Build a Wheel Poker

Build a Wheel

In 2011 at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, renowned gambling machine manufacturer International Game Technology (IGT) debuted a revolutionary new video poker concept known as Build a Wheel Poker.

Rather than create an entirely new form of video poker - such as adding the Bonus Poker concept to basic Jacks or Better - IGT designed Build a Wheel Poker as a feature which could be added to seven popular variants. Everything from Triple Double Bonus to Deuces Wild are on tap, so video poker enthusiasts of all stripes will have something right up their alley to choose from.

In a press release issued to announce the game's launch, IGT offered the following description of its innovative Build a Wheel Poker design:

"From IGT's legendary Video Poker line is the new Build a Wheel Poker(TM) game, the next generation of wildly successful video poker wheel games.

This game offers the first ever dynamic video wheel used in a video poker bonus. And when players fill in the wheel slices by winning jackpots or are dealt a full house, they get to spin their wheel and collect a big win.

It's never the same game twice."

You might be wondering what these "wildly successful video poker wheel games" are all about, so let's get right to it.

The hook of this new twist on video poker is simple: along with regular video poker gameplay, you'll be looking to fill in a "Wheel of Fortune" like screen with various prizes. This wheel concept is quite popular among slot players, and has slowly creeped into the world of video poker.

Essentially, you'll have a wheel with eight spaces to work with when the game begins. But only two of those spaces feature preset prizes (more details to come in the next section). In order to fill the wheel in with its six remaining prizes, players hope to hit premium video poker hands - which are divided into tiers based on strength.

We'll fill you in on exactly how that process works in the subsequent section, but for now, just know that you'll be playing two games in one.

First, you'll be applying basic strategy tenets based on your chosen video poker variant. That means making the correct hold / discard decisions and playing with sound bankroll management.

Second, you'll be slowly filling that prize wheel in - or doing so quite quickly when the deck cooperates. As soon as the wheel has all eight prize spaces put in place, the video poker game will pause and players are prompted to spin the wheel. A random number generator goes to work, and when the wheel comes to a rest, you'll instantly add the appropriate prize to your credit account.

Also, just for kicks, Build a Wheel Poker is configured to allow for either 3 handed or 5 handed play, meaning you'll have multiple chances to draw on each starting hand.

Finally, the Build a Wheel Poker feature is optional - coming at the cost of a side bet - so players can opt to turn it off and on at will.

That's just a brief overview of the concept, but trust us when we tell you that Build a Wheel Poker has several layers of complexity to it that we haven't touched on yet. Stuff like averaged out prize spaces, weighted spins, and even a surrender option akin to blackjack all come into play.

As a result, Build a Wheel Poker is one of the more interesting video poker concepts we've yet come across. The actual wheel itself is simply a chance based gamble, one more suited to slot machines than our beloved skill game - but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

We all enjoy the thrill of a random spin, and so long as you're not basing an entire session on such whims, adding an occasional moment of wonder to the grind of video poker is a great idea. Applying perfect optimal strategy can be a mental chore, and while it's certainly profitable, this tack can admittedly be a bit boring.

But by introducing an intermittent flash of excitement with the prize wheel - while not detracting from the player friendly odds offered by video poker base games - IGT has succeeded in making the game more fun for pros and recreational players alike.

Without further ado, let's begin our tutorial on Build a Wheel Poker by starting off with a quick crash course in video poker basics.

Build a Wheel Poker Basics

To start things off, we'll assume that you've never had the pleasure of playing video poker before.

So if you're a veteran of the game who knows the lay of the land already, feel free to skim ahead to the next section.

But for those rookies out there, let's take a tour of the video poker machine itself.

Upon locating a Build a Wheel Poker machine, your first task will be to select your preferred variant from the following seven games:

  • 1Bonus Poker
  • 2Bonus Deluxe Poker
  • 3Double Bonus Poker
  • 4Double Double Bonus Poker
  • 5Triple Double Bonus Poker
  • 6Deuces Wild Poker
  • 7Bonus Deuces Wild Poker

These are all widely found versions of standard video poker, but if you'd like to learn more about them, feel free to click the links above and study the base games in greater detail.

For the sake of this walkthrough, we won't be selecting a certain variant, as they all work in similar fashion from a gameplay perspective.

After choosing the game you'd like to play, your next step will be selecting a pay table within that game.

As this is a beginner's course, we'll provide a simple definition of a pay table. In video poker, all of the hands one can make - from one pair to the royal flush - are scored using a pay table. Games like Bonus Poker and Deuces Wild include different takes on the primary poker hands, but for the most part you'll be playing with the usual one pair, two pair, three of a kind, straight, flush, full house, straight flush, and royal flush hierarchy.

Just in case you're not familiar with those hand rankings, we've added the traditional poker hand listing below for easy review: Royal flush - The rarest hand in poker comes in right around 1 in 40,000 deals, but when it does you'll let the whole casino know about it. A royal flush consists of the "Broadway" straight - the 10 J Q K A - with all five cards coming in the same suit.

  • Straight flush - Any string of five consecutive suited cards (8h 9h 10h Jh Qh, 4c 5c 6c 7c 8c) that falls short of a royals flush qualifies for a straight flush.
  • Four of a kind - To score four of a kind, or "quads," you'll need to find four identical cards of the same rank (3 3 3 3 K, K K K K 3).
  • Full house - When you put one pair alongside three of a kind, you'll hold a full house. Examples include the 4 4 4 Q Q, 3 7 3 7 3, and 10 J J J 10.
  • Flush - Any five unconnected cards that come in the same suit will form a flush. Examples include the 4h 9h Jh Kh Ah or 2s 5s 10s Qs As.
  • Straight - Non suited strings of five consecutive cards count for a straight. And aces can run both ways for a straight, so you can hit a low A 2 3 4 5 "wheel straight" or a high 10 J Q K A "Broadway" straight. But all five card runs are good though, so 4 5 6 7 8 will work just like 9 10 J Q K.
  • Three of a kind - If you have three of any given card rank (6 6 6 9 10, A A A 9 3, or 5 5 5 7 A) in hand, you've made three of a kind.
  • Two Pair - One pair plus one more pair in another rank (Q Q 4 4 2 or 2 2 10 10 A) gives you two pair.
  • One Pair- The minimum qualifying hand for most video poker games is one pair, usually of jacks or better (J J, Q Q, K K, A A).

A pay table is simply a list of payouts which correspond to each of these hands. For example, in the standard game of Jacks or Better, one pair is worth 1 coin per coin wagered, two pair counts for 2 coins, three of a kind for 3 coins - all the way up to the 800 coin jackpot payout for landing a royal flush.

Adding further dimension Build a Wheel Poker gameplay, all seven base games can be played using several commonly encountered pay tables. For example, you'll find 8 / 5, 7 / 5, and 6 / 5 pay tables for Bonus Poker, along with 9 / 7, 9 / 6, and 9 / 5 pay tables for Triple Double Bonus Poker.

Don't worry right now, as you don't need to know what these number sets mean to get into the game. For now, just realize that 8 / 5 pay tables are better than 7 / 5, and so on.

For every video poker variant under the sun, you'll have a "full pay" version (9 / 6 in Jacks or Better, 8 / 5 in Bonus poker, etc.) - and these pay tables provide players with the highest possible payback percentage for that game (more on this to come in the next section). Along with the full pay games, casino operators are free to set their machines with slightly different pay tables, such as 9 / 5 in Jacks or Better, 7 / 5 in Bonus Poker, and the like.

In each case, a downgraded pay table directly reduces your overall payback percentage - and usually by quite a wide margin.

For that reason, players should seek out the highest pay table available to maximize their payback percentage over the long run. And don't worry, we've got you covered with full pay table information, along with the associated expected return rates, two sections below.

At this point in our video poker prep course, you know how to find a machine, set your game, and decide on a pay table. Now it's time to up the ante...

Once you've used coins, cash, or a casino credit voucher to deposit funds, the next step is to set your coin denomination. This is simply the betting increment you'll be using throughout the session. IGT has designed Build a Wheel Poker to be outfitted with three coin denominations: $0.25, $0.50, and $1.00.

You can decide to play for quarter stakes, or at the half dollar and dollar levels. In any event, you'll want to bet the maximum of 5 coins per hand - as this "unlocks" the jackpot payouts for the different variants. Thus, a basic max bet at the quarter stakes would be $1.25, before moving to $2.50 at the half dollar level, and $5.00 for dollar bettors.

If five bucks per hand is too rich for your blood, don't hesitate to dial it back to the lower coin denominations. But remember, no matter your bankroll limitations, expert strategy for video poker advises you to always bet the maximum of five coins.

Here's where things get tricky for Build a Wheel Poker beginners. Unlike the standard gameplay you may be familiar with - wherein a player takes one five card hand at a time - these machines are configured to offer 3 handed or 5 handed play.

This wrinkle on video poker norms may seem like too much at the moment, but it's actually very easy to grasp. You'll still get the same five card starting hand at the bottom of the screen, but that will be joined by a set of duplicates. And when you go to the drawing round, each of those duplicate hands will keep the same held cards, before receiving random replacements from separate decks.

That's a mouthful, we'll admit, so let's break it down with an example hand.

The game is basic Bonus Poker and we've set the game to 3 handed play, you'll learn why we chose that over the 5 handed alternative later on in the strategy section. Now, we press the "DEAL" button to receive our five card starting hand, which comes out as the Ad Ks Kd 4h 2h.

We've started out with a pair of kings in this hand, and onscreen, you'll see the same five card combination strung out three separate times. These hands are now divided from one another, and each one has its own 47 card deck (52 cards minus the five already dealt) to work with.

With this particular starting hand, out best play would be to hold the pair of kings while discarding the ace, four, and deuce. You'll press the "HOLD" buttons underneath each of the main hand card graphics to keep them in place. And when you do, those kings will be held in each of the three (or five) hands being played.

Now, you'll press the "DEAL" button once more to draw three new cards from the deck. But remember, each of your three hands are separate, so they'll each receive randomized draws from their own deck. That means you'll receive duplicates in some cases, or completely different cards in others.

In our case, we draw the Qc 9d 3c on the first hand, the 7s 7d 7c on the second hand, and the Kc Kh 5h on the third hand.

Thus, the first hand remains the same at one pair of kings, earning a 1 coin payout. That second hand improved considerably, adding three 7s to form a full house for an 8 coin reward. And in the third hand, we've collected the two remaining kings to make four of a kind - good for a 25 coin bonus pay in Bonus Poker.

In this way, 3 handed and 5 handed play add a different dimension to the gameplay experience, as you can miss a big draw on one hand while completing on the other. Or, like in the example above, you can lock up three payouts on a single deal to bring big back winnings.

One thing to bear in mind about Build a Wheel poker is that this multi hand capability comes at a cost. For each hand you play, you'll be putting up the same base bet over again. This means a quarter stakes player betting the max for $1.25 would need to pay $1.25 three times over. That raises the cost of a deal to $3.75 for 3 handed games, and $6.25 for the 5 handed alternative.

Obviously, this changes the math behind your bankroll management quite a bit, so be sure to think ahead to see what your per deal cost will be. Or, you can just look below to find a handy list of per deal costs across the board for Build a Wheel Poker:

Cost Per Deal When Max Betting 5 Coins (Without Build a Wheel)

Stakes 3 Handed 5 Handed
$0.25 $3.75 $6.25
$0.50 $7.50 $12.50
$1.00 $15.00 $25.00

That just about does it for the basic rules and gameplay of video poker, so let's move on to a review of the Build a Wheel Poker feature itself.

In order to activate the Build a Wheel Poker function, players must put up an additional "side bet." This supplementary wager costs 5 coins at your preferred coin denomination - no matter if you're playing 3 handed or 5 handed.

This changes the math behind bankroll management even further, so check below for a table showing max bet amounts per deal when you put up the Build a Wheel Poker side bet:

Cost Per Deal When Max Betting 5 Coins (With Build a Wheel)

Stakes 3 Handed 5 Handed
$0.25 $5.00 $7.50
$0.50 $10.00 $15.00
$1.00 $20.00 $30.00

Activating the Build a Wheel feature doesn't do a thing to alter the base game experience, so you'll still be getting the same cards, trying to snag the same hands, and scoring the same payouts.

What the feature does do is add a glowing prize wheel above the main video poker screen. This wheel consists of eight prize spaces - but only two will be "filled in" with payout amounts.

The first will read "4,000" - meaning it pays out 4,000 coins at your chosen denomination should you hit it. The second permanent space offers a progressive jackpot prize, which is seeded at 10,000 coins, so you'll see various amounts of 10,000 or higher there.

As for the other six prize spaces on the wheel, they remain blank until you hit certain high ranked hands.

The two ways to fill in prize spaces are as follows:

  • Land a three of a kind, straight, or flush as your five card starting hand. This will fill in a single blank prize space, using average payouts of 650.00 coins for three of a kind, 952.50 coins for a straight, and 1,468.13 coins for a flush.
  • Land a full house or better, either as a starting hand or on the draw. This will cause all of the remaining blank prize spaces to be filled in, using average payouts of 938.46 coins for a full house, 2,188.46 coins for four of a kind, and 4,000 coins each for a straight flush or royal flush.

In this way, your normal video poker play will eventually cause the prize wheel to be filled in completely - at which point the game will pause and prompt you to take a spin. The wheel assigns an equal weighting to the six prize spaces you fill in, while the two permanent spaces are weighted less - which means they'll come in less often.

According to IGT's promotional material for Build a Wheel Poker, the average payout awarded when spinning comes to 900 coins.

At this point you might be wondering about cases when a player fills in some wheel spaces, but either runs out of money or needs to leave before a spin can be made. Well, that's a great question, and one IGT answered by bringing blackjack's "surrender" option into play.

If you decide to cash out before the prize wheel has been completed, Build a Wheel Poker will present you with a two pronged prompt, asking Surrender or Leave Here.

The surrender option comes with a small dollar amount attached, which represents a fraction of the potential payouts offered by the wheel, and you'll collect those funds instantly by surrendering.

The other option is to leave the filled in prize spaces in place, which makes it that much easier for the next player at the machine to earn a spin.

Obviously, you should always be playing Build a Wheel Poker to build that titular wheel. After all, why play this variant if you're not going to enjoy the fruits of your labor?

We won't get into the math here, but analysis of the probabilities and payouts shows that taking the surrender option is always a worse play when compared to playing through and taking your spin.

However, it's inevitable that some players will have a few wheel prize spaces filled in when the wife comes calling, or the credit counter is emptied out. In either case, you'll be leaving valuable equity on the table in the form of those guaranteed payouts - provided you complete your wheel building journey.

Remember, you can't lose on wheel spin, so anytime you fill the whole thing in and take a whirl, you'll be sure to collect a payout. With that in mind, you should set a plan to always play until the wheel is complete, before collecting your bonus payout and moving on. And if you're not prepared to fill in another wheel, simply get up and play a wheel free video poker variant instead.

But if you're absolutely forced to choose between the surrender option and simply leaving the filled in prize spaces up for the next player to snatch, the choice is easy: tap the surrender prompt and take your pittance.

What Is a Payback Percentage in the Context of Build a Wheel Poker?

Whenever a writer breaks down a gambling game, you're likely to encounter two terms that seem to measure various games and wagers:

  • 1The house edge
  • 2The payback percentage

Table game players typically use house edge to describe games like blackjack (0.50 percent), baccarat (1.06 percent on Banker bets; 1.24 percent on Player bets), and roulette (2.70 percent on single zero wheels; 5.26 percent on double zero wheels).

The figures you see above simply define the house's expected return, or the ratio of money wagered that the casino can expect to collect over the infinite long run.

As they're expressed in percentages, you can apply the house edge rates to any betting increment, but we usually opt for $100 wagers to make things easier. Thus, a blackjack player enjoying a house edge of 0.50 would expect to send $0.50 to the house for every $100 they risk. That's much better than the $5.26 won by the house on every $100 wagered on double zero roulette wheels - which is why sharp players stick to twenty one.

Every game or wager you can imagine has been analyzed - with mathematicians comparing win / loss probabilities to the associated payouts - to determine its inherent house edge.

And we know you can't lose $0.50 when betting $100 on a hand of blackjack, so keep in mind that house edge is a long term metric. In other words, that $0.50 for the house is collected over the course of thousands and thousands of wagers, each of different size, with an average of $0.50 being taken from every $100 in average bets.

As machine players, video poker and slot fans tend to speak in terms of payback percentage.

This measurement just reverses the focus, looking at the expected return from the player's perspective. For the basic video poker game of Jacks or Better, the payback percentage on a 9 / 6 full pay machine comes to 99.54 percent. That means the player can expect to "win" $99.54 for every $100 they bet.

Winning less than you bet is never fun, but remember, payback percentage is a long term metric just like house edge. That means you'll win a chunk here playing video poker, lose a little here, or break dead even on some sessions. But overall, through the long run of your lifetime, those gains and losses will average out to leave you bringing back $99.54 for every $100 you put up.

A win of $99.54 is actually just a loss of $0.46 though, right? And if you notice, that number comes quite close to the $0.50 expected loss facing blackjack players.

That's because house edge and payback percentage measure the same thing, just from different perspectives. So when you see any house edge rate, simply subtract it from 100 to calculate the payback percentage. And conversely, any payback percentage can be subtracted from 100 to arrive at that game's house edge.

You've learned the basics of house edge and payback percentage, so here's a pair of advanced lessons on the subject:

1 - These are theoretical, long term predictions only

When mathematicians mention the long run as it applies to gambling games, they mean the longest of runs. An infinite long run in fact, one that stretches on into eternity to provide the statistical scope necessary for exact measurements.

For players like us, we can never begin to reach the amount of hands played needed to form a true long run sample size. That's why the metrics discussed above are theoretical in nature. Mind you, they're accurate as all get out, which is why casinos and card sharps alike rely on house edge and payback percentage to compare games.

But they're best used for comparison's sake only, which is why we know blackjack is a better bet than roulette. If you come into a casino believing that you'll take home $99.54 from your $100 deposit on Jacks or Better, you'll be sorely mistaken - as that one session is the definition of the short run.

Instead, realize that the 99.54 percent payback on that game nearly reaches 100.00 percent - or the breakeven mark. Anything higher you can find (and video poker does have some better bets out there) is a benefit to your bankroll, while games with lower payback rates will cost you over the long run.

2 - These numbers assume you're playing with optimal strategy

When we said blackjack players enjoy a small house edge of just 0.50 percent, we meant those who play with basic strategy only. Unless you're applying the optimal plays to any gambling game, you won't come close to deriving the best expected return rate possible.

This applies to video poker games as well, so until you've mastered basic strategy for your favorite game, you won't really be taking advantage of its player friendly payback percentage.

How the Pay Tables for Build a Wheel Poker Work to Create a Transparent Payback Percentage

With seven different video poker variants to choose from, and 26 distinct pay tables in play, Build a Wheel Poker can't be broken down using our usual pay table analysis.

Instead, we'll provide you with an overview of all possible gameplay setups, along with the payback percentages for each:

Build a Wheel Poker Payback Percentages (By Game)

Bonus Poker 8/5 99.17 percent 99.32 percent 99.27 percent
Bonus Poker 7/5 98.01 percent 98.45 percent 98.31 percent
Bonus Poker 6/5 96.87 percent 97.59 percent 97.35 percent
Bonus Deluxe 9/6 99.64 percent 99.67 percent 99.66 percent
Bonus Deluxe 9/5 98.55 percent 98.85 percent 98.75 percent
Bonus Deluxe 8/6 98.49 percent 98.81 percent 98.70 percent
Bonus Deluxe 8/5 97.40 percent 97.99 percent 97.80 percent
Double Bonus 9/7 99.11 percent 99.27 percent 99.22 percent
Double Bonus 9/6 97.81 percent 98.30 percent 98.13 percent
Double Bonus 9/7 97.74 percent 98.25 percent 98.08 percent
Double Bonus 9/6 96.38 percent 97.22 percent 96.94 percent
Dbl Dbl Bonus 9/6 98.98 percent 99.18 percent 99.11 percent
Dbl DblBonus 8/6 97.89 percent 98.36 percent 98.21 percent
Dbl Dbl Bonus 9/5 97.87 percent 98.35 percent 98.19 percent
Dbl DblBonus 8/5 96.79 percent 97.53 percent 97.28 percent
Trip Dbl Bonus 9/7 99.58 percent 99.62 percent 99.61 percent
Trip DblBonus 9/6 98.15 percent 98.56 percent 98.42 percent
Trip DblBonus 9/5 97.02 percent 97.71 percent 97.48 percent
2s Wild 25 / 16 / 10 / 4 / 4 / 3 99.73 percent 99.74 percent 99.73 percent
2s Wild 25 / 15 / 9 / 4 / 4 / 3 98.91 percent 99.13 percent 99.06 percent
2s Wild 20 / 12 / 10 / 4 / 4 / 3 97.58 percent 98.13 percent 97.94 percent
2s Wild 25 / 16 / 13 / 4 / 3 / 2 96.77 percent 97.52 percent 97.27 percent
Bonus 2s Wild 9 / 4 / 4 / 3 99.45 percent 99.53 percent 99.50 percent
Bonus 2s Wild 8 / 4 / 4 / 3 99.06 percent 99.24 percent 99.18 percent
Bonus 2s Wild 13 / 4 / 3 / 3 98.80 percent 99.04 percent 98.96 percent
Bonus 2s Wild 12 / 4 / 3 / 3 98.28 percent 98.65 percent 98.54 percent

This table should give you a handy guide to how the pay tables serve to impact your payback percentage on each variant. The full pay version of each game is listed first (8 / 5 for Bonus Poker, 25 / 16 / 10 / 4 / 4 / 3 for Deuces Wild, etc.), with the inferior pay tables listed underneath.

Obviously, you should always be looking to play the full pay version of these seven variants, as any downgrade in the pay table results in a lower payback percentage.

Also of note, take a look at the horizontal rows for each variant.

These cover instances where you aren't playing with the Build a Wheel Poker function turned on, then the 3 handed Wheel game, and finally the 5 handed Wheel version.

In every single game and pay table, you should notice a pattern: the no Wheel version offers the lowest payback percentage, followed by the 5 handed version.

That means you'll always face the most player friendly odds, and highest payback percentage, when you turn Build the Wheel Poker on and play 3 handed.

Finally, we know you're scanning that table right now, trying to locate the highest payback percentage found on a Build the Wheel Poker machine. And that's a smart way to play, as all video poker players should be hunting for the highest payback percentages they can get.

In this case, we've sorted payback percentages from the table above in descending order, so you can easily see which game / pay table combinations offer the best - and worst - bang for your buck:

Build a Wheel Poker Payback Percentages (By Payback)

2s Wild 25 / 16 / 10 / 4 / 4 / 3 99.73 percent 99.74 percent 99.73 percent
Bonus Deluxe 9/6 99.64 percent 99.67 percent 99.66 percent
Trip Dbl Bonus 9/7 99.58 percent 99.62 percent 99.61 percent
Bonus 2s Wild 9 / 4 / 4 / 3 99.45 percent 99.53 percent 99.50 percent
Bonus Poker 8/5 99.17 percent 99.32 percent 99.27 percent
Double Bonus 9/7 99.11 percent 99.27 percent 99.22 percent
Bonus 2s Wild 8 / 4 / 4 / 3 99.06 percent 99.24 percent 99.18 percent
Dbl Dbl Bonus 9/6 98.98 percent 99.18 percent 99.11 percent
2s Wild 25 / 15 / 9 / 4 / 4 / 3 98.91 percent 99.13 percent 99.06 percent
Bonus 2s Wild 13 / 4 / 3 / 3 98.80 percent 99.04 percent 98.96 percent
Bonus Deluxe 9/5 98.55 percent 98.85 percent 98.75 percent
Bonus Deluxe 8/6 98.49 percent 98.81 percent 98.70 percent
Bonus 2s Wild 12 / 4 / 3 / 3 98.28 percent 98.65 percent 98.54 percent
Trip Dbl Bonus 9/6 98.15 percent 98.56 percent 98.42 percent
Bonus Poker 7/5 98.01 percent 98.45 percent 98.31 percent
Dbl Dbl Bonus 8/6 97.89 percent 98.36 percent 98.21 percent
Dbl Dbl Bonus 9/5 97.87 percent 98.35 percent 98.19 percent
Double Bonus 9/6 97.81 percent 98.30 percent 98.13 percent
Double Bonus 9/7 97.74 percent 98.25 percent 98.08 percent
2s Wild 20 / 12 / 10 / 4 / 4 / 3 97.58 percent 98.13 percent 97.94 percent
Bonus Deluxe 8/5 97.40 percent 97.99 percent 97.80 percent
Trip Dbl Bonus 9/5 97.02 percent 97.71 percent 97.48 percent
Bonus Poker 6/5 96.87 percent 97.59 percent 97.35 percent
Dbl Dbl Bonus 8/5 96.79 percent 97.53 percent 97.28 percent
2s Wild 25 / 16 / 13 / 4 / 3 / 2 96.77 percent 97.52 percent 97.27 percent
Double Bonus 9/6 96.38 percent 97.22 percent 96.94 percent

As you can see, the most advantageous setup you can give yourself is to play Deuces Wild using the full pay table, with the Wheel turned on during 3 handed play. This creates conditions offering a payback percentage of 99.74 percent - which you just can't beat on the Build a Wheel Poker machine.

Conversely, the lowest odds possible are provided by the Double Bonus game using the 9 / 6 / 4 pay table, with no Wheel function activated. That drops your payback all the way down to 96.38 percent - and you might as well be playing roulette at that rate.

Build a Wheel Poker Strategy Tips

Because the Build a Wheel Poker feature has been overlaid on seven existing video poker variants, we can't offer readers the same hard and fast strategy tables you're accustomed to seeing here.

Instead, we invite you to take a tour of our main pages for those seven games:

  • Bonus Poker
  • Bonus Deluxe Poker
  • Double Bonus Poker
  • Double Double Bonus Poker
  • Triple Double Bonus Poker
  • Deuces Wild Poker
  • Bonus Deuces Wild Poker

For example, if you enjoy adding Build a Wheel Poker to the classic game of Double Double Bonus Poker, simply head to our dedicated page for that game. From there, scroll down to the strategy section and you'll have perfect optimal strategy for your favorite game right there at your fingertips.

The reason for this recommendation is simple: the prize wheel is essentially just a separate game within a game. Having it turned on doesn't do a thing to impact the base game's existing hand rankings, probabilities, or payouts.

In other words, you can play Double Double Bonus Poker with or without the Build a Wheel Poker function turned on - and the strategy for playing each hand would remain exactly the same.

Now, take a look at that italicized phrase for a moment. We're talking about the actual video poker hands themselves, which will be governed by the same optimal strategy guidelines as before.

However, the Build a Wheel Poker experience does include several wrinkles which must be taken into consideration if we're to play the entire game correctly.

First and foremost, never forget to turn the Build a Wheel Poker feature on. We're not just saying that because it's just plain old video poker without the prize wheel - far from it.

As we discussed in detail throughout the pay table section, placing the extra 1 coin wager to activate the Build a Wheel function always adds a tiny bit of equity to your overall payback percentage. If you'll recall, the 8 / 5 version of Bonus Poker offers a payback percentage of 99.17 percent as a base game alone. That's exactly what you'd find at a standard Bonus Poker machine without Build a Wheel Poker capability.

But when you turn the prize wheel on through that extra 1 coin bet, the payback percentage on the same game instantly rises to 99.31 percent. That difference of 0.14 percent may not look all that important, but in the world of casino gambling - with its razor thin margins between success and failure - giving this edge up equals bankroll suicide.

Secondly, remember the rule about playing 3 handed at all times. We went over this in detail back in the pay tables section, but it bears repeating here: your payback percentage is always higher playing 3 handed rather than 5 handed.

Sure, those differences may be only a few fractions of a percentage point - but they still matter immensely when speaking in statistical terms. Simply put, no sharp player willingly sacrifices an iota of their payback percentage back to the house. If the Build a Wheel Poker machine is offering 3 handed play at a slightly higher payback percentage across the board, why would you ever choose the 5 handed alternative.

Finally, ignore all of the bells and whistles associated with the surrender option. As the pay table discussion earlier showed us, this seemingly generous surrender choice is actually an unwinnable proposition over the long run. Put another way, accepting the surrender without spinning the wheel will always cost you hard earned equity - so you should be playing this game through to the wheel spin at all times.

By taking these three strategic pillars specific to Build a Wheel Poker, and adding them to the foundation formed by optimal strategy for your chosen base game, the task of building a bankroll on this exciting game will be made eminently easier.

Build a Wheel Poker Variants

The gambling game design industry loves nothing more than to mimic successful innovations.

Accordingly, you'll come across a few different video poker variants which also include the word "wheel" in their titles. And in fact, IGT itself added the Triple Wheel Poker concept just a year or so after the successful debut of Build a Wheel Poker.

The two games described below are the primary offshoots related directly to Build a Wheel Poker:

  • Wheel Poker - In this game, players are faced with a similar prize wheel, but this one is prefilled with 11 payout amounts ranging from 100 to 2,000 coins. To earn a chance at spinning the wheel, you'll first need to add 1 coin to your base wager, before trying to land four of a kind. If you do, the game will pause and present you with the wheel, before awarding your payout and returning to the ongoing hand.
  • Triple Wheel Poker - This one is simply Build a Wheel Poker on steroids. IGT has taken the original model and juiced it up considerably, adding 10 handed play to the 3 handed and 5 handed options, while putting two more prize wheels in play. Once again, you'll be filling in those blank prize spaces by hitting high hands, but with three distinct wheels in the works, the game triples the excitement and fun.

Where to Find Build a Wheel Poker Games (Online or Off)

As a proprietary product of IGT, the Build a Wheel Poker machine can only be found in casinos which have contracted with the company to supply gaming devices.

Thankfully for fans of the game, IGT is one of the world's major manufacturers of slot and video poker machines, with a reach that extends across the globe.

As such, you'll find the game being played in a wide variety of casinos across America, with the gambling mecca of Las Vegas leading the way.

Take a look below to find the most current directory of Build a Wheel Poker locations, along with the number of machines onsite at that particular property.

Las Vegas

  • Aliante Casino & Hotel (2 machines)
  • Aria Resort & Casino (2 machines)
  • Caesars Palace (2 machines)
  • Harrah's Casino Hotel (2 machines)
  • Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino (2 machines)

  • Prairie Meadows Casino - (1 machine)

  • Horseshoe Casino Bossier City - (1 machine)
New Mexico

  • Sandia Resort & Casino - (4 machines)

We won't say that this list is definitive, as casinos constantly tinker with their floor deployments, bringing in new games and swapping out poor performers. With that said, you may very well find Build a Wheel Poker games at various casinos that weren't covered above - while those venues may have removed their respective machines only recently.

Unconfirmed reports place Build a Wheel Poker at Red Rock Casino, Palace Station, and Suncoast - all "off Strip" properties located throughout the greater Las Vegas area.

So if you're keen on taking a shot at Build a Wheel Poker, do your due diligence can place a few phone calls to your favorite casinos. Even if they don't have the game there, a friendly video poker manager should be able to steer you on the right path to a sister property nearby.

In terms of the online casino arena, IGT has made a name for itself developing top line virtual slot games, and it even has a core group of video poker products - but Build a Wheel Poker hasn't yet made the cut.

As for now, the game is confined to those standalone machines only, but you never know if IGT's digital wing will take a crack at adapting the concept for online play.


Clever additions to the video poker landscape are always appreciated, especially when they manage to preserve the fundamental nature of the game. For us, that means high payback percentages combined with a predominately skill based approach.

Build a Wheel Poker by IGT has both bases covered in spades, as the prize wheel addition actually manages to increase the payback percentage rates for its seven base game variants. And by leaving those games alone - letting players ply their trade on Deuces Wild and other popular offshoots - Build a Wheel Poker definitely doesn't try to reinvent the wheel.

Instead, this game simply takes one fun aspect from the slot machine realm and melds it perfectly with video poker's foundation. As a result, Build a Wheel Poker remains eminently playable for video poker experts, while adding a ton of appeal for recreational players who love nothing more than to take a spin at big winnings.

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