“9-6” Isn’t the Magic Number in Every Video Poker Game

 “9-6” Isn’t the Magic Number in Every Video Poker Game

The game that put video poker on the map in the 1980s was “Jacks or Better.” And as it gained in popularity, the word spread that the best games had “9-6” pay tables, meaning they paid 9-for-1 on full houses and 6-for-1 on flushes.

That doesn’t mean every player noticed. I used to frequent a casino that had a long bank of Jacks or Better machines that alternated pay tables. Next to a 9-6 machine would be one with an 8-5 pay table, then 9-6, then 8-5 and so on. Now, 9-6 Jacks or Better pays 99.5 percent with expert play, compared with 97.3 for the 8-5 version, so my wife Marcy and I were surprised that people seemed to be playing them indiscriminately. As many people were playing the 8-5 games as the 9-6ers.

Still, “9-6” became such a buzz word for good video poker that a casino executive once proudly showed me his 9-6 video poker games. He’d asked me to take a look at his video poker floor and tell me where he could improve, but wanted to point out his 9-6  machines as a starting point. Problem: They weren’t Jacks or Better. They were Double Bonus Poker games, where the top pay table is 10-7, and not 9-6.

You have to go beyond the “9-6” to determine whether you’re getting a top-of-the-line video poker pay table. A 9-6 table is strong on Jacks or Better or Double Double Bonus Poker, but the mark of excellence can range from 11-7 on Triple Bonus Poker to 8-5 on Bonus Poker. You won’t find the top games in every casino, but knowing what they are gives you a starting point for a little comparison shopping.


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