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
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.
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
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,
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
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
If a game has a 99.54% payback percentage, the house edge is 100% – 99.54%,
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:
4 of a kind
3 of a kind
Pair of Jacks+
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
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
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:
4 of a kind
3 of a kind
Pair of Jacks+
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
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
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
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
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
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:
4 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
In that case, you need a jack to fill the straight. There are only 4 jacks in
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
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
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.
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
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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