I’ve told you before about my love for video poker.
I split my time just about evenly between video poker and table games on most of my casino trips.
I’ve come to know and love the game in all of its many variations.
I’m the kind of video poker player who hops from machine to machine.
I’ve played every title at the two dozen or so US casinos I’ve played at.
Since I’m also pretty good at taking notes, I have details on a lot of the games and pay tables I’ve played over the years.
I can tell you, for instance, that the title I have played the most is Jacks or Better, in a Full Pay version, which by my estimates I play almost twice as much as any other title.
The game that gave me the worst odds? A version of Double Double Bonus Poker at Red Hawk in California that I didn’t notice had a short pay table. I calculated the casino’s edge was about 91%. I may as well have been playing a slot machine.
So what’s the best video poker game ever?
I don’t mind telling you.
I’m pretty sure it’s Deuces Wild.
Why Deuces Wild Might be the Best Video Poker Game Ever
I’ll put it in plain English – some Deuces Wild games I’ve played have given me the highest payback percentages on any machine game I’ve ever played.
Though I took good notes, I didn’t always calculate and write down the house advantage on every video poker title I played.
That would have been an insane amount of work.
But looking at the titles where I did take down these details, Deuces Wild consistently gave the casino the smallest built-in edge.
A few years ago, I found several pay tables on Deuces Wild games spread around Atlantic City, and based on my notes I played them for a few hours on two different days.
These games had pay tables that produced a house edge of just 0.58%. I’ve seen a few of them in Vegas, too, at the Hard Rock and the downtown Grand. Understand that I base that figure on the usage of optimal game strategy. I always follow optimal strategy as closely as I can while playing.
Here’s the pay table I found on these versions of Deuces Wild. Based on playing optimal strategy, this table provides an expected return of 99.42%.
|Natural Royal Flush||800|
|Wild Royal Flush||25|
|Five of a Kind||15|
|Four of a Kind||4|
|Three of a Kind||1|
I figure I play about 600 hands per hour, never more than $1 per hand. At a payback rate of 99.62%, my expected losses on this game are just $2.28 per hour.
I used to spend way more than that playing Mortal Kombat at my local arcade.
But then again … while Deuces Wild is a low-risk video poker title, it’s not really the best game of all time. I get bored with the wild card gimmick pretty quick, and the pay table is weighted really heavily in favor of the top two or three hand values.
It’s also easy for me to get frustrated without at least a high pair payout, much less no payout for two pair.
Why Jacks or Better Might Be the Best Video Poker Game Ever
I play Jacks or Better more than any other title.
It seems unfair not to refer to it as the best video poker game of all time.
After all, Jacks or Better is the closest thing to a standard set of rules in the game of video poker. All other variations are based on this simple game.
Look at the pay table for the game of Jacks or Better that I played most recently in Las Vegas at New York-New York. It’s a 9/6 game, the kind that gives players the best odds.
|Four of a Kind||25|
|Three of a Kind||3|
|Pair of Jacks or Better||1|
Playing according to optimal strategy, the above pay table has a payback percentage of 99.54%.
Besides having a really low house advantage, Jacks or Better keeps me interested. After all, the game pays out for a wider variety of hands than Deuces Wild, so it feels like I’m winning more often.
(In case you’re wondering, last time I checked you can find a bank of 9/6 Jacks or Better games at New York-New York in the banks of machine games by the hotel registration desk. I heard the VIP room has a few $10 games with the above pay table, but I’ve never been in there myself.)
But Jacks or Better seems so vanilla. Does it really deserve the lofty title of best video poker game ever made?
What if you’re looking for something really different? A video poker game that’s really “out there?”
Why Hot Roll Poker Might Be the Best Video Poker Game Ever
IGT created Hot Roll by adding a fun dice-rolling bonus feature to their standard game of Triple Double Diamond.
I know IGT has produced a ton of slot games featuring the Hot Roll feature, but I’m talking about Hot Roll Poker. I’ve played it on a couple of recent trips to the Golden Nugget.
This is a standard Triple Double Diamond game with an awesome twist.
Randomly, a pair of dice will appear on the screen during either the deal or the draw.
You have the option of rolling the dice for a multiplier between 2x and 12x (if you win), but it’ll cost you double your initial wager.
The payback percentage on the title I play is 95.9% – nowhere near the best on this list.
But the game is bizarre to me, combining video poker and random dice rolls about once every six hands.
It keeps me coming back.
That’s the only reason I would consider a dark horse candidate like Hot Roll Poker for the title of Best Video Poker Game Ever. It’s a lot of fun, and it is like no other video poker game you’ll play.
Here’s the pay table for the Hot Roll Poker game I play frequently in Vegas.
|4 Aces + 2-4||800|
|4 Aces + A-4||400|
|4 Aces + 5-K||160|
|4 2 4 + 5-K||80|
|4 + 5-K||50|
|Three of a Kind||2|
|Pair of Jacks or Better||1|
Playing according to optimal strategy at my usual rate, my expected losses for this game amount to $24.60 an hour.
That makes this game high-risk for me, but every now and then I don’t mind playing my luck.
That’s especially true when the game is this much fun.