The 4 Best Places to Play Video Poker on Fremont Street in Downtown Las Vegas

Plaza Hotel, California Hotel Casino, El Cortez Casino, Downtown Grand Hotel, Poker Neon Image
If you can take one look at a photograph of Downtown Las Vegas in all its vintage glory, and still tell me The Strip can hold a candle to what Sin City used to be, I can’t help you.

Despite my personal inclinations though, pale imitations of European landmarks paired with faux luxury at sky-high prices does appeal to a certain crowd. It must, with most of the 42 million visitors who made the trip to Las Vegas last year confining their entire experience to The Strip.

And hey, I don’t mind seeing a cool show like Absinthe, superstar talents like Celine Dion, or the latest culinary masterpieces from Michelin Guide acclaimed celebrity chefs. Who doesn’t, right?

What I won’t do anywhere on Las Vegas Boulevard, however, is play video poker.

Simply put, The Strip is where video poker bankrolls go to die. Thanks to corporate consolidation within the gambling industry – MGM Resorts and Caesars Entertainment combine to operate 17 of the 30 casinos lining The Strip – players are left to the mercy of the house.
Red and Yellow Video Poker Machine
As you might suspect, casinos in the Silver State aren’t exactly known for their merciful ways. After all, they didn’t haul in $11.9 billion in gambling win last year alone by taking it easy on players.

Video poker players bear the brunt of it too, because the ubiquitous Game King machine from IGT allows casinos to tinker with the pay table as they see fit.

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Instead of offering a video poker variant’s “full pay” table – or the precise payout structure that creates the game’s highest payback percentage for the player – most casinos on The Strip reduce key payouts.

By changing the 9/6 full pay table in Jacks or Better, for example, the game’s standard 99.54 percent house edge falls off a cliff:

Jacks or Better Pay Table Comparison

TABLE PAYBACK
9/6 99.54 percent
9/5 98.45 percent
8/6 98.39 percent
8/5 97.30 percent
7/5 96.15 percent
6/5 95.00 percent

Playing basic strategy a 9/6 version of this video poker classic offers a perfectly reasonable – and even beatable when comps are factored in – payback percentage of 99.54 percent. That leaves a house edge of only 0.46 percent for players to overcome, which is right on par with the best skill games like blackjack.

But as the payouts are downgraded – through slight adjustments to the key pays on a full house and/or flush – Jacks or Better becomes nothing short of a travesty. If I wanted to battle against an unbeatable house edge of 5.00 percent, I’d splash around on a pure game of chance like double-zero roulette, not the ultimate strategic thinker’s game Jacks or Better.

And this pay table conundrum affects all the other variants as well whenever you play on The Strip:

Deuces Wild Pay Table Comparison

TABLE PAYBACK
25/15/9/5/3/2 100.76 percent
25/15/11/4/4/3 99.96 percent
25/16/10/4/4/3 99.73 percent
25/15/9/4/4/3 98.91 percent
20/12/10/4/4/3 97.58 percent
20/12/9/4/4/3 97.06 percent
25/16/13/4/3/2 96.77 percent
20/10/8/4/4/3 95.96 percent
25/15/10/4/3/2 94.82 percent

Double Bonus Poker Pay Table Comparison

TABLE PAYBACK
10/7 100.17 percent
9/7/5 99.11 percent
9/6/5 97.81 percent
9/6/4 96.38 percent
8/5 94.19 percent
7/5 93.11 percent

Double Double Bonus Poker Pay Table Comparison

TABLE PAYBACK
10/6 100.07 percent
9/6/4 98.98 percent
9/5 97.87 percent
8/5 96.79 percent
7/5 95.71 percent
6/5 94.66 percent

To get a taste of how hostile The Strip has become for sharp video poker players, just realize that you can no longer find a single full pay Deuces Wild machine and its famous player edge of 100.76 percent – anywhere on Las Vegas Boulevard. Not a single machine mind you, even in the best high-limit rooms where whales typically get the best odds in exchange for dumping serious sums.

Even so, I know there’s plenty of players out there who are cut from my mold. Maybe it’s nostalgia over the good old days, or just the frugal nature of grizzled veteran gamblers who prefer savings over spectacle, but Downtown Las Vegas still calls out to a significant segment of the video poker community.

Who am I kidding… it’s mostly due to Downtown’s abundance of full pay machines covering all the most popular variants.

On that front, this is a piece dedicated to the five best places to play video poker on fabulous Fremont Street in the Downtown district.

1 – The Plaza Hotel & Casino

Red Plaza Hotel and Casino Vegas LogoAn iconic fixture of the Downtown skyline since 1971, the Plaza has the highest payback percentage on Fremont Street thanks to its low-limit 1-Pair Joker Wild machines:

The Plaza’s Best Video Poker Options

VARIANT FULL PAYBACK COIN DENOMINATION(S)
1-Pair Joker Wild 100.65 percent 25¢, 50¢
Double Bonus 100.17 percent 25¢, 50¢¸ $1
Double Bonus Plus 99.76 percent 25¢, 50¢, $1
Bonus Deluxe 99.64 percent 25¢, 50¢¸ $1, $2
Jacks or Better 99.54 percent 25¢, 50¢, $1, $2
Bonus Poker 99.17 percent 25¢, 50¢, $1, $2, $5
Deuces Joker Wild 99.07 percent 25¢, 50¢, $1, $2
Double Double Bonus 98.98 percent 25¢, 50¢, $1, $2

The beauty of video poker at the Plaza is variety, as you’ll find more than 225 machines covering 10 different variants – almost all of which offer full pay tables.

2 – California Hotel & Casino

California Hotel and Casino Las Vegas LogoIf you prefer the value-packed action found at Boyd Gaming properties, the California is your home away from home when playing Downtown.

Along with full pay Double Bonus and it’s sweet 0.17 percent player edge, video poker at the California spans the spectrum from nickel stakes to five bucks a coin:

California’s Best Video Poker Options

VARIANT FULL PAYBACK COIN DENOMINATION(S)
Double Bonus 100.17 percent 25¢, 50¢, $1
Not So Ugly Ducks (Deuces Wild) 99.73 percent 5¢, 10¢, 25¢, 50¢
Super Double Bonus 99.69 percent 25¢, 50¢, $1
Triple Double Bonus 99.58 percent 25¢, 50¢, $1
Jacks or Better 99.54 percent 25¢, 50¢, $1
Loose Deuces Wild 99.20 percent $1, $2, $5
Bonus Poker 99.17 percent 5¢, 10¢, 25¢, 50¢, $1, $2, $5
Double Double Bonus 98.98 percent 25¢, 50¢, $1

3 – El Cortez Hotel & Casino

El Cortez Casino Las Vegas LogoThe Strip keeps adding new casinos every year, but if you want to play at the oldest continuously operated gambling hall in Sin City, the El Cortez is the ticket.

Constructed in 1941, the El Cortez looks and feels like you’ve gone back in time to a bygone era. That antique vibe can be found in the video poker parlor too.

El Cortez’ Best Video Poker Options

VARIANT FULL PAYBACK COIN DENOMINATION(S)
Double Bonus 100.17 percent 25¢
Super Double Bonus 99.69 percent $1
Double Deuces Wild 99.62 percent 25¢, $1
Triple Bonus 99.59 percent 25¢
Bonus Deuces Wild 99.45 percent 25¢
A-C-E-S Bonus 99.40 percent 25¢

If you couldn’t tell, Bonus-based games are the specialty at El Cortez, so head here to hunt for those high-paying four Aces with a kicker jackpots.

4 – Downtown Grand Hotel & Casino

Downtown Grand Las Vegas Casino LogoOriginally opened in 1964 as the Lady Luck Casino, the newly renovated Downtown Grand is like a little slice of The Strip transported to Fremont Street.

Except for the full pay video poker machines, that is, which are led by the relatively obscure “Super Aces” version of Bonus Poker:

Downtown Grand’s Best Video Poker Options

VARIANT FULL PAYBACK COIN DENOMINATION(S)
Super Aces

(Bonus Poker)

99.94 percent 25¢, 50¢, $1
Jacks or Better 99.54 percent 25¢
Bonus Poker 99.17 percent 25¢, 50¢, $1, $2, $5
Double Double Bonus 98.98 percent 25¢, 50¢, $1, $2, $5

In case you’re unfamiliar with Super Aces, this game is just Bonus Poker with a premium jackpot payout of 2,000 coins (on a max-bet) when you land four of a kind in Aces.

Conclusion

Downtown Las Vegas is where it all started, from Benny Binion hosting the first World Series of Poker, the world famous $0.99 shrimp cocktail, and 100x Odds bets on the craps table. Legends were born there, million-dollar bankrolls were built and burned through in a day, and the world’s gambling capital emerged like an oasis in the Mojave Desert sands. The old drag on Fremont Street has seen better days to be sure, but if you’re a sharp video poker player, historic venues like the ones listed above are the most beautiful sight in Sin City.