Chapter 5



So far you have learned how video poker started and grew. You have learned the basics of video poker play including return, house edge, and variance. You have learned how randomness actually works. You have also learned about several categories of video poker games that are available today. Plus you now know some methods of determining how large a bankroll you will need to play your video poker game of choice.

In this chapter you will learn about the “personality” of some video poker game types to help you decide just which type of video poker game you should play at the casino, and it offers a lot. 

Are you ready to see what the games are all about?

Excellent! Let’s start.


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Chapter 5.1


Just what is a low variance video poker game?

There is some fuzziness as to just where the boundaries between low, moderate, and high variance are drawn. For the purposes of this guide a low variance video poker game has a variance of 30 or less.

Here is a list of video poker games that are included in the low variance classification along with their approximate variance (the actual variance changes slightly as the pay table changes).

Jacks or Better

Low Variance Games

As you can see, there are quite a few games that have a relatively low variance. Not all of these games will be available in every casino, but you should be able to locate several of these no matter where you play.

As you learned in chapter 4.3, the lower the variance of the game you play, the smaller your bankroll can be. You do not need to bring as much money to the casino in order to play the same amount of time as you would for higher variance games. For most people, that is a big plus.

Besides a low variance, what other characteristics do these games share?

Because these games have a low variance, they tend to have a fairly simple playing strategy. By simple, I mean that the number of lines in the strategy chart is fairly low – about 30 lines or so. And the fewer lines of strategy you need to remember, the easier it is to learn to play properly. It is also less likely that you will make a mistake when you are playing, especially if you are playing while tired.

Chapter 5

By the way, it is okay to have a “cheat sheet” with you in a casino. A small copy of the playing strategy can be a boon to your play. It can help you if you are unsure of the proper playing strategy. You can use them just as you can use a blackjack strategy card at a live blackjack table. What you cannot use is an electronic device as they are specifically banned from use in casino play. If you only using a smart phone to store your strategy, it might presumably be okay since you would simply be replacing a piece of paper or card with the smartphone, but most casino management personnel do not see it that way. They feel you are using the device to cheat the casino. It is not worth the risk. If you want to bring your game strategy into the casino, bring it on a piece of paper.

So far you have seen two nice benefits of playing low variance games; smaller bankroll requirements and easier to learn playing strategy. These both sound great. So what is the down side? What are we not getting because of these two characteristics of low variance games?

As you recall, the reason for low variance is a small number of large paying but infrequent winning hands. That fact is true for all of these low variance games. The only high paying, low frequency hand in almost all of these games is the royal flush. The royal flush occurs, on average, once every 40,000 hands or so. If you played at a rate of 500 hands per hour, you would see one royal flush every 80 hours of play – on average. If your live casino playing sessions are four hour long, it would take 20 sessions, on average, before you saw your next royal flush. That is a very long time.

In between the royal flushes your bankroll is slowly going up or slowly going down. The operative word is slowly. In these low variance games there is no real excitement. All you are doing is making the bets, holding the proper cards and hitting the draw button. You win a few credits – or you do not. That is the norm when playing low variance video poker games. There is very seldom any real excitement. Low variance games can be boring.

Every hand you win is just a few more hands that you can play in your quest to hit that elusive royal flush. Even when you hit a straight flush – which is the second highest paying hand in a Jacks or Better game – while it is very nice, in reality, it is only an additional 50 hands that you can play to try to hit that royal flush.



Low variance games have a low risk, but they can be boring. That is their personality, level headed, but sometimes boring.

How well does that mesh with how you like to live your life. Are you careful in all the things you do? Do you take every precaution you can in an eort to minimize all risk? Does taking a risk scare you? Do you prefer driving a nice solid car on side streets to driving a motorcycle down the highway?

If you can answer yes to these questions, low variance games are probably for you. If you pattern your casino gambling after how you live your life, there is also very little chance you will become a problem gambler. So enjoy the safety of low risk, low variance games.

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KeysLow variance games are defined in this guide as games with a variance of 30 or less.

KeysThere is a large selection of low variance video poker games.

KeysLow variance video poker games require a smaller bankroll than higher variance games.

KeysPlaying strategy for low variance games tends to be simpler than higher variance games.

KeysOne potential disadvantage of low variance video poker games is they can tend to be boring due to the lack of several high paying hands.

  Video Poker Separator

Chapter 5.2


Okay, so low variance games are good for gamblers because they require a smaller bankroll and their play strategy is a bit less complex.

On the minus side, these games can be somewhat boring to play. In the early days of video poker, game manufacturers saw that the play on the Jacks or Better games slowly fell off.

They realized that the reason for this was the game they offered was too boring for some players. They decided to do something about it.

Double Bonus Poker

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What happened next started a long and steady practice by video poker game manufacturers of introducing games with higher paying hands as well as more high paying hands. It started with Bonus Poker where the pays for hands of four aces, 2s, 3s, or 4s were increased. This added some excitement when the gambler hit certain four of a kind hands.

Double Bonus was introduced next. It doubled the pays that were on Bonus Poker for all four of a kind hands. Now several additional hands generated a bit of excitement. The pays for four aces, 2s, 3s, or 4s really helped get the gambler’s juices flowing.




Notice that there is quite a difference in the variance of these games – from a low of 28 up to a high of 51. There is also quite a range of high paying winning hands among these games.

As a general rule, the higher the variance of a video poker game, the more “exciting” the game will be to play. By exciting, I mean the more high paying hands you will hit.

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In order to pay for all this added excitement, the pays for the more commonly occurring hands are reduced. What that means to you, the player, is that while you are not hitting the higher paying hands, you will be losing your money at a faster rate – in some cases a much faster rate.

When it comes to bankroll requirements to play these games, the large difference in variance between the low end and high end of the range will also make a big difference in how much money you need in order to play the higher variance games for the same amount of time as a lower variance games.


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One of the advantages of low variance video poker games is that the playing strategy tends to be fairly simple. As different hands become more desirable, as is the case with medium variance video poker games, the playing strategy must be altered to properly save for these additional and more desirable hands. In most cases, that means the strategy becomes more complex. A more complex strategy means that it is more difficult to memorize and play accurately because there are more lines in the strategy chart. It also means that you are more likely to make mistakes while playing. This is especially true when you become tired while playing. Every mistake in strategy that you make while playing video poker is more money taken from you and given to the casino.

Okay, let’s summarize the personality of a moderate variance video poker game. It is a game that can be considerably more exciting than a low variance game. But because the game is more exciting, it will cost you more to play it. Not only will it cost you more, it will be harder to get the most from it because of the more complex playing strategy.



Do these personality traits fit in with your likes and dislikes? Are you willing to pay more and practice harder in order to get the adrenaline rush of hitting high paying hands? If you can honestly answer “yes” to these questions, then you may be a good candidate to play some moderate variance video poker.

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KeysModerate variance video poker games are defined in this guide as games with a variance between approximately 30 and 50.

KeysThere is a large selection of moderate variance video poker games.

KeysThe main attraction that moderate variance video poker games have is they are more exciting to play than lower variance video poker games.

KeysTo pay for the added excitement, moderate variance video poker games require a larger bankroll than lower variance games.

KeysPlaying strategy for moderate variance games tends to be more complex than lower variance games.

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Chapter 5.3


So far we have looked at low variance and moderate variance video poker games. Low variance games have the advantage of a smaller bankroll size requirement and relatively simple playing strategy. This comes at the cost of playing a somewhat boring game. Moderate variance video poker games are more exciting to play because they have more high paying winning hands. The excitement factor is offset, however, by higher bankroll requirements and somewhat more complex playing strategy. In their efforts to attract even more video poker players and especially those who are adrenaline rush junkies, game manufacturers have developed games with very high paying winning hands. In many cases there is at least one additional royal flush sized winning hand in the high variance games, which significantly increases the chances of hitting a royal sized jackpot.

Triple Bonus

Just how high a variance do these video poker games have? Pretty high!

The variance of at least one video poker game exceeds 180. Yes, that is right – a variance over 180.

High variance video poker games in this guide are defined as those games that have a variance of more than 50.



From the standpoint of excitement, high variance games have it in spades. There are several high paying hands that will occur often enough to keep the game exciting. The breathtaking swings in bankroll due to the astronomic variance are also not for the faint of heart. Excitement is not the problem with high variance games.

Here is a list of high variance video poker games that are available in casinos today, along with the variance of each game.


As you can see, the list of games that fall into this category is pretty short. This is probably because these games did not really catch on with the gambling public. It is true that these games have some extremely high paying hands, but to pay for them the lower portion of the pay table was decimated. It is great to hit a jackpot sized hand, but at what cost?

Let us compare a low variance game (Jacks or Better) with a high variance game (Royal Aces Bonus Poker). Each game has a return of about 99.5 percent. Jacks or Better returns 99.54 percent and Royal Aces Bonus Poker returns 99.58 percent. Now let us compare how much of the total return is tied up in hands that pay 80 for 1 or more. The table below summarizes this information.

Percent of Total Return of High Paying (80 for 1 or more) Hands Low vs. High Variance Game



The bottom three rows of the table above tell the whole story. Jacks or better has only about two percent of its total return tied up in high paying hands (actually hand). Almost 98 percent of the total return comes from lower paying but more frequently occurring hands. This tends to keep bankroll fluctuations (a.k.a. variance) lower.

Royal Aces Bonus Poker on the other hand has nearly 27 percent of its total return generated by four very high paying but infrequently occurring hands. The lower paying and more frequently occurring hands only contribute about 73 percent.

This means that while playing Jacks or Better and not hitting a royal flush, you are playing with about a two percent disadvantage. You will lose about two dollars for every $100 you play through the game. On the other hand, while playing Royal Aces Bonus Poker you are playing at about a 27 percent disadvantage. When you are not hitting the high paying hands you will lose $27 for every $100 played through this game. Two dollars per hundred dollars played versus $27 per hundred dollars played? You will need a much larger bankroll to play Royal Aces Bonus Poker than you will to play Jacks or Better.


If you are considering playing high variance games you must ask your self these questions.


If you are this type of person, playing high variance video poker games may be for you. If not, you are probably well advised to stick to low or moderate variance versions of video poker.

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KeysHigh variance video poker games are defined in this guide as games with a variance higher than 50.

KeysThere are only a few high variance video poker games available.

KeysHigh variance video poker games have a much higher excitement and fear factor than lower variance games.

KeysTo pay for the added excitement, high variance video poker games require a larger bankroll than lower variance games.

KeysThe playing strategy for high variance games actually tends to be less complex than lower variance games.


man on table

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Chapter 5.4



So far in this chapter of the guide you have learned about the personalities of video poker games that have different levels of variance. You have learned their advantages and disadvantages. Hopefully you have at least tentatively decided upon the level of variance you think you would most enjoy playing.

By making that decision you are in a better position to determine your bankroll size. As you know bankroll size is impacted by variance. But it is impacted more by the denomination of the goame that is being played.

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When I started playing blackjack as a card counter many, many years ago, I had a very hard time making the large bets that were required to get an edge at the game. I was very risk averse. I had a dedicated gambling bankroll (a.k.a. 401G), but I still had a problem with pushing out the big bet when I needed to. I knew that it was in my best interest to do so. I just had a hard time doing it.

There were a couple of reasons for this. The first (and major) reason was that I was raising a family and there were a lot of expenses. I was making good money, but nothing fantastic. Basically, most of my income was relegated to my daily expenses. Even though I had a separate gambling bankroll, money - even a small amount of it - seemed precious to me. I had a hard time accepting I could lose it on a blackjack bet. The second reason was that I still saw my bet as so many dollars. I did not see it as gambling chips that were covered by my gambling bankroll.

Ultimately I got over my hang ups and was able to bet whatever was required with little thought.

So why am I telling you this? No matter what game you play in a casino, if you are worried about the money you are investing in the game, you will not have any fun. Playing video poker should be fun. It is meant to be fun. In order to make that happen, you must bet at a level where you are unconcerned about your bets even though your bankroll may be sufcient to play at a higher denomination.


In chapter 4 you learned about establishing proper bankroll sizes. You need to have the proper trip and session bankroll or you are better off not even going to the casino. The biggest factor affecting the bankroll size is the denomination of game you want to play. Your bankroll requirements to play a 25 cent game will be one fourth of your bankroll requirements to play the same game at a dollar level for the same number of hands.

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As you learned in chapter 4, the longer (meaning the more hands) you want to play, the larger your bankroll should be. When you go to a casino do you want to play for several hours a day even if it has to be at a lower denomination? Or would you rather play for a shorter time, if you needed to, in order to snag a larger jackpot to show for your investment of time and money?

Your honest answer to these questions will go a long way in determining what denomination of video poker game you want to play.


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While you may want to win a $4,000 jackpot for a royal flush rather than just $1,000, if you don’t have the bankroll to fund that quest, you have no business trying. If you only have $100 available for gambling for your entire three day trip, there is no way you can afford to play dollar video poker. Actually, there is no way you can afford to play quarter video poker – that is unless you are willing to stop play after only a few hands because you have exhausted you daily session bankroll of about $33. On a quarter video poker game that could be as little as 26 hands played if you lose them all.



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KeysYour bankroll size and your level of risk aversion are the keys to determining the denomination of video poker game you will play.

KeysBe honest in estimating your tolerance of risk. Most people drastically overstate it.

KeysIf you are underfunded for the game denomination you play, you run the very real risk of running out of money after a short time of play.

KeysIf you have the discipline to stop playing for the day when your daily session bankroll is depleted, you can play a higher denomination than your bankroll indicates.

KeysReferring to the last takeaway, almost no one has that kind of discipline. Be honest with yourself.

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chapter 5.5


So far you have learned from this chapter the personalities of low variance, moderate variance and high variance video poker games. From this information you should have been able to narrow down the type of video poker game you want to play. You then learned about the importance of the denomination of the game you intend to play. With that information firmly in place, let us now take a look at how multiple play games work and some of the pluses and minuses of playing this type of video poker game. In chapter 3.4 you were presented an overview of how multiple play video poker games work. In chapter 4.4 you learned about bankroll requirements for playing multiple play video poker. Now you can supplement that information with what you will learn in this section. By combining everything, you should have a pretty good idea if you would like playing multiple play video poker or if you would rather stick to a single play game.

Multiple play games

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As you learned in previous chapters, multiple play video poker comes in many flavors. Almost all of the popular video poker games, whether they are low variance or moderate variance, can most likely be found in a multiple play version. I have never seen a high variance game available as a multiple play version, however.

The playing strategy for a multiple play game is exactly the same as the playing strategy for a single play game. You do not need to learn a modified version of the playing strategy in order to play a multiple play game.

Multiple play games are available in several different numbers of plays. They include 3 play, 5 play, 10 play, 50 play and even 100 play versions of the single play games.

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To play multiple play video poker you must first bet the maximum number of credits (usually five) for each line (play) you want to activate. While it is not necessary, it is almost always the case that all available plays of a multiple play game are activated. That is, a bet equal to three times the single play amount will be placed for a three play game (normally 15 credits). A bet equal to five times the single play maximum bet will be placed for a five play game, and so on.

That means if you play a three play quarter game you will bet three times the standard five credit bet of $1.25 or 15 credits ($3.75) for every hand you play. The bet increases to 25 credits or $6.25 for a five play game. As you can see, you will bet more per hand on a 25 cent five play game than on a dollar single play game - $6.25 versus $5.00. You do get something in return, however.


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With each originally dealt hand on a multiple play game, the player has multiple shots at completing a winning combination. For example, if you are originally dealt a three of a kind, that same three of a kind is on all plays of that hand. By saving the three of a kind and hitting the Draw button, you have three, five, 10, 50 or 100 chances to get one (or more) four of a kind(s). If you are originally dealt four of a royal flush you will have three, five, 10, 50, or 100 chances to complete it. That can be pretty exciting. However, if you are dealt a nothing hand, that same low return expectation is there on each of the multiple plays. What most video poker players like about playing a multiple play game is exactly that. They have multiple shots at completing a winning hand. In order to play at the same total bet level, many players who would normally play a single play dollar game will play a 25 cent three play or five play game. They will drop to a 10 cent denomination if they play a 10 play game and to a five cent or penny denomination for 50 a play game. Most players who play a 100 play game will play it at the penny denomination in order to keep the total bet size equal to a dollar single play game. The down side of playing a multiple play game is when one of the play lines hits a winning hand it is paid at the lower base denomination.


A four of a kind on a single play dollar game pays $125. However, if one of the lines of a five play 25 cent game becomes a four of a kind, the winnings are only $31.25.

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You learned in chapter 4 that the variance of a multiple play game increases as the number of plays increases. The variance of a specific 25 cent single play game is less than the variance of a 25 cent three play version which, in turn, is less than a 25 cent five play version of that same game. Your bankroll requirements will go up as the number of plays increases on games of the same denomination. This is true regardless of the denomination as long as all games compared are the same game (Jacks or Better, Double Bonus Poker, etc.) and denomination.

However, the variance expressed as a dollar bankroll requirement will be less for a penny 100 play game than it is for a dollar single play version of the same game.


If you are considering playing high variance games you must ask your self these questions.


Are you a candidate for playing multiple play games? If what you see above sounds good to you, you just might be. Think about it. Only you know for sure.

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KeysMultiple play games use exactly the same playing strategy as the single play version of the same game.

KeysAs you play more lines, the denomination must decrease in order to have the same bankroll requirements.

KeysGreat initial hands make for great results; poor initial hands make for poor results.

KeysTo play the same total bet amount as you would for a single play game of one denomination on a lower denomination of a multiple play game requires a smaller bankroll.

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Chapter 5.6



Progressive games are different than any other type of game presented in this chapter of the guide. Any of the other games presented can be played at any time. The bankroll requirements will be the same. The variance will be the same. The strategy will be the same. They will all be the same regardless of when you start playing the game. They will be the same regardless of how long you play the game. Bankroll size, variance, and strategy will never change for the duration of your play because nothing about the game changes. Each winning hand pays the same for each hand on which it occurs.

Because of this, no matter which standard (non-progressive) video poker game you play, you can play it for as long as you wish. You will get the same results over the long term. If you decide to play nothing but 9/6 Double Double Bonus poker, you will be able to play it as soon as you locate a game. There is a good selection of this game in casinos so finding one of these games should not be hard.

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The same cannot be said for progressive video poker games. By the very definition of the game, the progressive jackpot has to change. As the bank of progressive games is played, a small percentage (usually about one percent) of the money played through the games is added to the progressive jackpot. As the progressive jackpot grows, the variance grows. As the progressive jackpot grows, the strategy changes slightly by slowly favoring saving for the progressive hand over saving for some lower paying hand.

In addition to all these changes occurring, most progressive games return about two percent less than a standard non-progressive game. You will not want to play a progressive game until the progressive jackpot is at least 50 percent higher than on a standard game. Believe me when I tell you that this does not occur all that often.

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There are several challenges if you choose to play progressive video poker. By far the most frustrating is not being able to find a playable game. It takes a good deal of play to get a progressive jackpot to a level where the game is worth playing. The progressive jackpot is prominently displayed for the entire casino to see. As the jackpot climbs, anyone interested in playing the game can see the meter and will switch to the progressive game once it is high enough for them. As the jackpot climbs further, more players will sit down and try their luck. More players on the bank of games means more hands are played and more hands played means a better chance that the jackpot will be hit. Once it is hit, the game reverts to the reset value where it once again returns about two percent less than standard games.

As you can see, there is only a very limited window where you will (or should) actually want to play the game.

Another challenge with progressive video poker is the variance of the game increases as the progressive jackpot increases. This means higher bankroll requirements, although they are somewhat remediated by the fact that you will most likely not play for a very long time. However, there is no guarantee of that, so I recommend having a large enough bankroll to play at least a few thousand hands. It would really suck if you played a couple of thousand hands and ran out of money, then a short while later someone hits the jackpot. If you were still playing you may not have hit it, but because you were not playing you did not even have a chance.


Along the same line of bankroll requirements and higher variance, most often someone else will hit the progressive jackpot. Because of the higher variance, your play while not hitting the jackpot will cost you more than playing a standard game.

Finally, as the progressive jackpot climbs, playing strategy needs to also change to start favoring the jackpot more often. This is a fluid requirement as the progressive amount is constantly changing. My recommendation is to make up several strategy charts using a video poker strategy program. On each successive chart, increase the jackpot amount by 1,000 credits. When playing the actual game in the casino use the chart that most closely matches the progressive amount. If you do not have a video poker strategy program or app (or you do not have access to one) you are definitely at a disadvantage when it comes to proper playing strategy. It is probably best to forego playing progressive video poker. However, you are risking your money, so that decision is up to you.

To summarize, with all of the issues inherent to playing progressive video poker, you may want to think twice about pursuing this type of video poker play. It is very rare that the progressive amount gets high enough to even come close to matching a standard game’s return. The only time you may want to even consider playing progressive video poker is when the progressive jackpot is five or six times the reset amount. That brings the games return above 100 percent, so it may be worthwhile to give it a go. At this high a progressive level, however, the games will be swamped. If you can get a seat, you may lose more than on a standard game, but you also stand to win more. It may be worth the risk.

Video Poker Arrow

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KeysUnlike standard non-progressive video poker games where nothing changes, jackpot size, variance, bankroll size, and playing strategy all change with progressive video poker.

KeysMost of the time a progressive game is not worth playing.

KeysA playable progressive video poker game will probably not last very long.

KeysTo develop an approximate playing strategy, generate several strategy charts – each with the jackpot 1,000 credits higher.

KeysUse the strategy chart that has the jackpot amount closest to the actual amount.

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In this chapter you learned the playing characteristics (personality) of five different types of video poker game: low variance, moderate variance, high variance, multiple play, and progressive games as well as the impact of the denomination of the game. You should now have a pretty good idea which of these games you would prefer to play. It is probably best to pick a game whose personality matches your own.

That may not be the actual case, however. I tend to take quite a bit of risk in life such as skydiving and fast driving. In the casino however, I am very risk averse. You should pick the type of game that you think you will have the most fun playing. After all, that is why we play video poker. Isn’t it?


In the next chapter you will learn all about video poker playing strategy. What it is, how it is developed and how to use it. You will then have almost all the tools you will need to be a success playing video poker.

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See if you can answer these questions based on the information presented in Chapter 5.

KeysTrue or False - Low variance video poker games have a variance of 30 or less.

KeysTrue or False - Low Variance video poker games require a smaller bankroll than higher variance games.

KeysModerate variance video poker games require a larger bankroll. Why would anyone want to play them?

KeysTrue or False - The playing strategy for moderate variance video poker games is less complex than for low variance games.

KeysIn this guide what does the variance have to be for a game to be classified as high variance?

KeysTrue or False - The playing strategy for high variance video poker games is more complex than that of games with a lower variance.

KeysTrue or False - Most people are very good judges of their tolerance for risk.

KeysTrue or False - Multiple play video poker games use the same playing strategy as a single play game of the same type.

KeysWhy is it harder to properly play a progressive video poker game?

KeysTrue or False - Progressive jackpots that are high enough to make the return as high as a standard non-progressive game happen quite frequently.

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KeysTrue. That is how they are defined in the guide.


KeysThey are more exciting to play because they have more high paying hands so they hit more often.

KeysFalse. It tends to be more complex.

KeysAny game that has a variance over 50 is classified as a high variance game.

KeysFalse. Because so much of the return is tied up in a few hands, the strategy favors those hands. Therefore the strategy tends to be less complex.

KeysFalse. Most people feel they can tolerate much more risk than they actually can.


KeysIn a standard non-progressive video poker game, all the elements such as pays for winning hands, variance and playing strategy stay the same. They all constantly change while playing progressive video poker.

KeysFalse. It is quite rare for a progressive jackpot to get so high that the game will return as much as a non-progressive version.

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Written by 

Jerry “Stickman” has been involved in casino gambling for nearly 30 years. He is an expert in blackjack, craps, video poker and advantage slot machine play. He started playing blackjack in the late ‘80s, learned several card counting systems and used these skills to become an advantage blackjack player and overall winner of this game. He also acquired the skills necessary to become an overall winner in the game of craps, accomplishing this by a combination of throwing skill and proper betting techniques. Stich is also an overall winner playing video poker.