Ultimate X Video Poker

Ultimate X Video Poker

Most video poker games resemble each other closely. The big differences from game to game are the pay tables and the presence of any multipliers. (Some games have wild cards, too.)

In Ultimate X Poker, you can double your bet and activate a random multiplier.

One other variation from one game to another is how many hands (or lines) you get to play. Many video poker variations only come in single line or multi line versions, but Ultimate X is available in both versions.

This page covers the basics of how to play video poker in general and Ultimate X specifically. This is probably the only page you'll need to read before playing the game. We also go into detail about the pay tables and strategies for the games.


The Basics of Playing Ultimate X Video Poker

Ultimate X video poker follows the usual pattern for video poker in general:

You insert money into the video poker machine, which is converted into credits based on the denomination of the machine. For example, if you insert $100 into a quarter machine, you have 400 credits. Insert that same $100 into a $5 machine, and you only have 80 credits.

The terms "credits" and "coins" are used interchangeably.

You then decide how many coins to bet on your hand-you can choose 1 coin, 5 coins, or any number of coins in between.

But the correct strategy is always to make the 5-coin bet. Here's why:

  • The payoff for a royal flush is the jackpot. If you bet 1, 2, 3, or 4 coins, the payoff for that hand is either 200 for 1 or 250 for 1, depending on the game.
  • But if you bet 5 coins, the payoff is 800 for 1.

That's a huge difference. A royal flush only comes up once every 40,000 hands or so, but the difference in payoff is enough that it will subtract 2% or so from the overall payback percentage of the machine. (We'll explain more about payback percentages in the next section.)

After you choose how many coins to play, the machine "deals" you a 5-card poker hand. You can choose to keep or discard any, all, or none of the cards in your hand. You do this by pushing the "hold" button beneath each card, or you can just touch the card on the screen.

The machine replaces the cards you've discarded, and you win an amount based on the poker hand you're left with. The machine has a posted pay table which indicates how much each hand is worth.

You'll notice that video poker isn't like traditional poker because you don't have to beat another player's hand. You just get paid based on how good your hand is.

You'll also notice that video poker isn't like a slot machine, either. The symbols on slot machines are arbitrary with arbitrary probabilities assigned to each of them. A slot machine has a pay table, but without knowing the probability of getting each symbol, you have no way to calculate the payback percentage or house edge for the game.

With video poker games, including Ultimate X Poker, you know that the probabilities are based on those of a 52-card deck. That's not enough for the average player to calculate the actual payback percentage for the game, but with a computer, making that calculation is easy.

That's a huge difference, by the way. In one game, you can know what the odds you're facing are. In the other, you can't. We always go for a known over an unknown.

The wrinkle that Ultimate X Poker adds to this gameplay is the option to double your bet in exchange for a multiplier applied to your winnings.

Here's how that works:

The maximum bet on a normal video poker game is 5 coins. If you bet 5 coins on an Ultimate X game, the game proceeds as if it were a regular video poker game. In fact, depending on the pay table, Ultimate X IS another video poker game-it's just a video poker game with an optional multiplier you can activate.

To activate this multiplier, all you must do is bet 10 coins on the hand instead of 5.

This isn't that innovative a feature, but Ultimate X has a unique way of applying their multiplier. Most video poker games offering multipliers assign a random multiplier. Ultimate X bases the multiplier on the ranking of your final hand.

Here's an example:

  • A royal flush, straight flush, or 4 of a kind results in a 2X multiplier.
  • A full house results in a 12X multiplier.
  • A flush results in an 11X multiplier.
  • A straight results in a 7X multiplier.
  • A 3 of a kind results in a 4X multiplier.
  • 2 pairs result in a 3X multiplier.
  • A pair of jacks or better results in a 2X multiplier.

We should point out that the sizes of the multipliers vary based on which machine you're playing. These are just example numbers from a commonly used pay table.

It's also important to point out that these are NOT the payouts for the hands. This is a multiplier applied to the payout you would have had.

A royal flush pays off at 800 for 1 normally. In the above example, that hand would pay off at 800 X 2, or 1600.

One of the perks of playing Ultimate X Poker is knowing the size of the multipliers. Many video poker games assign multipliers randomly. This converts those games into a slot machine of sorts, because without knowing how often or when the multipliers are applied, you can't calculate the payback percentage for the machine.

But since we know the probability of getting each hand, we also know the probability of getting the multiplier, so we can calculate what that does to the payback percentage for the game.

Like many video poker variations, the feature of Ultimate X Poker sits on top of an existing game variation and pay table. The following games are available in an "Ultimate X version":

  • Bonus Deuces
  • Bonus Poker
  • Bonus Poker Deluxe
  • Deuces Wild
  • Double Bonus
  • Double Double Bonus
  • Jacks or Better
  • Joker Poker
  • Triple Double Bonus

The Pay Tables and Payback Percentages for Ultimate X Video Poker

The pay tables for the variations of Ultimate X Poker aren't significantly different from standard variations of the game. For example, it's easy to find an Ultimate X video poker game of Jacks or Better with an 8/6 pay table.

Here's what that pay table looks like:

Coins/Hand 1 coin 2 coins 3 coins 4 coins 5 coins
Royal flush 250 500 750 1000 4000
Straight flush 50 100 150 200 250
4 of a kind 25 50 75 100 123
Full house 8 16 24 32 40
Flush 6 12 18 24 30
Straight 4 8 12 16 20
3 of a kind 3 6 9 12 15
2 pairs 2 4 6 8 10
Pair of Js+ 1 2 3 4 5

Let's just talk about the basic pay table first. It's a Jacks or Better pay table, and it's called an 8/6 Jacks or Better game because it pays 8 for 1 for a full house and 6 for 1 for a flush. Those are the 2 hands that video poker game designers modify the payouts on to adjust the payback percentage for the game.

The payback percentage for this game in its unvarnished (non-Ultimate X version) is 98.4%.

That's not bad, but the full pay version (9/6 Jacks or Better) game offers a 99.54% payback percentage.

That payback percentage assumes that you're making the correct decision on every hand, too. If you're a novice or have no card sense, you can safely subtract between 2% and 4% from that theoretical return.

Let's also talk briefly about what that number means. The payback percentage is the amount of each bet that the casino expects the machine to pay back to the player over time. It's expressed as a percentage.

With a game offering a 98.4% payback percentage, the casino expects you to get back $98.40 for every $100 you put through the machine.

And the formula for calculating how much money you put through the machine is easy enough, too. You just multiply the number of bets by the bet size.

An average video poker player plays about 600 hands per hour. That sounds like a lot, but it's a fast-paced game.

If you're playing a quarter machine and making a 5-coin bet on every hand, you're putting 600 X $1.25 = $750 per hour into action.

With a payback percentage of 98.4%, you're mathematically expected to win back $738 per hour. You're expected to lose $12 per hour.

It's also important to understand that this is a long-term expectation. In the short run, your results will almost certainly vary in one direction or another. A long-term expectation starts to become closer to reality the more bets you make. Over one or a dozen bets, you could be way off from the expectation. But over 6000 or 60,000 bets, your results will start resembling the mathematical expectation.

The effect of the multiplier on the payback percentage varies based on what the multipliers are set for. If we assume that the example multipliers above are in use on an 8/6 Jacks or Better game, the overall payback percentage for the Ultimate X version of the game becomes 99.42%.

That's almost (but not quite) as good as a standard full pay game.

Another effect that the multiplier has on the game is adding to its volatility.

What's Volatility?

That's how much deviation from the expectation you can look forward to in the short term. A game with low volatility has fewer swings in either direction. A game with high volatility has larger swings.


When you're doubling the amount of your wager on each hand from 5 to 10 coins, you increase your chances of having larger losing swings. You also increase your chances of having larger winning swings because of the multiplier.


What does this imply to the player?

You need a larger bankroll than you might normally use on a lower volatility game.

Then again, if you're playing any casino game where the house has an edge over the player, you'll eventually lose all your money-if you play long enough. The effect of a larger bankroll is merely to keep you in action longer before going broke.

Becoming a professional gambler is beyond the scope of this page, but we'll say this:

Professional gamblers refuse to place a bet unless they have an edge over the other party-the casino, the bookmaker, the competition at the poker table, etc.

You can find rare versions of video poker which have a payback percentage of over 100%, but not in an Ultimate X edition. If you're playing Ultimate X Poker, you're playing a game where the house has an unassailable mathematic edge.

Find Ultimate X Video Poker Online or Off

Real money online casinos don't generally offer Ultimate X Poker games. It's an IGT product, so it's under trademark. You might find games resembling this one at various online casinos, but it's an unusual enough feature that we can't even think of a similarly-named knockoff to recommend.

If you're determined to play online, you can play the free version of the game available at VideoPoker.com, but keep in mind that the pay tables there are more generous than you'll usually be able to find in a casino.

Unlike a lot of video poker variations, Ultimate X is reasonably easy to find in major casino destinations. According to the game's page on VideoPoker.com, 98 casinos in Nevada offer the game, and the state has over 502 machines. Ultimate X Poker is also popular at California casinos, 27 of which offer the game.

Ultimate X Poker Strategy

The strategy for Ultimate X Poker varies slightly from the base game-because of the multipliers. Keep in mind that some hands are more valuable when those multipliers are in effect.

You can find strategy charts for all the variations of Ultimate X we've listed above on the game-specific pages for those variants. They all work the same way-start at the top of the chart, compare your hand with what's listed, and stop when you get to a hand you have. Then keep those cards, discarding the rest.

Most of the time, this means hanging onto your pat hands. The philosophy is to let the machine deal you a winner. On rare occasions, you'll have the opportunity to choose between a huge draw (like 4 cards to a royal flush) instead of hanging onto a pat hand (like a high pair). In those cases, the payoff for the huge draw needs to be immense to make it worthwhile to break up a hand that's guaranteed to pay off.

Finally, here's one piece of meta-strategy specific to Ultimate X Poker:

The multipliers are added to your subsequent hands. This means that it's possible to walk away from the machine while multipliers are still left to be applied.

In other words, you play a hand. Based on the final hand, you get a multiplier which is applied to your next hand. If you run out of money before playing that next hand, the multipliers are still on the machine.

You should NEVER walk away from a machine where you've earned a multiplier.

And if you're savvy and have the inclination, it's worthwhile to find Ultimate X machines where other players left before applying their multipliers. If you only took advantage of those situations, you would have an edge over the casino.

You'd be playing so few hands per hour with that strategy, though, that it would be impossible to earn any respectable hourly winnings that way.

Conclusion

Ultimate X Poker is a great game with a subtle bonus feature that improves the payback percentage. We're fans of games with a transparent edge, which is why we enjoy video poker so much. Unfortunately, many VP games fail to make the effect of their bonus features on the payback percentage transparent.

Ultimate X Poker is a refreshing change of pace in that respect. We're also fans of games where the bonus feature improves the payback percentage instead of decrease the payback percentage.

You'll want to make subtle adjustments to your strategy, but your best bet with Ultimate X Poker is to look for machines which have leftover multipliers on them.

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