STICKMANS STANCE: RETURN, VARIANCE, AND BANKROLL
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" firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are many choices when it comes to playing video poker. While almost all players look for the highest return possible in the game they prefer to play, that is where the similarity ends. Some players prefer a basic game with few big payoffs. Others prefer several large payoffs (with accompanying reduced payoffs for lesser hands). To put it another way, some players prefer to play a game where the swings in their bankroll are relatively small. Others really like the thrill of chasing several possible large payoffs offered by the game even though it increases (sometimes substantially) the bankroll swings. Consequently each different type of game can have a different bankroll requirement.
How much different? Let's take a look.
When looking at bankroll requirements for a session (or an entire trip to a casino), a few factors determine the result. They are the return (the higher the return, the lower the bankroll requirements), the variance (where higher variance games cause more sever bankroll swings and hence a larger bankroll is required), and the amount of play for the session or trip (the more hands played on a negative expectation game, a larger bankroll is required).
Variance is higher when more money is paid out on high paying but less frequently occurring hands. For example, 9/6 Jacks or Better (where a full house is paid at 9-for-1 and a flush is paid at 6-for-1) has only one very high paying hand - the royal flush. The variance of this game is 19.51. This is among the lowest variances of the popular video poker games.
8/5 Bonus Poker (where a full house is paid at 8-for-1 and a flush is paid at 5-for-1) pays a bonus for certain four-of-a-kinds. The variance of this game is 20.91 - slightly higher since slightly more money is paid out in fewer hands.
Deuces Wild games pay 250-for-1 for a hand of four deuces in addition to 800-for-1 for a royal. Lower paying hands get reduced payouts so more payoff money is concentrated in fewer hands forcing the variance higher to about 25.7, depending on the exact payout schedule.
Double Bonus Poker doubles the payout for hands with four 5's through four kings to 50-for-1 from the 25-for-1 in Jacks or Better. It also pays 80-for-1 for a hand of four 2's, 3's for 4's and twice that, or 160-for-1 for a hand of four aces. Some lower paying hands are reduced to compensate for these higher payouts. By concentrating payout money in fewer, higher paying hands the variance increases to around 28 depending on the pay table.
Players who enjoy having more opportunities for getting large payouts enjoy playing Double Double Bonus video poker. This game is like Double Bonus Poker except for the addition of what is called a "kicker" with four Aces, 2's, 3's, or 4's. This kicker is an Ace with four 2's, 3's or 4's, which pays 160-for-1. With four Aces, the kicker is a 2, 3, or 4, which pays a whopping 400-for-1, half of what a royal pays. Because so much of the payout money is allocated to so few hands, the variance of this game soars to almost 42.
What does this mean in terms of how much money you will need to feel fairly certain you will be able to last through your planned playing sessions? When the variance is higher, so are the swings in your bankroll - both up and down. You have higher highs, but you also have lower lows. So, the higher the variance, the more money you will need survive the down swings.
To determine bankroll requirements, we first need to determine how much play is going to be given. Many players play about 600 hands per hour so this is what I used in the following bankroll calculations. Also, four hours of play per day for a three-day trip will be used since this is a reasonable estimate for the average play and an average stay in Las Vegas. This totals 2,400 hands per day for a three-day total of 7,200 hands. Also, since the recreational video poker player tends to play quarter machines, $1.25 per hand (max credits on a quarter machine) will be used in the calculations. You can substitute your own numbers for a more personal answer. For example, if you play a dollar game, simply multiply your bankroll requirements by four. If you play at a rate of 800 hands per hour rather than 600 hands per hour, the total number of hands will be one-third higher.
Let's look at the games mentioned above. In each case, only the higher return and more popular versions of each game are examined...
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