7 Reasons Video Poker Is Dying

Three Video Poker Machines, with RIP Gravestone
When video poker was introduced to casino floors, it quickly became a popular option for players. It offered something new and was another option for slots and blackjack players to try something new. New games were developed on a regular basis and the popularity grew. But it seems like video poker has been losing popularity for several years now.

It’s rare to see a new video poker game in the casino or video poker online, and many of the older machines are being replaced with slot machines or table games or have pay tables that aren’t as good as they used to be. When you factor in the lower comp rates most casinos are paying for video poker play, it’s no wonder that it’s losing popularity.

I don’t think that online video poker will completely die out for decades, because there are still players who go to the casinos to play it. Online casinos have no reason to stop offering online video poker games because it doesn’t cost more to keep the games they already offer available. But this doesn’t mean that video poker isn’t dying. Here are seven reasons video poker is dying.

1 – Limited Game Variety

Answer these two questions. Your answers don’t have to be exact; just make a quick estimate.

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How many different slot machines are available in the casinos you visit and online?
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How many different video poker games are available in the casinos you visit and online?

I don’t know the exact answers to these questions, but my guess is there are over 1,000 different slot machines available in land based casinos and online casinos. On the other hand, most people are hard pressed to name more than five video poker games.

In truth, there are somewhere between 10 and 20 video poker games offered in big land based and online casinos. But the majority of play is on a few of these games. As a matter of fact, there are only three video poker games that I recommend learning how to play.

  • Deuces Wild
  • Jacks or Better
  • Pick’em Poker

The reasons these are the only three I recommend is because they each have pay tables available that have a low house edge and at least one of them is available in just about every casino on the planet.

Casinos have the opportunity to add new slot machines on a monthly basis. Slot machine manufacturers are always developing and offering new machines. Gamblers like to play new things, so the casinos want to offer new experiences.

Slot machine manufacturers also keep coming up with new features and ways to improve their games. Instead of simple machines with three reels spinning inside with cherries and bars, we now have slot machines with story lines, video and audio aids, multiple bonus rounds, and graphics that rival live television.

Video Poker Screen of Jacks or Better GameNow think about the advancements in the video poker machine industry over the last 40 years. Jacks or Better and Deuces Wild are basically the same as they’ve been since they were introduced.

This limits the variety of games, and it doesn’t look like this is ever going to improve. The casinos are more focused on their profit per square foot than ever, and the bottom line is they have a better chance to make money with the latest and greatest slot machine than with a new video poker machine.

2 – Fewer Good Pay Tables

The house edge and pay back percentage of video poker machines are based on the pay table and the strategy that you use. While most video poker machines, even those with poor pay tables, have a lower house edge than slot machines, you still need to find the best pay tables if you want to have the best chance to win.

The casinos don’t want serious video poker players. Instead they want recreational players who don’t know anything about how pay tables change the house edge and who don’t use strategy to lower the edge. The casino makes more money on video poker machines with poor pay tables.

If you play video poker online, such as Jacks or Better, the best pay table is the one that pays nine for a full house and six for a flush. This pay table is called a 9/6. When you play on a 9/6 machine and use a strategy card the pay back percentage is over 99.5%. This doesn’t leave much for the casino. They still make money on the machine, but it’s limited in comparison to slot machines.

Casinos have been phasing out video poker machines with good pay tables. Instead of offering several 9/6 Jacks or Better machines, they’ve replaced many of them with 8/5 machines, or worse. You can still find 9/6 machines, especially when you play online, but they’re getting harder and harder to find.

The same is true for Deuces Wild and other games. By reducing the number of available machines with good pay tables, each casinos profits per dollar wagered on the machines goes up, but it reduces the number of people playing the games.

This cycle gives the casinos even more reason to look for more profitable options for the space taken up by video poker machines. If this continues, and I don’t see any reason it won’t, it’s going to kill land based video poker machines in any but the largest ones.

As I mentioned above, you can probably keep playing video poker online and on your smart phone for years to come because the games are already developed and the cost to keep offering them is minimal. In other words, the online and mobile casinos operate with a different cost and profit structure than land based casinos, so it’s not killing online and mobile video poker.

3 – Few Progressive Jackpot Opportunities

Every gambler doesn’t dream of hitting a huge jackpot that can change their financial future, but many of them do. Every day thousands of people who never go to a casino take their chances with a lottery ticket. Casinos do everything they can to duplicate the dreams of untold riches that the lottery produces.

In almost every casino you can find slot machines with progressive jackpots. Many of these jackpots climb to over $1 million from time to time. Even the ones with jackpots as small as $100,000 offer life changing money to most of the people who play them.

When is the last time you played a video poker machine that offered a progressive jackpot?
Group of People Sitting Playing Video Poker at Casino

They do exist, but there aren’t many of them. The last one I played was over 10 years back, and it was a Jack or Better with a poor pay table. The progressive wasn’t much higher than the normal 4,000 coin pay out for a royal flush, so it wasn’t a popular machine.

With the top pay out of 4,000 coins on the most common video poker machines, players don’t see how they can win a life changing jackpot. While hitting a 4,000 coin payout is nice, it rarely produces enough to break even on your play over time.

If you’re playing a quarter machine and wagering five coins per hand your total bet for the hand is $1.25. When you hit a royal flush the win is $1,000 on this machine. Everyone wants to win $1,000, but it’s not like you can pay off your house or car with it.

Even if you’re playing a $1 machine, the total bet per hand is $5 at max coins, and the royal flush pays $4,000. These jackpots pale in comparison to the hundreds of thousands and millions that many slot machines offer.

The only upside to video poker progressive jackpot machines, if you can find one, is if the jackpot climbs to a certain point the game can be played with a positive expectation.

This doesn’t happen often, and it requires some mathematical skills to determine where the jackpot has to go for it to eliminate the house edge. You’re almost always better off in the long run to stick to a regular video poker game that has a good pay table and use a strategy card. If you want to chase a big pay day, play the lottery or a progressive jackpot slot machine.

The lack of a life changing jackpot is clearly one of the reasons that video poker machines aren’t as popular as slot machines.

4 – Strategy

In order to keep the house edge as low as possible and have the best chance to win any time you play video poker online or in a land based casino, you have to play the best possible strategy. One of the best things about video poker is that you can play your hands a certain way to maximize your chances to win.

Video Poker Games at Casino, Floating Gray Outline of Head with Symbols Inside

Video poker games are based on poker hands. Most of them use a standard deck of 52 playing cards, but a few use a standard deck plus a joker. You receive a starting hand and choose which cards to hold and which cards to exchange for new cards in hopes of improving your hand.

The pay tables shows how much you win for each hand and you can use this information when you decide which cards to keep.

Here’s an Example:
You’re playing Jacks or Better video poker and you get a pair of queens in your starting hand. You know that any pair of jacks or higher guarantees a win. You keep the pair of queens and draw three new cards. You hope to receive another queen or another pair, because these hands pay more than the pair of queens.

The ability to use strategy is good for players, because if you always make the correct playing decisions it lowers the house edge. On the other hand, every time you make a mistake it makes the house edge go up.

This ability to use strategy is good for the reason I just mentioned, but it also hurts the popularity of video poker. When you play the slot machines you don’t have to worry about strategy. You don’t even have to think. You put money in the machine and push the spin button. Many slot machines have a feature that even lets you set the machine so it automatically takes a number of spins so you don’t have to do anything.

Different players go to the casino for different reasons. They all want to win, but for most of them this is just a hope, not a plan. Many gamblers want to forget about the world and their problems for a little while so they don’t want to be forced to think while they play.

Slot machines, and many other casino games, are perfect for relaxing and forgetting the outside world. Video poker machines don’t really fit. If you want to have the best chance to win playing video poker you have to work at it.

You have to use a strategy card or have the correct strategy memorized. After you memorize the basic video poker strategy for the game you’re playing it becomes easier to play. But it still requires more work and thinking than the slot machines or other games like baccarat or roulette.

5 – It’s Boring

Video Poker Screen with Man Yawning
If you’ve never played video poker you might not realize how boring the game gets. Sign up for a free account at one of online casinos on this site and play 1,000 hands of video poker. After you learn how to play and achieve a few winning hands, you can see that the game quickly becomes boring.

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As you learn the best strategy it can be somewhat interesting, but you quickly realize that most hands play themselves. Once you learn the most common plays, everything about your play becomes mechanical.

Video poker only uses 52 or 53 cards most of the time so you see the same set of cards every hand. Even when you switch to a different video poker machine you see the same set of cards.

Compare this to modern day slot machines. Each slot machine uses a set number of symbols, but many slots also include bonus features and games within games to keep them interesting. You can also move just a few feet and play a slot machine with completely different symbols and features.

New slot machines introduce new twists and features all of the time, but new video poker machines are stuck with the same basic setup as old ones. In addition, boring casino games don’t give gamblers much of a reason to hurry back and play again.

The casinos understand that gamblers want to play new and exciting games, so they’re using video poker less and more exciting and profitable games like slots more.

6 – Lower Comps

Most land based casinos, and many online casinos, offer a slot’s club or player’s club program that rewards players for gambling. The casino gives players comps for their play. Comps are based on the amount you gamble and the theoretical amount the casino makes from each game you play.

Casino comps programs are unique to each casino, or group of casinos owned by the same company. You usually don’t know exactly how much you earn for your play, because you don’t know the return percentage the casino predicts for each game and you don’t know the percentage of that number the casino gives back in comps.

Over the years the casinos have learned how much they can expect to make for each game and they’ve learned how much they can return to the players in comps and still keep a good profit.

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You can find books, with most of them written several years back, that talk about playing video poker using good pay tables and proper strategy that earned enough comps to break even or come close.

Casinos have access to the same books that you do, and they realized that some players were using comps in combination with smart play to reduce the casinos’ profit. The answer to this from the casinos’ side was to reduce the amount of comps you earn.

In the past you might have earned .25% in comps when you played Jacks or Better, but today it might only be .1%. The other thing that casinos can do now is break up your play for comps purposes based on the individual game you play.

Instead of lumping all of your video poker play into one category, whether you played Deuces Wild or Jacks or Better, they can assign a different comp rate for each individual game. In most land based casinos your comps play is tracked electronically, so it’s easy to use a computer program to track everything you do.

This is even easier to do when you play at online or mobile casinos. The reduction of comps leaves less money for video poker players to play with, so it hurts the entire segment. This is directly adding to the death of video poker.

7 – Fewer Machines

Woman Counting Stacks of Money
I’ve mentioned this in a few of the sections above, but the fact is that fewer video poker machines are available in land based casinos today than there used to be. As the profit per square foot of casino space used for video poker machines has went down, the casinos have replaced them with slot machines or table games that offer a higher profit.

Land based casinos, at least the larger ones, will probably still offer a few video poker machines for several years. They know that a few players still come to play video poker, so they don’t want to drive these players to another casino. But the casinos don’t want to have too many low profit machines.

Everything you’ve read so far might make it seem like the casinos lose money on video poker. The truth is that video poker machines are still profitable for the casinos; they just aren’t as profitable as other games. This means the casinos aren’t losing money on video poker, they just aren’t making as much on it.

Here’s an example:
If you play Deuces Wild or Jacks or Better with good pay tables and use the best strategy you can keep the house edge below .5%. Most video poker players don’t use the best strategy and play on machines that don’t have the best pay table.

This can make the house edge go up to somewhere between 2% and 5%. This means that for every $100 you bet on a machine the casino keeps between $2 and $5. This isn’t bad, because it doesn’t take long to run $100 through a video poker machine.

The house edge on slot machines runs from 2% to 10%, depending on the factory settings. This means that for every $100 you run through a slot machine the casinos keep between $2 and $10.

I don’t know the exact numbers, and they vary from casino to casino, but the average profit for every dollar played on a slot machine is higher than the average on a video poker machine.

In addition, players play more spins per hour on a slot machine than hands per hour on a video poker machine. Each video poker hand takes longer to play because you have to pick the cards you want to keep and draw new cards.

Many slots players play twice as many spins per hour than video poker players play hands per hour. This makes slot machines even more valuable.

Conclusion

I enjoy playing video poker, so I don’t want to see it die. The odds are that it won’t completely die out anytime soon, but the trend of fewer machines in casinos looks like it’s going to continue. Online and mobile casinos will probably always offer video poker, but I can see a day when land based casinos completely do away with video poker.

Land based casinos are already eliminating video poker machines with the best pay tables, and as fewer players play because of the lower pay tables it just makes the situation worse.