers will play them anyway. Heck, in Vegas even casinos and supermarkets have video poker, with absolutely terrible paytables, but people will still play them rather than going across the street to a casino where they can get seven times better odds. Go figure.