Return to player (RTP) is one of the most-important concepts when it comes to selecting video poker games. Serious gamblers want to know how much they stand to win in the long term with these games.
Sometimes, players look at the payout percentage above all. I’m here to tell you, though, that RTP isn’t as crucial as it seems.
This logic goes against conventional video poker strategy. However, I’ll explain why you shouldn’t worry so much about payback.
What Is Video Poker RTP?
Video poker RTP refers to how much a game is programed to pay in the long run. Here’s an example:
- 9/6 Jacks or Better features 99.54% RTP.
- You wager $1,000 on this game.
- You should theoretically win back $995.40.
Theoretically is the key word here. You aren’t guaranteed to earn back $995.40. However, this amount represents what you stand to win on average based on the RTP.
Which Video Poker Games Offer the Best RTP?
It stands to reason that you should seek out the best payout percentages possible. After all, high RTP improves your odds of winning money.
Below, you’ll find some of the highest-paying video poker machines in existence. These variations represent the “full pay” (best pay table) versions of each respective game:
- Deuces Wild – 100.76% RTP
- Joker Wild (Kings or Better) – 100.65%
- Double Bonus – 100.17%
- Loose Deuces Wild – 100.15%
- Double Double Bonus – 100.07%
- One Eyed Jacks – 99.98%
- Deuces Wild 44 – 99.96%
- Super Aces – 99.94%
- Triple Deuces Wild – 99.92%
- Double Joker Wild – 99.91%
- Illinois Deuces – 99.91%
- Not So Ugly Deuces (NUSD) – 99.73%
- 9/6 Jacks or Better – 99.54%
- 8/5 Bonus Poker – 99.17%
Why Is RTP Overrated?
Video poker presents really exciting possibilities when considering that some games offer over 100% RTP.
Full pay Deuces Wild, Joker Wild, Double Bonus, and Double Double Bonus all give you a chance to earn profits. Furthermore, these machines represent the lone profitable opportunities that casinos willing give you.
Of course, not many casinos are willing to provide you with such opportunities. You’ll only find 100%+ RTP video poker in Nevada casinos.
Even if you can’t spot these games, though, you can still look for other variations that offer over 99.5% RTP. Only blackjack (w/ great rules) can rival these variants.
The problem with focusing on RTP, though, is that you probably won’t earn anything close to the stated figure. You could make much more or much less than the given payout percentage.
Here’s an example:
- You play full pay Super Aces.
- The RTP on this game is 99.94%.
- You log 2,000 hands.
- You suffer a cold streak and only earn approximately 60% RTP.
You won’t truly know the payback figure you achieve in the short run. However, this example illustrates what could happen based on the luck factor.
You can’t just sit down to a Double Bonus game (100.15% RTP) and expect to win profits. Your winnings will vary wildly in the short run.
Remember: most video poker games only deliver the royal flush about 1 in 40,000 hands. Given that the royal flush makes up around 2% of total payback for any given variant, you’ll be waiting a long time on this large chunk of winnings.
Other Important Factors to Consider
You should definitely consider more beyond just payout percentages when deciding what to play. Here are other factors to think about before sitting down to a machine.
Video poker variations differ on what they pay for. Jacks or Better lives up to its name by paying for as little as a pair of jacks.
Deuces Wild, meanwhile, forces you to get at least a three of a kind to win. Of course, this game also makes all 2s wild. But you still need a much-stronger hand to get paid in Deuces Wild.
You’ll receive more overall payouts with Jacks or Better. Bonus Poker is the same, because it also pays for just a pair of jacks.
Some video poker games feature several bonus payouts. They appear attractive on the surface, because they give you more chances to win big beyond a royal flush.
The downside, though, is that these bonus payouts also increase volatility. Double Double Bonus, which has four different bonus payouts, doesn’t pay as much for a two pair (1 coin) and straight (4 coins) as most other variations.
Receiving smaller payouts for two pairs and straights might not seem like a big deal. However, these hands occur much more frequently than the four of a kinds you need for bonus prizes. That said, you’ll deal with much higher volatility while waiting for the bigger payouts to come through.
Availability of Strategy
You need to study strategy to boost your chances of winning. However, video poker strategy doesn’t come in one form.
Instead, each variation features its own nuances. You must master these intricacies to improve your odds.
Popular games like Jacks or Better and Bonus Poker feature widespread strategy resources. A simple Google search will turn up plenty of learning tools.
A game like One Eyed Jacks, however, won’t offer many resources. You’ll need to purchase a video poker trainer ($40 to $50) and practice for obscure variations like this.
How to Increase Your Winnings
You don’t need to go overboard with RTP. If you’re going to play video poker anyways, though, then you might as well take the following steps to increase your potential payback.
Use a Strategy Chart
Video poker strategy charts show which hands you should keep in order of importance. You merely need to scan these tools to find your hand.
Below, you can see a basic strategy chart for 9/6 Jacks or Better:
- Royal flush, straight flush, 4 of a kind
- Four cards to a royal
- Full house, flush, straight, 3 of a kind
- Four cards to a straight flush
- Two pair
- High pair (As through Js)
- Three cards to a royal flush
- Four cards to a flush
- Low pair (10s through 2s)
- Four cards to an outside straight
- Two suited high cards
- Three cards to a straight flush
- Two unsuited high cards
- Suited K-10, Q-10, and J-10
- One high card
- Discard everything
Use a Video Poker Trainer
A video poker trainer is a program that looks much like a regular online video poker game. The key difference, though, is that it points out when you make mistakes.
You can note your blunders and play the given situations better next time. With more practice, you’ll eventually master whatever variation you’re focusing on.
Video poker trainers cover a variety of games. Free versions allow you to practice the basics, such as Bonus Poker, Deuces Wild, and Jacks or Better. You may need to buy a more-complex trainer to practice other variations.
Play Free Online Video Poker
The best online casinos let you enjoy free video poker after completing registration. You can use this serve as another way to practice the game.
The free version is great to use when you’ve already reviewed a strategy chart and/or used a trainer. It’s like taking the training wheels off and seeing what you’ve learned without actually risking money.
You may even find free online video poker to be entertaining in its own right. You can try increasing your credits to liven up the action.
Get Bonuses & Loyalty Rewards
Both land-based and internet casinos give you VIP rewards for playing real-money video poker. You should take advantage of such freebies whenever possible.
Remember, though, that brick-and-mortar casinos require you to sign up for the player’s club first. You’ll receive a player’s card that tracks your play afterward.
Gaming sites automatically track your VIP perks. You just need to make a deposit and begin playing for real money to get bonuses.
Volatility is the single biggest reason why you shouldn’t obsess over RTP. Video poker features a wide range of payouts, and it pays less frequently than most casino games to make up for the larger prizes.
I’m not saying that you should completely overlook RTP. Payback can be important, especially when you play a lot of real money video poker.
However, RTP should just be one of the factors you use to determine which game to play. It doesn’t need to be your primary focus.