Video Poker: Understanding Game Volatility

MOST VIDEO POKER PLAYERS know that all games are not created equal. The tendency, however, is to look at the pay schedule and expected return (ER) to determine the best game available.

But you’ve then overlooked the game’s risk to your bankroll or variance. This figure is readily available and appears in many tables along with the game’s ER. In order to put this data in proper perspective, I’ve chosen four different Deuces Wild games that have the same winning hands; you will notice, however, that the payouts for these hands are different. Players fail to understand the full and real impact of the game’s variance on their bankroll for a single session. Once you comprehend the true impact of the game’s variance you’ll probably stop accusing the casino of cheating when you choose a highly volatile game, like Loose Deuces, and quickly run out of money. And hopefully, you will also learn to carefully consider both the game’s ER and variance before finding a seat.

 

NOT-SO-UGLY DEUCES & LOOSE DEUCES

 

Winning Hand/ 5-Coin Bet

Not-So-Ugly Deuces (NSUD): #1

Loose Deuces: (LDW) #2

 

Royal Flush/No Deuces

4000

4000

4 Deuces

1000

2500

 

Royal with Deuces/Wild Royal

125

125

5 of a Kind

80

60

 

Straight Flush

 

50

45

 

4 of a Kind

 

20

20

 

Full House

 

20

15

 

Flush

 

15

10

 

Straight

 

10

10

 

3 of a Kind

 

5

5

 

Expected Return (ER)

 

99.7283%

99.5952%

 

Variance

 

25.78027

70.05136

 

GAME VARIANCE: This is a measure of the game’s volatility and indicates the likelihood that short-term results will deviate from the theoretical expectations. The higher the variance, the more likely short-term results will differ from the theoretical ER.

 

COMPARING NSUD AND LDW

Deuce Frequency: From the table, you see that LDW returns 2500 coins on a 5-coin wager for 4 Deuces, while NSUD returns 1000 coins for the same hand. That difference is the reason many players are attracted to LDW. However, 4 Deuces occurs once every 4,700 hands in LDW and once every 5,367 hands in NSUD. You may wonder why it occurs more in LDW than in NSUD. It’s because correct strategy requires that you go for deuces more in LDW due to the increased payout. Even though you get 4 Deuces more often in LDW, it’s still a very infrequent hand. Now the next question is, how costly is it to the game’s ER if you fail to get 4 Deuces during your playing session? That’s answered in the next section.

 

Percent of Er From Deuces: The percent of the ER from 4 Deuces in NSUD is 3.73%, but for LDW it’s a whopping 10.64%. Making this point clearer, if you’re playing NSUD and fail to get deuces your ER is 95.9983%, but in LDW your ER without the deuces is 88.9552%. So it’s really not surprising that, without the deuces, you have no staying power in a volatile game like LDW.

 

Final Thoughts: Although LDW and Double Double Bonus (DDB) are fun to play they’re also risky to your bankroll. You may want to allocate a portion of your budget to high risk choices and then switch to less volatile games like NSUD or 9/6 Jacks or Better (ER 99.5439%, variance 19.51468) for the rest of your play. Always keep in mind that any game with a low ER is a bad play.

 

BY LINDA BOYD | SOUTHERNGAMING.COM

 

LINDA BOYD, a long-time table game player and knowledgeable video poker player, writes for Southern Gaming, Midwest Gaming and Travel and Arizona Player. Her videos are available for viewing on YouTube or on American Casino Guide’s website. Her book, The Video Poker Edge, includes free removable pay schedules and her free strategy cards for the most popular games. The Second edition, published in 2010, can be found on amazon.com and at various bookstores. Kindle edition is available.



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