Video poker and slot machines used to be fairly close in terms of popularity. In the 1980s, real money video poker captured the majority of the gambling world‘s attention.
Over the past few decades, though, slot machines have definitely pulled ahead. They’re now easily the most popular games in the casino.
Slot machines have flourished in recent times, while video poker has faded into the background. You can read about the five main reasons why this has happened below.
The Graphics and Features Haven’t Evolved
Slots developers are in a very competitive field. They’re long past the days when they could draw players’ attention through a simple slot with cherries and bananas. Instead, slots makers have to create games with stellar graphics, animations, and features.
Megaways slots, for example, is one of the most notable developments within the past several years. It allows developers to put hundreds of thousands or even millions of winning ways in a slot.
Win multipliers are another hit feature in slot machines. They multiply winning combinations and greatly boost game’s payouts.
Video poker, by contrast, has largely stayed the same since it hit casinos in the late 1970s and early ‘80s. The machine cabinets on which this game is played have improved. The games themselves, however, are quite similar to what they’ve always been.
When you sit down to a video poker game, you can expect a simple blue screen with cards. No fancy graphics or animations are involved.
International Game Technology (IGT) has taken some steps to liven up the video poker scene. They’ve included multipliers and other interesting features in certain variations.
Largely speaking, though, video poker games still don’t offer many embellishments or stellar graphics. Instead, they’re a throwback to the days of gambling’s past.
The Gap Between Payout Percentages Has Closed
High payback is definitely one of video poker’s biggest attributes. Some variations can deliver over 100% return to player (RTP).
Slot machines, on the other hand, have always had a reputation for not paying much. In Las Vegas casinos, slots can feature even less than 90% RTP.
On average, though, the gap between video poker and slots payback has closed somewhat. In fact, slot machines can pay just as much as video poker in some cases.
Land-based slot machines have improved regarding payout percentages as well. You can typically expect between 93% and 94% RTP on the average land-based game.
Of course, video poker can still deliver some outstanding payout percentages. 9/6 Jacks or Better, which is common in plenty of casinos, offers 99.54% payback.
But in many cases, you’ll be dealing with video poker machines that offer less than 99% RTP. As for the aforementioned games that deliver over 100% payback, they’re quite rare and only available in Nevada.
Casino Comp Hunting Has Been Diminished
Comp hunting (also referred to as comp hustling) is the art of getting the most value from casino loyalty rewards. It’s typically combined with high-paying casino games for maximum return.
Gambling author Jean Scott popularized comp hunting in the 1990s. She’s written many books on how she and her husband combined video poker with the best comps that Las Vegas offered. The result was over 100% RTP when combining her video poker winnings with the rewards.
Unfortunately, comp hunting isn’t quite as effective as it was a couple of decades ago. First of all, comp rates are lower these days.
Most casinos only comp slot and video poker players at a 0.1% rate. Back when Scott was hustling casinos, 0.2% and 0.3% rates were more common.
The second knock against comp hunting is that the average video poker game doesn’t pay as much. Outside of 9/6 Jacks or Better, you’re not going to find a lot of machines that pay in the same range.
Even when combining 9/6 Jacks or Better and a 0.1% comp rate, you’re only looking at 99.64% RTP. This payback is excellent in the grand scheme of gaming, but it’s not enough to deliver guaranteed profits.
The Jackpots Aren’t Very Big
Jackpots are huge draws to slot machines. Some slots offer progressive jackpots worth millions of dollars, which is no doubt life-changing money.
Other games feature massive payouts that are based on the total stake. The highest-paying online slots, for example, feature prizes worth over 100,000x your total bet. With a $10 wager or more, you could win $1 million with these games.
Some video poker machines allow you to wager more than a quarter. Assuming you’re allowed to bet $5 per coin, then you’d win $20,000 (5 x 4,000) with a max-bet royal flush.
While this amount is impressive, it’s not quite as much as what the biggest slot machines offer. Furthermore, you’ll need to risk $25 per hand (five coins) to win the aforementioned $20k payout.
Video Poker Is Not Great for Casual Gamblers
Some gamblers enjoy using sophisticated strategy to win money. Many of the same people enjoy playing video poker due to its extensive strategy.
This game requires you to master a number of different situations to achieve the top RTP for any given game. You can use strategy charts or video poker trainers to master a specific variation.
Learning video poker strategy can be worthwhile when the payout percentages are high. Assuming you find a full-pay Deuces Wild machine in Vegas, for example, then you can achieve 100.76% payback with perfect strategy.
Of course, casual gamblers aren’t exactly interested in spending hours learning strategy. They enjoy games that allow them to get started with no time wasted.
Slot machines are perfect for these types of players. They feature very little strategy beyond looking for games with high payout percentages. Upon finding a game with high RTP, you can simply choose the spin button and let fate do the rest.
Video poker is quite different in this regard. Assuming you sit down to a machine with no sense of strategy, then you’ll lose a few percentage points on the RTP. This scenario is far from ideal when you’re just looking to have a little fun with gaming.
Will Video Poker Remain a Viable Part of the Gaming Industry?
Video poker may not have the graphics, features, or simple gameplay of slots. Nevertheless, it still finds its way onto nearly every gaming floor.
In fact, video poker is by far the second most popular machine-based game behind slots. It easily draws more players than electronic baccarat, blackjack, and roulette.
Video poker may have lost the battle for gambling machine supremacy with slots. But they still makes for great alternatives for playing slots.
It draws gamblers who want to use their wits, yet don’t want to sit at a table with others. Many variations also offer much higher payback than the average slots.
It’s possible that video poker could fade away at some point in the future. I don’t, however, see this happening any time within the next few decades.
Our Final Thoughts About Video Poker
Slot machines have become the top dogs in both land-based and online casinos. They offer a nice mixture of high-quality graphics, big payouts, and easy gameplay.
With that said, many gamblers prefer slots over video poker. Nevertheless, video poker machines aren’t going to disappear completely.
They let you play draw poker against the house while using skill to win. You can also look forward to high RTP when you know which games to play.
Video poker may not be the trendiest casino game. But it does have enough attributes to remain a staple in casinos for years to come.