How to Find Profitable Video Poker Opportunities

Everyone has their favorite casino games and everyone wants a chance to win some money while playing these games. Some people are more interested in playing as long as possible than having the best chance to win on any given trip.

Video poker offers some of the best chances to extend your bankroll at the same time as having a chance to land a big win. The secret is finding a machine that offers a high percentage return to the player and learning to play using the best possible strategy.

Every game requires a different strategy, but there is a correct way to play every hand of video poker. Even in a situation that loses in the long run, there is a way to play that loses the least amount of money.

Jacks or Better and Deuces Wild
In addition to learning the best strategy you have to be able to find machines that offer the best payouts. I know I mentioned this already, but if you can’t find a machine it doesn’t matter how good it pays or how well you know the strategy.

For example, there are a few video poker machines that pay back over 100% with perfect strategy but they are almost impossible to find. This post concentrates on a couple popular video poker variations that are fairly easy to find, Jacks or Better and Deuces Wild.

You can find many different pay tables with some offering better payback percentages than others. Here are the pay tables that you need to find to have the best chance to win while playing video poker. (There are a few better pay tables available for Deuces Wild, but this is by far the most common “good” pay table you will find.)

The best Jacks or Better pay table is often called a 9 / 6 which stands for the pay back for a full house and a flush. The return is over 99.5% with perfect strategy on a 9 / 6 machine. Here is the complete pay table.

800 Royal Flush
50 Straight Flush
25 Four of a Kind
9 Full House
6 Flush
4 Straight
3 Three of a Kind
2 Two Pair
Pair of Jacks or Better
The most common favorable Deuces Wild pay table is called a “not so ugly ducks” machine. You may see this referred to as NSUD. The pay back percentage with perfect strategy is over 99.7%. Here is the complete NSUD pay table.

800 Natural Royal Flush
200 Four Deuces
25 Wild Royal Flush
16 Five of a Kind
10 Straight Flush
4 Four of a Kind
4 Full House
3 Flush
2 Straight
Three of a Kind
The next step after finding the best machines is using the best strategy. I suggest picking up one of the strategy cards that are about the size of a credit card and using it while playing. This way you can always see the best play.

Comps and Player’s Clubs
When you play the machines listed above giving the house less than a half percent edge you can play longer and keep playing long enough to give yourself the best chance at winning a top payout by hitting a natural royal flush.

You also should always combine your video poker play with as many comps as possible. Most casinos have a player’s club that you can join that rewards you for your play. You may earn cash back, free hotel stays, free meals or many other types of benefits.

Even if your rewards don’t include any actual cash, they are still worth something. If you get a free meal that would have cost you $20, it’s the same as winning an extra $20 because it is money you didn’t have to spend.

Most casinos don’t pay back enough through their player’s clubs to let you consistently play with an advantage against them, but you may be able to play a break even game in the long run.

The majority of players don’t play correct strategy so the casinos take their money quicker. Sometimes player’s club benefits are determined based on everyone’s play so if you play perfect strategy you may be able to gain a small edge with your benefits.

Either way, if you always play using the best strategy and take advantage of the player’s club benefits you are doing everything you can to reduce the advantage the house has.

Video Poker Tournaments
Another area that can offer extended playing time on a set bankroll and / or a chance to play with a small edge over the house is playing in video poker tournaments.

A video poker tournament is a contest where the players play video poker for a set period of time. The players with the highest balance at the end of the pre-set time either moves to the next round of play or wins the prizes.

You may be able to find free video poker tournaments, but most of them have an entry fee.

You may be wondering how you could play with an advantage over the house in a video poker tournament. Here is an example.

Many tournaments have a minimum guaranteed prize pool and sometimes there aren’t enough entrants to cover the entire amount. This is called an overlay. If the guaranteed prizes total $1,000 and there is only $900 in entry fees, there is a $100 overlay. This creates a profitable situation for the entrants. On average, each entrant will win a percentage of the overlay based on how many entrants there are. In real life only the players who finish in the money enjoy the overlay, but if you put yourself in enough situations with an overlay you will come out ahead in the long run (Assuming you play at an average or above average level. This isn’t difficult if you use basic strategy.).

Conclusion
You can use video poker to extend your casino play and combine it with player’s club benefits to give yourself the best chance to win. Always play on the best machines, sign up for the player’s club and use the best strategy.

How Comps Programs Are Different for Poker Players Compared to Blackjack Players

Casino regulars love nothing more than winning big and beating the house – but scoring comps comes in at a close second.

Short for “complimentary,” comps are the freebies doled out by every casino to help customers alleviate recent losses. Sure, you might have just blown through a few hundred bucks at the blackjack table, but when you’re handed a free buffet voucher, the loss stings just a little bit less.

Casinos use a carefully designed system to distribute comps, but even veteran players can have trouble understanding exactly how that system works. And that’s definitely by design.

Most players simply assume that their players club card allows their play to be tracked, allowing the casino to assign points over time. And while that’s a rough outline of how it all goes down, the actual calculations are far more complicated.

The situation gets even messier when you factor in different game types. Slot players earn comps at a different rate than table game fans, for example, and folks who prefer poker have an entirely different set of rules to work with. Knowing your way around this maze of math formulas is the best way to ensure that your play produces the maximum amount of comp points.

To that end, I’ve put this page together to explain exactly how comp programs differ for two of the most popular games on the floor – blackjack and poker.

How Comps Are Distributed to Blackjack Players

So, you’ve sidled up to a standard blackjack table, slid your M Life or Total Rewards card to the dealer, and watched them scan it through to the system. Now what?

Well, that’s a mystery many blackjack enthusiasts are still trying to crack.

The Total Rewards website spells things out quite clearly for slots and video poker:
“You will earn 1 Reward Credit for each $5 you play on reel slot machines and $10 for video poker.”
But when you scroll down in search of table games like blackjack, the numbers aren’t nearly as clear – and in fact, Total Rewards doesn’t provide any concrete numbers at all:
“For table play, be sure to hand your Total Rewards card to the dealer or pit supervisor as soon as you sit down to play and ask to be rated.
Reward Credits are earned based on length of play, average bet and type of game.”
As you can see, Caesars Entertainment properties use a proprietary formula – based on how long you play, your average wager amount, and the type of table game played – to determine how many comp points you’ll earn. Obviously, this leaves quite a bit of wiggle room for the casino, while players never really know for sure how their blackjack session is being parlayed into points.

It’s even murkier over on the M Life website, which only provides the following information for table game players:
“Members must present their M Life Rewards Card to a table games pit supervisor prior to table games play.
M Life Rewards members must satisfy minimum betting requirements to be rated for table games.
Please see a table games pit supervisor at participating M Life Rewards destinations for such assistance.”
In this case, playing at an MGM Resorts property leaves you at the whim of a table games pit boss, along with an unknown minimum betting requirement.

Thankfully, the internet levels the playing field tremendously, and you’ll find plenty of blackjack forums and travel sites where players can discuss their own comp experiences. By perusing a few of these platforms, I’ve been able to come up with the following figures.

Whether you’re using the M Life or Total Rewards card, you’ll need to bet an average of $25 per hand just to get your play “rated” by the casino. For most recreational gamblers who bet the minimum of $5, or $10 when they’re feeling lucky, that threshold alone prices them out of the comp program.

But let’s say you pony up the dough and bet a green $25 chip on each hand (on average). Now, the next factor to consider is your hands per hour rate. Most industry estimates peg the average blackjack table at 80 hands per hour, so I’ll go with that.

If you’re betting $25 per hand and playing 80 hands per hour, you’ll have $2,000 in total bets on the table over that span.

The next calculation the casinos use involves their theoretical hold rate, or the number of dollars they can expect to win based on the game’s house edge. Depending on your skill level, blackjack offers a house edge between 0.50% (for basic strategy experts) and 1.5% (for folks playing by “gut instinct” alone). Knowing this, I’ll use a flat 1% house edge to make the math easier.

Having bet $2,000 in total over the hour, while facing a house edge of 1%, the casino’s theoretical hold stands at $20.

From there, you can expect to receive comp points equal to 10% of the hold, which comes to just $2 in this example.

REMEMBER
That was for one hour of play only, while most of us tend to stick around the tables for a few hours at a time. But for a general rule of thumb, assume you’re earning about $1 in comp points for every $1,000 you put at risk in a 60-minute period.

The big problem most blackjack players encounter is improper ratings by the pit boss. It’s their job to closely observe the action, entering your typical betting unit and your time at the table into the system. But if the pit boss sees you starting out at $10 bets to warm up, before you start firing the green chips, you might not ever get rated at all.

On the other hand, you might get your rating set at $25 bets from the outset, only to up the ante when you’re on a heater. At this point, you could be betting $50 or $100 per hand, all while the system continues to track you as a $25 bettor.

For this reason, blackjack players who value comp points should always take measures to clarify their play to the pit boss. That’s their job, after all, so you’re not bothering anybody by asking for a quick chat. Just let them know your name, that you’ve had your card scanned, and your plan for the game.

Something like “Hi there, I’m so-and-so, and I’ll be betting $25 and up for the next hour or two” should be sufficient. And if you decide to increase the stakes midway through the session, just give the dealer a glance and let them know to alert the pit boss about the new wager.

This can all seem like a chore at first, especially for casual gamblers, but it’s the only ironclad way to ensure that your blackjack play is properly rated.