I read an account of how a “card of the day” promotion works in video poker. I don’t know if this kind of promotion is still available at major casinos on a regular basis, but these kinds of marketing schemes tend to roll back around given some time.
Also, this “card of the day” promotion illustrates some gambling concepts that I think casino gamblers should be aware of. Keep reading below to learn more.
How a “Card of the Day” Promotion Works
The way a card of the day promotion works is actually simple: Every four of a kind of a certain ranking on a specific day gets a double payout.
For example, on Sundays, a four of a kind made up of threes might pay double. The card of the day for Monday might be a four, and on Tuesday, a five, and so on. On those days, a four of a kind made up of fours and fives, respectively, would trigger the bonus payout.
If you’re playing 9/6 Jacks or Better at a casino offering this promotion, doubling that four of a kind payout on that one hand adds 0.44% to the expected return for the game. Since 9/6 Jacks or Better normally offers a 99.54% expected return, assuming you play optimally with this promotion in effect, the game offers a 99.98% expected return.
If you’re trying to make a living playing real money video poker, you still can’t do it with this game even with the card of the day promotion. But if you’re just wanting to earn comps and enjoy a vacation without spending a lot of money, a 99.98% return is great.
How the Card of the Day Bonus Affects Other Video Poker Games
As luck would have it, there are other video poker games where such a promotion might make a negative expectation game into a positive expectation game. For example, a 10/7 Double Bonus video poker game already has a positive expectation for the player with its 100.17% return.
Even a 9/7 Double Bonus game has a 99.11% return. And since you’re getting a bigger payout for four of a kind already because you’re playing Double Bonus Poker, you get to add 1.37% to your return instead of just 0.44%.
This would turn either version of Double Bonus Poker into a profitable opportunity. You might not get rich playing these games, but you could show a long-term profit.
What would this do to your expected win rate? Assume a quarter game and a max bet per hand, and you’re wagering $1.25 per hand. An average video poker player probably gets in 600 hands per hour, so that’s $750/hour in action. With an expected return of 101.54%, your hourly win rate is $11.55.
Now, suppose that the casino has both a quarter game with the 10/7 pay table along with a dollar game with the 9/7 pay table. Which one should you choose?
Assuming a dollar game and a max bet per hand, you’re wagering $5 per hand. At 600 hands per hour, that’s $3,000 per hour in action. With an expected return of 100.48%, your expected earnings per hour are $14.40.
Even though the expected return for the game with the worse pay table is significantly lower, the fact that you can play for higher stakes makes it more profitable.
You should be able to do this calculation for any game you’re playing where you have an edge so that you can calculate your most profitable opportunities.
The formula is simple: Take the average bet size and multiply it by bets per hour and by the size of your edge, which equals expected win rate per hour.
What Does Playing With an Incorrect Strategy Do to Your Expected Return?
Even with a generous promotion like this, you must know how to play the game with optimal strategy to have a hope of getting any kind of edge over the casino.
How much does playing with an incorrect strategy subtract from your expected return?
It depends on how often you’re deviating from the correct strategy, but a safe estimate is that a novice video poker player ignoring correct strategy is giving between 2% and 4% back to the house. This is assuming that you know something about poker to begin with.
You’ll notice that even in the best-case scenarios I’ve used in the above examples, the size of your edge was never more than 1.54%.
If you’re losing 2% in expectation because of strategy mistakes, you’re back to playing a game where the house has an edge. That’s okay if you’re a recreational gambler, but I’m convinced that if you’re going to do something, you should learn how to do it as well as possible.
This applies to video poker as well as any other endeavor you pursue.
How to Find a Good Strategy for a Video Poker Game
20 years ago, it was hard to find an optimal strategy for most video poker games. There were a handful of books offering some strategies for some games, but nothing comprehensive.
For years, though, you could buy a software package called Video Poker for Winners that would generate the correct strategy for any pay table you fed into it. That software is no longer available, but you can find online resources that will do the same thing for you.
My favorite resource for learning the correct strategy for video poker games is the series of books about video poker strategy from Bob Dancer. He has six of these books available:
- A Winner’s Guide to Jacks or Better
- A Winner’s Guide to Double Bonus Poker
- A Winner’s Guide to Full Pay Deuces Wild
- A Winner’s Guide to NSU Deuces Wild
- A Winner’s Guide to Pick’em Poker
- A Winner’s Guide to Double Double Bonus Poker
You can buy these for around $20 a book on his website, but you can also buy the entire set. He also sells laminated video poker strategy cards, similar to the kinds of strategy cards you can get for blackjack with color-coding and everything.
How a Card of the Day Promotion Changes Your Strategy
Something I haven’t mentioned yet is that when you’re playing in a game with a promotion like this, the optimal strategy for the game changes. For example, suppose you have a have with four cards to a flush, but you also have a pair that matches the card of the day.
Normally, drawing to the flush would be the correct play, but what happens when you’re getting twice as much of a payout for the four of a kind? Is it worth it to go for the four of a kind when you have a pair in that situation?
These deviations are derived by looking at the probability of hitting the hand multiplied by the payout for the hand.
Let’s assume the payout for a flush is 7 for 1. You have a 9/47 probability of getting your flush, so the expected return for that play—ignoring other results for simplicity’s sake—is 9/47 x 7, or 1.34.
You have to get both of the cards of that ranking, so the probability of that happening is 1/47 x 1/47, but that’s offset somewhat by being able to get another try on that third card you’re drawing to.
As it turns out, the odds of making your four of a kind are still too low for this to be a viable change in your playing strategy. But it’s something to consider, and that’s not the only dilemma you’re liable to face either.
And the strategy decisions also change when the card is a different rank. For example, if the card of the day is seven, that has a different set of strategy implications than if the card of the day is four.
When you have a card of the day promotion, you’ll sometimes want to break a made hand like a full house to draw to the four of a kind instead. You’ll also often want to draw to a pair even if you have four cards to an open-ended straight.
Some Promotions Are Often Run in Conjunction With Other Promotions
You might find a casino that offers you a double payout for the four of a kind of that rank AND gives you a free $5 bet on the roulette wheel. How much is that free bet worth?
If you lose, it’s worth $0. But if you win, it’s worth the probability of winning multiplied by $5.
On a standard American Roulette wheel, the probability of winning an even money bet is 18/38, or 47.37%. This means that the free roulette spin is worth another $2.37.
This also adds to the expected return to the game.
Our Thoughts on “Card of the Day” Promotions
Being a savvy gambler means learning how to spot good promotions like a card of the day promotion in video poker, but that’s not enough. You also need to know how to analyze that promotion to see what it does to your expected return.
Sometimes, it will turn into a profitable opportunity, while other times, it might not be worth it. Either way, the better educated you are as a gambler, the better off you are. Good luck on your gambling!