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by Jerry "Stickman"

Jerry "Stickman" is an expert in craps, blackjack, video poker and advantage slot machine play. Frank Scoblete's and Jerry "Stickman's" book "Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo and Pai Gow Poker" presents dozens of video poker games and strategies for maximum returns. He is a regular contributor to top gaming magazines. You can contact Jerry "Stickman" at

Over the last couple of decades, returns on video poker games have been steadily eroding. It doesn't seem that long ago when casinos were offering a generous variety of nearly 100 percent return video poker games. They even offered some video poker games that returned over 100 percent with proper play. Sadly, those days are long gone. Competition and corporate greed have decimated the video poker return landscape.

On occasion, some opportunities still present themselves. You do, however, need to take the time and effort to ferret them out. When you actually run across such a game, it often comes with reduced, or sometimes non-existent, slot club points. My question to you is this: is it worth your time and money to play a high-return video poker game that offers no slot club points?

Let's look at some specific games.

I have found full-pay 9/6 (9-for-1 for a full house, 6-for-1 for a flush) Jacks or Better video poker games returning 99.5 percent. These are probably the most commonly available "full-pay" games. Another full pay game that can be found (though probably not on the Las Vegas strip) is a 10/7 (10-for-1 for a full house, 7-for-1 for a flush) Double Bonus Poker game returning 100.2 percent. These games tend to be available at casinos in downtown Las Vegas and at off-strip locals casinos. Believe it or not, I have even found some 9/7 Jacks or better games that return 100.8 with proper play. In many cases these games did not earn any slot club points.

Would you play these games?

Let's compare some details.

The most common Jacks or Better pay table today is probably 8/5 returning 97.3 percent. This is 2.2 percent less than the 9/6 full-pay version. Casinos generally return about 0.1 to 0.5 percent to players in slot club points that can be exchanged for drinks, food, and other items, such as free play or even for cash. An 8/5 Jacks or Better game would effectively return 97.8 percent if a 0.5 percent slot club bonus was included (97.3% + 0.5% = 97.8%). Unfortunately, even at the high-end slot club point earning rate, this is still woefully shy of the 99.5 percent return for a full-pay game. To give an example, let's assume a player plays on a quarter machine at $1.25 per hand for an hour at a moderate rate of 500 hands per hour. He would run $625 through the machine during that time. A full-pay game would cost our 500-hands-per-hour player about $3.13 per hour on average. At the same play rate, the 8/5 machine with the slot club bonus would cost our player $13.75 an hour on average - over $10 more. This is over four times the loss rate of the full-pay game.

How about the other games mentioned...

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