Is a 1-for-1 Payoff at Video Poker (Such as on a Pair of Jacks) Really a Win?

 Is a 1-for-1 Payoff at Video Poker (Such as on a Pair of Jacks) Really a Win?

On any common video poker game, the pay table starts with hands that just get you your money back. Bet  five credits on Jacks or Better, and a pair of Jacks gets you back five credits.

From time to time, I get emails from readers who think that’s not quite right. “That’s not a win,” one reader wrote recently. “If you just get your money back, you don’t win anything. That doesn’t seem right.”

I look at those bottom-of-the pay-table payoffs as the equivalent of a push in blackjack. If I have 17 and the dealer has 17, I don’t win and I don’t lose. I get my money back. Same thing with a high pair in video poker. It’s designed to give you your money back so you can stay in the action longer.

If they didn’t have these hands that are really pushes in video poker, they’d have to start eliminating paying hands in order to keep the percentages right. If you got to keep your bet AND got the same amount in winnings, the pay table would have to start at a pair of Kings instead of a pair of Jacks to keep the percentages equivalent. You’d get nothing on Queens and Jacks, and there would be more fast losing sessions in a much more volatile game.

A 9-6 Jacks or Better game that gave you your bet back plus winnings instead of just giving your bet back would pay 121 percent if no other changes were made to the pay table. A casino that offered that game would go broke. Having hands that just push is a compromise that leaves a more playable game than you’d get if they just started eliminating paying hands.

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