One of the more recent trends in video poker is to tack random multipliers onto an existing video poker game. Barnyard Poker is a good example of this trend, and it's more colorful and interesting than most.
The game uses farm characters to add to its theme. These characters explode and award a multiplier about 20% of the time. These multipliers range from 3X to 36X what you would have won otherwise.
This page goes into detail about how to play Barnyard Poker, how the pay tables work, and what happens to the payback percentage and volatility of the game based on the additional multipliers.
The Basics of Video Poker Generally and Barnyard Poker Specifically
If you're a complete video poker novice, we'll explain the basics of how VP games works in the first few paragraphs of this section. We'll go on to explain the specific intricacies of Barnyard Poker after that.
If you've been in a casino and seen a video poker game, you already know that it looks a LOT like a slot machine. In fact, video poker has a lot of similarities to slots. Both games require you to insert money and convert that money into credits to play. Both games involve being given random symbols that pay off prizes when they land in certain combinations. And both games include a pay table showing what the payouts are for the various combinations.
The first major difference is how the randomness of the symbols are determined. A slot machine might have 5 symbols, 10 symbols, 15 symbols, or any other number of symbols. The probability of getting any of those symbols is unknown to the player. It might be 1/5, 1/10, 1/20, or any other number you can imagine.
This makes it impossible to calculate the payback percentage for the game. To know that number, you'd have to know how likely it is to get these combinations.
With video poker, though, the symbols are always the same-they're playing cards. And the math underlying the game duplicates the math you'd find using a real deck of cards. There are 52 individual cards in the deck, 13 cards each in 4 different suits. The probability of getting a specific card is 1/52. The probability of getting a card of a specific rank is 1/13. The probability of getting a card of a specific suit is 1/4.
Knowing this, you can calculate the probability of ending up with any of the paying combinations-which are all based on poker hands, by the way. (That shouldn't be a surprise because of the name of the game, but whatever.)
As a result, you CAN calculate the payback percentage for a video poker game. You know the payoff for each combination of symbols. You also know the probability of getting each hand. The expected value for each hand is the payoff multiplied by the probability of getting that hand. Add all those expected values together, and you have the payback percentage for the machine.
We'll cover expected return, the payback percentage, and the house edge in more detail in the next section-especially as it applies to Barnyard Poker.
But first, let's talk about the 2nd major difference between slot machines and video poker-the element of skill.
When you play video poker, you start by inserting money and choosing how many credits you want to play for. You can opt to play for 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 credits per hand. You should always play for 5 credits per hand, by the way, because the top jackpot is higher when you do-800 for 1 instead of 250 for 1.
Once you've chosen how much you want to bet, the machine deals you a 5 card poker hand. Since video poker is based on 5 card draw, you get to choose which cards you'll keep and which ones you'll discard. You do this by pressing a button labeled "HOLD" beneath each card. On newer machines, you also have the option of just touching the card on the screen.
Then you press the "DRAW" button, and the game replaces your discarded cards. The final value of your hand determines how much you get paid. The pay table lists these, and the machine automatically compares the final hand with the payoffs to award you this money.
The implication here is clear-you stand a better chance of winning more money if you make smart decisions about which cards to keep and which ones to throw away (sounds like a Kenny Rogers song.) If you're unclear about the concept, let's look at an example:
You get a pair of queens, but the hand also has 4 cards to a royal flush. If you hold the pair of queens and draw, you're guaranteed an even money payoff. That's an expected value of 1 unit-100% multiplied by the 1 unit payoff.
But if you discard one of the queens and draw to the royal flush, you have a roughly 2% chance of getting an 800 for 1 payoff. That's an expected value of 800 X 2%, or 16 units.
98% of the time, you'll miss that royal flush, but the one time out of 50 you hit, you'll make more than enough in winnings to make up for the other 49 losses and then some.
Some gamblers enjoy games where they get to make meaningful decisions like this. It gives them a sense of what philosophers like to call "agency". These players prefer games like blackjack, poker, and video poker to games of pure chance like baccarat, craps, or roulette.
We always recommend choosing video poker over slots for the simple reason that the payback percentage is almost always better. Why play a game where the house has better odds if you don't have to?
Payback Percentages, Pay Tables, and the House Edge
We mentioned a few terms you might not be familiar with in the last section:
- Pay Table
A list of prizes for each possible winning combination on a gambling machine. We'll include example pay tables for Barnyard Poker shortly, but the concept is simple enough.
- Payback Percentage
The theoretical amount of money you'll win back for every dollar you wager in a machine. It's expressed as a percentage. If a game has a payback percentage of 98%, you're mathematically expected-over a long time-to win back 98 cents every time you wager a dollar.
- House Edge
The theoretical amount of money the casino will win from every dollar you wager at a gambling game. It's the payback percentage subtracted from 100%. If a game has a house edge of 2%, the casino expects to win $2 for every $100 you wager on the game.
It's important to understand that these figures are long-term expectations. You're an individual gambler, so you're playing in the short term-a few hundred hands here or there. The casino, on the other hand, is playing in the long term. They have hundreds, maybe even thousands of machines, being played 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
In the short term, anything can happen, which explains why gamblers sometimes win on individual trips to the casino.
In the long run, though, the real results of the games will start to mirror the expected results. Over the course of a year, the payback percentage will start looking a lot like the mathematical expectation.
With video poker, the payback percentage is always calculated and expressed with the assumption that you're making the optimal play on every hand. If you're making mistakes, you're giving up another 1% to 4% to the casino.
Most slot machines have a 95% payback percentage-or worse. Most video poker games have a 95% payback percentage or better.
And with video poker games, you can choose the games with the better payback percentage, because the information to calculate those numbers is available to you.
Multi-Play versus Single Play Video Poker Games
Another variation of video poker is the number of games you play at one time. Traditional video poker games have you playing a single hand at a time.
But multi-play machines offer you the chance to play multiple hands at once.
But there's a catch:
But all the draws for the multiple hands are handled independently.
If you're making the right decisions on each hand, you could end up with some huge wins.
But even though the house has a low edge in video poker, it still has an edge. The effect of playing 100 hands at once is to run through your bankroll faster.
The reason we put this section in here is simple-Barnyard Poker is a 3-play or triple-play video poker game. In other words, you must play 3 hands at once.
The Nitty Gritty of Barnyard Poker
The first thing to understand about a Barnyard Poker machine is that you have the option to play for 1 to 5 coins, just like you would on any other VP machine. If you do, though, you don't activate the extra features that make the game different from its base game.
To activate the Barnyard Poker feature, you must bet 10 credits per hand-doubling the normal max bet for the game. And since it's a triple play game, you're betting 30 credits every time you play.
Here's how the math works on that:
Suppose you're playing a quarter machine. This means every credit is worth 25 cents.
If you were playing on a dollar machine, you'd be wagering $30 per hand.
Barnyard Poker is not a game for low rollers.
Let's talk about what happens when you pay those extra credits, though:
The extra credits activate 2 "Multiplier Banks".
The game decides after you place your bet whether it's going to apply one of the Multiplier Banks to the hands. This is decided randomly, but it's about 20% of the time. The multipliers are often divisible by 3, so they're divided among the hands evenly. If the multiplier isn't divisible by 3, the extra is added as a multiplier to the bottom hand.
Here are 2 examples:
- 1The multiplier is 9X. It's awarded as a multiplier of 3X to each of the 3 hands. If you win, your winnings are multiplied by 3 on each of those hands.
- 2The multiplier is 10X. It's awarded as a multiplier of 3X on the top 2 hands, and as a multiplier of 4X on the bottom hand. If you win one of the top 2 hands, the prize amount is multiplied by 3. If you win on the bottom hand, the prize amount is multiplied by 4.
The multiplier banks start at 3X or 15X. There's an 80% chance of getting a 3X starting multiplier and a 20% chance of getting a 15X starting multiplier.
These multipliers increase as you play, too. Every time you're dealt a pair or better, the amount of the multiplier is increased by the following amounts:
The maximum multiplier in each bank is 36X. If you get a pair when you already have a 36X multiplier in one bank, the extra is added to the other bank.
Base Games for Barnyard Poker
As we mentioned earlier, Barnyard Poker is one of those video poker variations where the gimmick involves offering a multiplier to an existing game. These games are called base games, and in the case of Barnyard Poker, the base games include:
The multipliers affect both the volatility and the payback percentage for the games. Any time you're placing twice as much money in bets on a game in exchange for randomly awarded multipliers, you're increasing the volatility of the game.
It's how far the actual results can be expected to deviate from the expected results in the short term. In low volatility games, the actual results will almost always differ from the mathematically expected results. But they won't differ much.
In other words, games with more volatility have wider swings, both in terms of big wins and long periods of bigger losses.
The effect of these multipliers on the payback percentages for these games favors the player, but not by much.
Here are some examples:
- An 8/5 Jacks or Better game normally offers an expected return of 97.3%. With the Barnyard feature activated, this increases to 97.42%, a difference of 0.12%.
- A Bonus Poker game which would normally pay back at 98.01% over time pays back 98.14% with the Barnyard feature activated. This is a difference of 0.13%.
- A Deuces Wild game which would normally have a payback percentage of 97.58% has a payback percentage of 97.87%, which is an increase of 0.19%.
We always recommend that you play video poker games with a payback percentage of 99% or higher. The pay table with the Barnyard feature activated for Bonus Poker Deluxe offers a payback percentage of 98.62%. That's the best payback percentage we know of for any variation of Barnyard Poker.
That's the playable, but it's far from ideal.
This is also common with these video poker variations that trade in multiplier. They don't offer the best pay tables. You won't find a 9/6 Jacks or Better Barnyard Poker game.
This is a truism that can be applied to almost any gambling game, but especially gambling machines. The more bells and whistles offered, the lower the payback percentage.
Of course, any of these Barnyard Poker games, even with the worst pay tables, still offer you a better gamble than almost any slot machine.
Barnyard Poker Strategy Advice
Your decisions have no effect on the awarding of these multipliers. Therefore, the appropriate strategy for any version of Barnyard Poker is to follow the correct strategy for the underlying game.
Our site offers comprehensive coverage of each of the base games for Barnyard Poker. Refer to those pages for easy-to-follow strategy tables for each of those games.
Where to Find Barnyard Poker in Casinos Online or Off
Barnyard Poker is an IGT game, so it's not widely available online. You can play a free version of the game at VideoPoker.com, though.
The easiest place to find Barnyard Poker is in Las Vegas. The game is available at Eureka Casino, Gold Coast Hotel & Casino, Santa Fe Station Hotel & Casino, and Suncoast Hotel & Casino. Each of those properties only has 1 or 2 machines with the game available, though.
A handful of casinos in California also offer the game, and like their cousins in Nevada, those casinos only have 1 or 2 machines in each of them.
According to VideoPoker.com, only 36 machines with the game are available throughout the United States. Since more than a third of those are in California or Nevada, those are your best bets if you want to try your hand at them.
Barnyard Poker is an interesting and fun variation of video poker which tacks randomly-awarded, increasing multipliers onto your prizes. It makes for a more volatile game, and you're also required to wager higher amounts to activate the feature. It's not a great game for low rollers, but unlike many variations with multipliers, it helps-rather than hurts-the players' odds.
The best thing about this variation is that it doesn't require strategy changes on the part of the player. If you know the strategy for the base game, you're all set. It's not the best video poker option in the casino, but Barnyard Poker can be a fun change of pace if you like volatile gambling machines.