All American Video Poker

All-American Video Poker

Most video poker games are variations of the original VP game, Jacks or Better. The big difference usually has to do with the pay table. In some cases, wild cards are thrown into the mix. Playing with wild cards has a bigger effect on the texture of the game than just a change in the pay table.

All American Video Poker has no wild cards, so players familiar with Jacks or Better should have little trouble making the switch. This page looks at the differences in the pay table and how that affects gameplay. We also offer advice on how to play and where to find the game, online or off.


The Basics of Playing All American Video Poker

But they have significant differences.

The first and most important difference is that the symbols that show up on the screen in video poker use probabilities based on a deck of 52 cards. The symbols on a slot machine screen are arbitrarily chosen and have arbitrary probabilities.

Both games offer payouts for various symbol combinations. And both slots and video poker list those payouts on a pay table.

But you have no way of determining the probability of getting a cherry or bar symbol (or any other symbol) on a slot machine. As a result, you cannot possibly computer the payback percentage or the house edge for a slot machine game.

But since we can estimate the probability of getting various poker hands in a game of draw poker, we can calculate the payback percentage for the game. This number is also called the "expected return" or "return to player".

This is done by multiplying the payout for each possible hand by the probability of getting that hand. We'll discuss that more in the next section.

Before we get there, though, we're going to talk about general video poker gameplay standards that apply to All American video poker.

These games are electronic version of 5-card draw, but instead of playing against an opponent, you're playing against a pay table. They have as much in common with solitaire as they do poker, but video poker is MUCH faster.

You get started by inserting your money into the machine. Depending on the denomination of the machine you've chosen, your money is converted into the appropriate number of credits. For example, if you insert a $100 bill into a quarter machine, you're given 400 credits to play with. If it were a dollar machine instead, you'd have 100 credits.

You wager between 1 and 5 credits per hand. Wagering 5 credits per hand is called "Bet Max", and it's important that you always place the maximum bet in a video poker game.

Here's Why

The payoff for the top hand in video poker is reserved for the royal flush. That pays off at 250 for 1 if you bet between 1 and 4 coins.

But if you bet 5 coins, that hand pays off at 800 for 1.

The probability of getting the hand remains the same. You just get a higher payoff based on the higher wager. (You'll only see a royal flush once every 40,000 hands or so, but that payoff is large enough to make a difference.)

Our first All American video poker strategy nugget is thus:

Always play for max coin, even if you must play a lower limit game to be able to afford to.

Once you've chosen how many coins to play for, you're "dealt" a virtual 5-card hand. You can choose which cards you want to keep by using the "Hold" buttons beneath each card. On newer VP machines, you can also just touch the screen itself.

When you've made your final decisions, you're dealt replacement cards. The poker hand value of your final hand determines your payoff. The machine chooses for you, so you don't have to worry about mis-identifying your hand value, either.

Since you're deciding which cards to keep and which ones to throw away, this game is a game of skill. Good decisions mean higher payback percentages. Bad decisions mean lower payback percentages.

The quoted payback percentage for the pay tables we look at on this page assume you're playing with perfect strategy. Keep in mind that you're probably not playing with perfect strategy, so your results will probably be a little lower than the expected return.

A Quick Explanation of Payback Percentage, Expected Return, and the House Edge

All casino games have payout odds lower than the odds of winning. That's how the casino guarantees a long-term profit.

In games like roulette, it's easy to see how this works. The even money bet in that game-black, for example-pays off at even money.

But you'd have to win half the time for that to be a mathematically fair bet.

Roulette is set up so that you'll only win that bet 18/38 of the time, which is a little better than 47%.

That's a far cry from 50%, though, and if you play roulette long enough, the house edge will eat your lunch.

The house edge in video poker is harder to calculate because of the variables-including how you play each hand-but mathematicians and computer programs can calculate these numbers with little trouble.

The payback percentage represents the expected return to the player on each bet. The house edge represents the expected return to the casino on each bet.

If you add the payback percentage to the house edge, the total will always be 100%.

If a game has a 99.54% payback percentage, the house edge is 100% - 99.54%, or 0.46%.

The casino (and gambling writers and experts) use payback percentage when talking about or writing about gambling machines. They use house edge when talking about table games.

We'll get into the specifics of the house edge and payback percentage for All American video poker in the next section.

All American Video Poker Pay Tables and Payback Percentage

Here's an example of an All American video poker pay table:

Hand/Coins 1 coin 2 coins 3 coins 4 coins 5 coins
Royal flush 250 500 750 1000 4000
Straight flush 200 400 600 800 1000
4 of a kind 35 70 105 140 175
Full house 8 16 24 32 40
Flush 8 16 24 32 40
Straight 8 16 24 32 40
3 of a kind 3 6 9 12 15
2 pairs 1 2 3 4 5
Pair of Jacks+ 1 2 3 4 5

This particular pay table is called a 35/8 pay table, because the payoff for a 4 of a kind is 35 for 1, and the payoff for the next 3 highest ranking hands (full house, flush, and straight) is 8 for 1. You'll often see abbreviations like this based on the hands that are most likely to have changed payoffs based on the variation.

The classic example is the pay table for Jacks or Better, which is the game All American video poker is based on. The full pay table for that game-in other words, the game with the best payout percentage-is the one that offers a 9 for 1 payoff on a full house and a 6 for 1 payoff on a flush.

If you're familiar with the pay table variations for Jacks or Better, you'll immediately notice the differences between this game and that one.

The first difference is the payoff for a straight flush-instead of 50 for 1, All American pays off at 200 for 1. That's a big difference.

You'll also notice that a 4 of a kind pays off at 35 for 1. That's another significant difference from Jacks o Better, which normally pays off at 25 for 1 for that hand.

Many Jacks or Better games have 8 for 1 payoffs for a full house, though. Some pay off at 9 for 1. This is a minor difference from game to game.

The next big differences have to do with the payoffs for the flush and the straight. These also pay off at 8 for 1 on this version of All American Poker. A flush on a standard Jacks or Better game pays off at either 6 for 1 or 5 for 1. And a straight only pays off at 4 for 1.

With all these increased payoffs for these hands, it would be natural to assume that this game offers a much higher payback percentage than Jacks or Better, right?

But we need to account for the 3 lowest-paying hands, too. 3 of a kind pays off at 3 for 1, but that's the standard payoff on a Jacks or Better game, too.

A pair of jacks or better pays off at even money. That's also standard.

But the 2 pair-that pays off at even money also.

That's a HUGE change.

That's the one change that enables the game to pay off so much more money for all those other hands.

It doesn't seem like that would be enough, but consider this:

The expected return for each hand is the product of the probability of getting that hand and the payoff for that hand.

If a hand has a low probability of appearing, the payoff has to go up by much more to have much of an effect on your overall bottom line

Here's an Example

The probability of winding up with a straight is roughly 1.9%. (You'll see a straight about once every 50 hands, or about 12 times per hour.) The payoff is 8 for 1, so the expected return for that hand is slightly more than 15%.

On a standard Jacks or Better game, the probability of winding up with that hand is a little lower-1.1%. That's because the probability assumes you're making the highest expectation decisions on each hand. With a payoff of 4 for 1, the expected return for that hand is 4.4%.

But contrast the effect that has with the effect that reducing the payoff on 2 pairs has:

In Jacks or Better, you'll finish with 2 pair about 12.9% of the time-that's almost 1 out of every 7 hands. Since it pays off at 2 for 1, the expected return for that hand is 25.9%. That's about a quarter of the entire game's payback percentage in one hand.

Reduce the probability of getting that hand slightly to account for the strategy changes between the 2 games, and you'll see a straight roughly 11.1% of the time. The payoff now is only even money, though, so the difference is 11.1% versus 25.9%, or 14.8%.

That 14.8% difference allows the game designers to pay off more for all those hands and still have a better house edge than full pay Jacks or Better.

The house edge for 9/6 (or "full pay") Jacks or Better is 0.46%. The payback percentage is 99.54%.

The house edge for 35/8 All American Poker is 0.63%. The payback percentage is 99.37%.

That's not a huge difference, but keep in mind that even if you're an expert in Jacks or Better strategy, you'll have to adjust your strategy according to this new pay table to be able to maintain that payback percentage-which is still lower than full pay Jacks or Better even if you play perfectly.

And that's the best possible pay table for All American. You'll find other pay tables, too, like this one:

Hand/Coins 1 coin 2 coins 3 coins 4 coins 5 coins
Royal flush 250 500 750 1000 4000
Straight flush 200 400 600 800 1000
4 of a kind 30 60 90 120 150
Full house 8 16 24 32 40
Flush 8 16 24 32 40
Straight 8 16 24 32 40
3 of a kind 3 6 9 12 15
2 pairs 1 2 3 4 5
Pair of Jacks+ 1 2 3 4 5

You'll probably notice that the only difference between this version of All American and the other version is the payoff for a 4 of a kind. It's been reduced from 35 for 1 to 30 for 1. And in fact, this game is called 30/8 All American.

What does that one change do to the payback percentage?

It reduces it from 99.37% to 98.49%.

That's doesn't sound like a huge difference, but keep in mind that you're multiplying this percentage by the total amount of money you're putting into the machine every hour.

You project your hourly losses by multiplying your hourly action by the house edge.

In video poker, the average number of bets per hour is about 600. We know that sounds like a lot, but trust us-VP is a fast-paced game. If you're betting $5 per hand, you're putting $3000 into action per hour.

If the house edge is 0.63%, your expected hourly loss is $18.90.

But if the house edge is 1.51%, your expected hourly loss goes up to $45.30 per hour.

We're not poor, and we're assuming you have some money, too.

But a difference of $27 per hour to play the same game makes us raise our eyebrows. And we imagine it does you, too.

You can also find 25/8 All American and 40/7 All American. The house edge on those games is 2.6% and 3.7%, respectively.

Those turn into hourly losses of $78 and $111, respectively.

Strategy Tips and Advice for Playing All American Video Poker

The first aspect of all video poker strategy that we recommend is to stick with the game offering the best payback percentages. This means becoming familiar with the pay table variations.

We then recommend only playing games which offer a payback percentage of 99% or better. This equates to choosing games with a house edge of less than 1%.

We make this recommendation because no amount of good strategy will help you win more often if you're playing a lousy game with a lousy pay table. We also make this recommendation because games with those payout percentages are competitive. And there's no reason casinos and game manufacturers shouldn't compete for your business by offering you a better gamble for your money.

But then you must learn the tactical differences between this game and Jacks or Better.

Most video poker strategy charts feature a list of possible hands, in order of preference. You start at the top of the list and stop when you get to that hand. Those are the cards you keep, and you discard everything else.

We're going to handle the strategy for this game slightly differently. We're just going to discuss which hands to keep versus which other hands you might get.

First, if you have one of the top 3 paying hands in the game, you keep them. These are called pat hands, and they include:

  • 1Royal Flush
  • 2Straight Flush
  • 34 of a Kind

If you don't have one of those 3 hands-and you usually won't-you'll hope for 4 cards to a royal flush. If you have a 4 card draw to a royal flush, you'll always draw to it.

This doesn't conflict as much as you might think with the first part of this strategy. For example, if you have 4 of a kind, it's impossible to have a draw to a royal flush.

On the other hand, if you have a straight flush, you wouldn't break it up hoping to get a higher (royal) flush. This won't happen often, but if it does, it would look like this:

KQJT9, all the same suit.

You might be tempted to discard the 9 and hope for an ace, but that's the wrong move. Stick with your pat hand there.

The next best hand is a full house. You'll never have a conflict between a full house and these other hands, either, as it's impossible.

Then you're hoping for an open straight flush draw. You'll prefer this drawing hand to any of the pat hands we haven't already mentioned. Keep in mind that an open straight flush is one in which you can fill the hand with a card from either side.

For example, KQJT is an open straight draw, because either an ace or a 9 will fill the hand.

An inside straight draw is one where you need a card in the middle, like this:

KQT9

In that case, you need a jack to fill the straight. There are only 4 jacks in the deck.

You prefer a pat flush or a pat straight to an inside straight flush draw, but you'll prefer an inside straight flush draw to the lower paying pat hands on this list.

A 3 of a kind is the next hand to hope for, but failing that, you want to draw to 3 to a royal flush.

Failing that, you're looking for 4 cards to a flush. That's a hand you'll fill probably 25% of the time, too, although it doesn't pay that much compared to the previous hands on this strategy list.

There are some counter-intuitive preferences, too.

Unsuited TJQK is preferred to 2 pairs or a pair of jacks or better. That's because the payoff for those hands is so low in this variation, and the payoff for a straight is better than usual. You also still have a good chance of hitting that high pair when you draw, anyway.

Most of the rest of the strategy is common sense. Go for the most likely best-paying hand.

Where to Find All American Video Poker

Many video poker games can be hard to find online, but All American video poker is popular enough to find on the Internet. Online casinos are generally powered by one or more software packages, and if one casino has the same package as another, they'll usually offer the same games.

Betsoft-powered casinos offers an interesting-looking pay table that pays 100 for 1 for a straight flush, 25 for 1 for 4 of a kind, and 8 for 1 for full house, flush, or straight. The payback percentage is about 96% on this machine.

Playtech, on the other hand, offers one of the better pay tables we've seen for this game online. The payback percentage is 99.38%. This version pays 200 for 1 for a straight flush and 34 for 1 for a 4 of a kind.

Conclusion

All American video poker is an interesting variation of Jacks or Better offering bigger payouts for some of the bigger hands. The pay table makes up for this by offering lower payoffs for the 2 pair, which has a major effect on your payback percentage.

Since you'll get 2 pair about once every 12 hands or so, this makes the game more volatile than other variants. The other hands just don't come up often enough for you to really feel the effect of those higher paybacks unless you're playing marathon sessions.

Still, if you can find the right pay table for All American, and if it's the best game at the casino where you're playing, go for it. It's a more than acceptable game for people who know and enjoy Jacks or Better.

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