The Loosest Video Poker Games (And Where to Find Them)

by Jeff Harris
on October 30, 2017

Aside from a firm grasp of basic strategy, the most successful video poker players share one thing in common: a knack for locating the loosest machines.

But what does the term “loose” mean when it comes to video poker?

Many players believe, mistakenly I might add, that a loose video poker machine has been calibrated by the casino to pay out more frequently. As the theory goes, casino operators may want to boost their take on a slow weekday, so they loosen a few machines to create more jackpots – and more excitement.

In reality, the casinos have no control over an individual video poker machine’s payback percentage. Instead, that crucial figure is pre-programmed into a particular machine, based on the game variant and pay table being used.

Every video poker machine out there contains a random number generator (RNG) to control the outcome of each hand dealt. This means that every draw you take is entirely random, with the casino overlords exerting no control whatsoever over the outcome.

But if this is true, why do so many video poker enthusiasts – and even casino venues – talk in terms of loose and tight machines?

Basic mathematics, of course.

Take your classic Jacks or Better game, the base variant which forms the foundation for most modern video poker offerings. When playing any Jacks or Better machine – whether you’re on the Las Vegas Strip or a dusty local casino out in the sticks – the payout and probability ratios remain the same.

In other words, your odds of making a hand like a flush (1.10 percent) or a full house (1.15 percent) don’t change from venue to venue.

What can change, however, is the payout awarded when you make that flush or full house.

On some machines, you’ll be paid 6 coins per coin wagered when you spike a flush, and 9 for a full house. But head over to another casino – or even another machine within the same venue – and that flush payout can be lowered to 5 coins, or perhaps the full house payout drops to 8 coins.

These seemingly minor adjustments are actually quite important when assessing a video poker game’s viability.

When you find a Jacks or Better machine paying 9 coins for a full house and 6 for a flush, these conditions create a payback rate of 99.54 percent. That’s the highest payback you’ll find on Jacks or Better, which is why the 9 / 6 payout scheme is known as “full-pay” in the video poker world.

Conversely, if you hit a Jacks or Better game paying 9 coins for a full house, but only 5 coins for a flush, this 9 / 5 game pays back at a 98.45 percent rate. And on an 8 / 6 game, the payback falls all the way to 98.39 percent.

Every variant of video poker under the sun works just like this, with a full-pay setup offering the most bang for a player’s buck, followed by several inferior pay tables.

For players looking to turn a profit on their favorite casino game, the trick is locating these full-pay machines and sticking to them above all others.

Before I provide you with one of the most useful tools in the video poker industry, let’s take a moment and review the pay table discrepancies for several of the most popular variants:

Payback Percentages by Variant and Pay Table

JACKS OR BETTER

Pay Table Payback Percentage
*9 / 6 Jacks or Better 99.54%
9 / 5 Jacks or Better 98.45%
8 / 6 Jacks or Better 98.39%
8 / 5 Jacks or Better 97.30%
7 / 5 Jacks or Better 96.15%
6 / 5 Jacks or Better 95.00%

*Full pay

ACES AND EIGHTS

Pay Table Payback Percentage
*25 (Four of a Kind) / 8 (Full House) 99.78%
20 / 7 97.72%

*Full Pay

BONUS DEUCES WILD

Pay Table Payback Percentage
*10 (Straight Flush) / 4 (Four of a Kind) 99.86%
9 / 4 99.45%
8 / 4 99.06%
13 / 4 / 3 98.80%
7 / 4 98.69%
12 / 4 / 3 98.28%

*Full Pay

BONUS POKER

Pay Table Payback Percentage
*8 (Full House) / 5 (Flush) 99.17%
7 / 5 98.01%
6 / 5 96.87%

*Full pay

DEUCES & JOKER WILD

Pay Table Payback Percentage
*9 (Five of a Kind) / 6 (Straight Flush) 99.07%
8 / 6 98.52%
9 / 5 98.35%
7 / 6 97.97%
9 / 9 / 1 96.06%

*Full pay

DEUCES WILD

Pay Table Payback Percentage
*25 / 15 / 9 / 5 100.76%
25 / 16 / 10 / 4 99.73%
25 / 15 / 9 / 4 98.91%
20 / 4 / 4 97.97%
20 / 12 / 10 / 4 97.58%
16 / 13 / 4 96.77%
12 / 4 / 4 96.01%
20 / 10 / 8 / 4 / 4 95.96%

*Full pay

DOUBLE BONUS POKER

Pay Table Payback Percentage
*10 (Full House) / 7 (Flush) 100.17%
9 / 7 Double Bonus 99.11%
9 / 6 Double Bonus 97.81%
9 / 4 Double Bonus 97.74%
9 / 6 / 4 Double Bonus 96.38%
8 / 6 Double Bonus 96.23%
9 / 5 / 4 Double Bonus 95.27%

*Full pay

DOUBLE DOUBLE BONUS

Pay Table Payback Percentage
*10 (Full House) / 6 (Flush) 100.07%
40 / 10 / 6 99.96%
9 / 6 98.98%
8 / 6 97.89%
9 / 5 97.87%
8 / 5 96.79%
7 / 5 96.38%
6 / 5 94.66%

*Full pay

JOKER POKER

Pay Table Payback Percentage
*20 / 7 / 5 100.64%
18 / 7 / 5 98.94%
16 / 8 / 5 98.59%
17 / 7 / 5 98.44%
20 / 6 / 5 98.41%

*Full pay

LOOSE DEUCES

Pay Table Payback Percentage
*15 (Five of a Kind) / 10 (Straight Flush) 100.97%
12 / 11 100.47%
12 / 10 100.02%
15 / 7 99.78%
15 / 6 99.42%

*Full pay

TENS OR BETTER

Pay Table Payback Percentage
*25 / 6 / 5 99.14%
20 / 6 / 5 97.96%

*Full pay

As you can probably tell by now, hunting for the full pay games within any video poker variant is crucial to long-term success.

Payback percentages can drop drastically when even a single payout is reduced, and over the long term, this can severely dampen your expected return.

Unfortunately, most recreational players – and even some self-styled experts – don’t have a firm grasp of this important concept. Rather than take the time to locate a full-pay machine nearby, these players simply bite the bullet and play on the inferior pay tables out of convenience.

As their logic goes, it’s still the same game played with the same rules, so if they just stick to basic strategy and play their best, all will be well.

Unfortunately, that’s just not how it works when math is concerned. Playing perfect strategy on a game paying back at a 98.00 percent rate will produce significantly lower long-term returns when compared to a 99.00 percent alternative.

Knowing these facts, the secret to finding the loosest video poker machines around really isn’t a secret at all. Video poker machine manufacturers like International Game Technology (IGT), WMS Industries, Aristocrat, Konami, and Aruze are all required by law to make public the payback percentages for a given variant or pay table.

Armed with this easily obtainable information, sharp players can skip over the lower-paying machines to bring their bankroll to the most favorable situations at all times.

This requires a bit of due diligence on your part, so don’t get me wrong there.

Thankfully, a few fine folks out there have done much of the legwork already by creating a massive database of video poker payback percentages from all across North America.

Take Advantage of the vpFREE2 Tool

Using the extremely useful Video Poker Games and Machines Search function found on is your best bet for locating loose machines.

Simply put, this resource has it all.

Using basic drop-down menus, you can tailor a search around several different parameters, such as:

  • Game Type (Jacks or Better, Joker Poker, etc.)
  • Pay Table (9 / 6 full pay, 9 / 5, 8 / 6, etc.)
  • Coin Denomination (1¢, 25¢, $1, etc.)
  • Hands Dealt (1, 10, 100, etc.)
  • Region (Las Vegas Strip, West Coast, Midwest, etc.)

Playing around with the vpFREE2 search tool is about as fun as it gets for a video poker sharp. No matter where you are on the continent, a few clicks will bring up accurate results for every video poker machine in the area.

Say you’re interested in playing Deuces Wild video poker somewhere in the American Midwest. Obviously, in this case, you’d be searching for the 1 2 2 3 5 9 15 25 200 800 full pay table, which creates a 100.76 percent payback rate – one of the rare times you’ll ever find a positive expectation game on the casino floor.

Only a couple of clicks separate you from a full listing of all matching machines in the Midwest.

In this case, you’ll only find Deuces Wild using the inferior 1 2 2 3 4 13 16 25 200 800 paytable setup, which produces a payback of 96.77 percent. Those machines can be found at the nickel and quarter stakes inside Majestic Pines Casino in Wisconsin.

That payback rate isn’t very good at all, so let’s imagine you’ve taken a trip to Las Vegas to find those elusive Deuces Wild full-pay machines.

According to vpFREE2, the 1 2 2 3 5 9 15 25 200 800 full pay games – and their amazing 100.76 percent payback rate – can be found at several off-Strip casinos, including Aliante, Boulder Station, and Fiesta Henderson.

This tool makes things even easier yet by including actual directions to make your way through the venue and find your machine of choice.

No matter the stakes you play, or the variants you prefer, the vpFREE2 video poker search tool is by far the best way to locate the loosest machines around.

Conclusion

Finding the loosest video poker games is about finding the machines that offer the best pay tables. When you find the best pay tables, you still need to use the proper strategy in order to keep the house edge as low as possible. But you can use this guide to help you find the best machines.

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