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Jerry Stickman

Jerry  Stickman
Jerry "Stickman" is an expert in dice control at craps, blackjack, advantage slots and video poker. He is a regular contributor to top gaming magazines. The "Stickman" is also a certified instructor for Golden Touch Craps dice control classes and Golden Touch Blackjack's advantage classes. He also teaches a course in advantage-play slots and video poker. For more information visit or or call 1-800-944-0406 for a free brochure. You can contact Jerry "Stickman" at

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Playable video poker

30 Mar 2019

By Jerry Stickman
Hi Jerry,

In reading your article about 8/5 Jacks or Better compared to 9/6, the problem is it is almost impossible to find 9/6 anymore. The real question is how low do we go in payback percentage before it is not reasonable to play at all?

I guess it's similar to the blackjack question. What rules would cause us to stop playing? The casinos found it with 6:5 blackjack payoffs. It's easier to spot rules that stop me from sitting down at a table, but it's harder to draw the line in VP. (97 to 98% is still better than other slots.)



You are absolutely right when you say it is getting almost impossible to find 9/6 Jacks or Better video poker. When there is one available, it usually comes minus any slot club points.

When I play, I want to get as close to a 100% return as possible. I also prefer playing Jacks or Better because of the low variance (19.5) and I am very familiar with its relatively simple strategy.

Many of the casinos I frequent do not have 9/6 Jacks or Better. They do, however, have either 9/5 or 8/6 Jacks or Better. These games have a return of 98.4% with a variance of 19.3. I consider these games playable – especially if they receive normal slot club benefits.

But, what to do if 8/5 if the best Jacks or Better game in the house? This game has a 97.3%, too low to risk my hard-earned money playing it.

Fortunately, many of these casinos do offer 8/5 Bonus Poker. This game has a respectable return of 99.1% with a variance of 20.9. The difference in this game is that it pays 80-for-1 for four aces and 40-for-1 for four twos, threes, or fours. Four fives through kings pays 25-for-1 like Jacks or Better. The strategy for this game is different than Jacks or Better because of the higher pays for four aces, two, threes and fours but it is still relatively simple. I would suggest adding this game to your casino video poker toolkit.

Some casinos have other video poker games with reasonable returns. Games such as 9/7 (99.11% return) or 10/6 (98.88% return) Double Bonus Poker could be decent alternatives. The problem with these games – the variance starts pushing 30. Still, if you have an adequate bankroll to handle the ups and downs, these games may be playable. 9/6 Double Double Bonus has a return of 98.98% but a variance of almost 42.

Progressive video poker games could return over 100% if the jackpot gets high enough, but the variance when that happens is quite high and the return only holds until someone hits the jackpot.

There are also Deuces Wild games that return 99% or higher, though they, also, are becoming rarer. These games are a possibility if you are willing to learn a very different strategy.

When I go to a casino, I want to come out ahead in the long run. Not necessarily on the games alone, but on games, as well as comped food, rooms, drinks, cashback and other offers. If I cannot find a casino where that is possible, I don’t play – period. When I play video poker, the absolute lowest return that I will accept is in the high 98% range – 98.8 or 98.9. If I cannot find this in a casino, I will not play there. It is simply not worth it.

But that is me. When I go to a casino, I want the best possible chance to go home a winner. Losing is traumatic. Knowing there is a high probability to go home a loser in the long term because of low paying video poker is enough of a deterrent to not play at all.

However, each person is different. The additional loss playing a lower return game might be acceptable to someone who really enjoys playing the game and has the tolerance for the additional loss. It is very personal. Why do you go to a casino? To play? To win? To enjoy food or a show?

And, how much is that worth to you?

That is really the bottom line, Ray.

May all your wins be swift and large and all your losses slow and small.

Jerry “Stickman”

Jerry “Stickman” is an expert in craps, blackjack and video poker and advantage slot machine play. He is a regular contributor to top gaming magazines. He authored the video poker section of Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo, and Pai Gow Poker! You can contact Jerry “Stickman” at

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