Taking the ‘long term’ payoff into account, the average slot machine offers a higher return than video poker. The reason is clear: poker is a game of skill, and market competition forces all types of casinos (online and land-based) to give game winners higher skill than games of luck. Most people are not skilled at playing casino games, so casinos are able to pay high rewards for those who have mastered the game of danger, assuming that the profit will come from the mistakes of other players.
Slot machines versus video poker
I can show you how to get the maximum return from a video poker machine, but you need to remember that the maximum return may still be less than 100%. Any theoretical return from a video poker machine that is less than 100% means the casino has the edge over you, and this happens in slot machines, Baccarat or Roulette. The difference is that the casino advantage over video poker gaming may be (but is not always) relatively small; in the neighborhood 1% or more. Even with making lots of mistakes, the average player is likely to achieve a long term return of over 97% when playing a good game of video poker. By ‘good’ I mean games like Jacks for full pay or Better, which are widely available on the Internet. This version of video poker offers a 99.54% return if the player uses the right playing strategy. That translates to a casino edge of around 0.50% which is similar to the average game of Blackjack and is undoubtedly a lower edge than the average slot machine, which is usually 3-5% at best. However, to effectively realize the total return to video poker play has, at one point or another, accepted the Royal Flush and its cousin, the Straight Flush.
This rarely happens; A Noble will only come once every 40,000 hands and a Straight Flush once every 9000 hands, on average. Since we’re dealing with the averages in random play, there’s nothing stopping you from getting a Royal on your first hand, but that’s unlikely. And the lack of such short-term hands changes the returns you can expect when you play, say, 1000 hands of video poker, which is two or three hours of game play. I don’t want to get too involved with the math here, but Royal Flush and Straight Flush add a total of 2.53% for a 99.54% return on full-age Jacks or the better video poker games I mentioned earlier. Since it is unrealistic to hit a Royal or a Straight Flush over 1000 hands of play, your returns will likely be more in the 99.54% area minus 2.53% or 97%.
That translates to a 3% casino edge, which isn’t far from a good slot machine. What are ‘good’ slot machines? Well, I don’t know, because they can’t be measured like video poker games. But, just for discussion purposes, let’s say we can identify a slot machine that has a long-term payback of 97% (a casino edge of 3%) and requires 3 quarters per spin. Generally, a quarter of a video poker game will require 5 quarters of a hand and slots and video poker games can usually be played at speeds of around 400 spins or hands per hour. You can easily see that playing 400 spins on a slot machine at $ 75 per spin means you will be betting $ 300 per hour and playing 400 hands of video poker means you will be betting $ 500 per hour.
How to play video poker
If the casino advantage, in the short term, is 3% on each game, your expectation is to lose $ 12 per hour playing slot machines and $ 15 per hour playing video poker games, assuming you are using the right strategy. Of course, if you are going to be playing regularly, willing to finance the inevitable losing sessions that are part and of the video poker package and willing to learn the proper playing strategy then video poker is the better way to go, as your long term results will likely be. much better. But for many people, gaming is a form of relaxation or entertainment so I can’t really blame those who prefer playing slots over video poker games, especially if you have $ 20 in reserve you’d like to bet on.
Throw in the fact that many slot machines – especially those without progressive jackpots – pay out proportionately; that is, the return for a quarter played is one-third of the payback for three quarters played, your $ 20 might give you a few hours of entertainment. But unlike going to a movie, play or sporting event, this is entertainment that can see you walking away at a profit.