Progressive video poker games are almost as common as progressive slot machines, but they have one big advantage over their slot machine cousins. If you know the pay table for a video poker game, you can calculate the point at which a progressive jackpot is large enough to turn the game from a negative expectation game into a positive expectation game.
Progressive video poker games are usually local area progressives. That means that they’re networked with a dozen or so video poker machines in the same casino. It’s unusual to have a standalone video poker game with a progressive jackpot, and it’s also rare to find a wide area progressive jackpot video poker game.
A progressive game takes a tiny percentage from each wager and adds it to an ever-growing jackpot. The first progressive jackpots were slot machines, but now progressive versions of other games, even table games, are common in casinos everywhere. You can even find progressive versions of games like roulette.
The reason that you can determine when a video poker game with a progressive jackpot becomes a positive expectation game is that the game simulates a 52 card deck of playing cards. Since there are a known number of cards of each type in the game, you can calculate the exact odds of being dealt a winning combination.
This has enabled experts to determine the payback percentage on these games to an astonishingly accurate percentage. Since we know the odds of getting a royal flush are about 45,000 to 1, it’s relatively easy to figure out how high the jackpot has to be to tilt the odds in the players’ favor.
The only problem is that professional gambling teams watch for these situations and camp out at these games when they become positive expectation. You might be able to get a spot, but they often have people waiting to take over their spot, and when they win, they pool their winnings.
Of course, if you can find an online jackpot that’s high enough, you don’t have to worry about dealing with those guys. The nice thing about video poker on the Internet is that there are a virtually unlimited number of seats to choose from.
If you guessed that the most common progressive video poker game is a variation of Jacks or Better, give yourself a gold star. Most progressive jackpots of this kind are found on 8/5 Jacks or Better games. (See the page about Video Poker Strategy for an explanation of 8/5 Jacks or Better if you need to.) The pay table is exactly the same as any other 8/5 Jacks or Better, but there is one major difference. The royal flush pays out a progressive jackpot.
In order to win the jackpot, you have to play max coins. Once the jackpot is hit, it resets to its starting point, which is usually the same as the normal jackpot on such a machine. (On a Jacks or Better machine, that’s 8000 coins.)
When does such a game become a positive expectation play? A standard 8/5 game has a payback percentage of 97.3%, but once the jackpot gets up to 8665 coins, it’s a 100% return. That’s the breakeven point. Any greater amount results in more of a positive expectation to the player.
Most Jacks or Better games come in denominations of a quarter or a dollar, so the dollar amounts you want to look for are:
One thing to keep in mind when playing progressive games is that the correct strategy changes depending on the size of the jackpot. For example, on a regular game of Jacks or Better, you would never hold an ace and a ten of the same suit, but once the jackpot gets high enough, this becomes the right decision to make.
Volatility increases along with the jackpot, too. The strategy changes increase your chances of winning the big jackpot, but they usually reduce your odds on the lower ranked hands, which means you’ll be losing more and winning less as you chase the big jackpot.
Keep in mind, too, that a big progressive jackpot doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got an advantage play. You still have to look at the pay table. If you’re playing a 6/5 Jacks or Better game with a progressive jackpot, you need a correspondingly higher jackpot to make up for those lower payouts—12,350 coins instead of just 8665 coins. This game would be even more volatile, too.
The best way to get the correct strategy for a progressive video poker game is to use a software program like WinPoker to crunch the numbers for you. Print yourself a strategy chart and have fun.