When most people think of the ways APs try to beat video poker (VP), three main opportunities come to mind. The AP may go after a 100%+ machine. He may play to win a large progressive jackpot. Or the AP may discover and burn out a valuable promotion. But these opportunities are often short-lived . The main way APs target VP is much more insidious. By thoroughly understanding the comp-reward structure, the AP may be able to get a sustainable and significant edge over the house. The AP can fly under the radar while pocketing profit. And this bonanza can go on for months or years.

For the AP to beat the house by beating the rewards program, several things have to go right. The VP minded AP will scout casinos looking for a confluence of opportunities.  When the AP finally finds the right mixture of what he needs to gain a profit, he will camp out on the casino’s dollar until the well goes dry.

First, the AP needs to locate a game that gives nearly even odds if played perfectly. The most common opportunity is to find 9/6 Jacks or Better video poker, with a return of 99.54%. But there are others. Some of the most common targets are 99%+ versions of Bonus Poker, Double Bonus Poker, Joker Poker and Deuces Wild. Moreover, the AP will need to find one of these games at a denomination that allows him to cycle significant coin-in. At a minimum, the AP will look for a $5 machine (5 coins at $1 each), but usually prefers to play at least a $25 machine (5 coins at $5). Next, the AP will look for a cash reward program that returns at least 0.25% back as cash for points, or an equivalent value in free play. These rewards are often given periodically based on a minimum play requirement. Other times, the player can directly convert points to cash or free play at his leisure. For example, a casino that gives 1 point for each $1 wagered, together with a points-to-cash award of $1 for 400 points, is giving back 0.25%.

Next, the AP will look for a casino that offers multiple point days. In the situation above, if the casino offers 3x-points days, then the AP will get 0.75% back as cash for points or free play on those days. This immediately puts the AP above a 100% return. The AP will play as many hours as necessary on the multiple point days to get the maximum theoretical return for his play. A return just over 100% is still a marginally decent opportunity. The AP wants more.

The AP will also look at the opportunity for additional benefits for his high level of play. After all, the AP will be playing $25 per spin for extended periods of time, which often qualifies him as a top-tier player. Premium players get premium rewards. These rewards will certainly include generous meal and hotel comps.  But most likely the AP will be given much more.

There may be direct cash bonuses for his play. This cash may go by another name, such as “show-up money” or “airfare reimbursement,” but to the AP it is just more cash. His extra rewards may also include free tournament invitations with cash prizes. He may negotiate a discount on loss program that will allow the player to further increase his edge. The AP may be given merchandise he can resell.  He may be receiving significant free play and match play mailers on top of other cash awards. He may be able to generate cash offers with no play at all. And if the AP is hosted, he may work his host for even more.  To the AP, it is just a matter of how creatively he can milk the system.

After the AP has started this wheel in motion, a portion of his cash or free play will pay for the rest of his play. After his free play is cycled through, the AP can then generate the theoretical required to keep his status. He doesn’t need to invest a dime to maintain his status. He simply takes his cash rewards and plays with a portion of that money.  The casino is paying the AP to generate false-theoretical. The casino is, in effect, paying the AP to beat the house.

Very few professional video poker players are beating the games themselves. When these APs beat the house, they are beating the entire house.

Received his Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of Arizona in 1983. Eliot has been a Professor of both Mathematics and Computer Science. Eliot retired from academia in 2009. Eliot Jacobson