World Series of Poker Video Poker

WSOP Video Poker

World Series of Poker is a video poker variation from WMS that's also sometimes called Final Table Bonus. Like most video poker variations, World Series of Poker is a standard VP game with standard pay tables. It comes with a single game-play twist-the ability to qualify for a "Final Table Bonus" round. To activate this feature, you're required to place an additional bet on top of your usual 5-coin max bet.

On this page, we'll go into detail about how the game works in general, then we'll dig into the specifics of the "Final Table Bonus" and how it affects the game's payback percentage and strategy. We'll also provide some insights into where to find World Series of Poker VP games.


The Basics of Playing World Series of Poker Video Poker

You can't play World Series of Poker: Final Table Bonus without understanding the basics of video poker in general. As luck would have it, video poker is an easy game to play.

VP games look like slot machines, and in many respects, they play like slot machines, too. In both games, you're given rows of symbols. On a slot machine, those symbols are arbitrarily chosen and have arbitrary probabilities assigned to them. On a video poker game, the symbols are all taken from a standard deck of cards, and they have the same probabilities they would have if you were using that deck of cards.

Both games feature a pay table which outlines the prize amounts for the possible combinations of symbols. On a slot machine, these prize amounts are arbitrary. You cannot calculate the payback percentage or the house edge for a slot machine, because you need both the probability of winning a bet along with the prize amount to calculate that number.

But since video poker games like World Series of Poker use the same probabilities as a deck of cards, calculating the payback percentage and house edge for the games is just a simple matter of number crunching. In fact, all the winning combinations in video poker games are based on standard poker hand rankings like a royal flush, a straight flush, etc.

Gameplay is simplicity itself, too. You input money, and the machine awards you credits based on the amount of money versus the denomination of the machine. For example, if you put $200 into a $1 World Series of Poker VP game, you'd have 200 credits. The prizes are all listed in terms of credits, too.

Video poker games are all also based on 5-card draw. You start with a 5-card hand, then you get to discard between 0 and 5 cards. Your payoff is based on the poker ranking of your final hand. For example, if you get a royal flush, you get a payoff of 800 for 1 on your bet.

All video poker games offer a bigger jackpot for players who make the maximum 5-coin bet. Even though you're allowed to bet between 1 and 5 coins on each hand, you should never make any bet other than the 5-coin bet. The royal flush only pays off at 250 for 1 if you bet between 1 and 4 coins.

Here's where World Series of Poker gets interesting, though:

You have the option of placing 10-coin bet instead of a 5-coin bet. If you do, you have a chance of getting into the "Final Table Bonus" round.

Here's how that works:

  • If you bet 1-5 coins, it plays just like a standard video poker game-whatever the "base game" is.
  • You have the option of making a bet of 10 coins, though. When you do, a 5-coin bet is the main net. The other 5 coins is your bonus bet.
  • You'll be dealt a hand as normal, you'll make your discards as normal, and you'll draw replacement cards as normal.
  • But after the draw hand, you get a bonus hand of 2 cards. The machine deals these from a separate deck than your main hand.
  • If you get an ace in the bonus hand, your winnings (if any) are tripled.
  • If you get 2 aces in your bonus hand, your winnings are multiplied by 9.

If you get a pair of jacks or higher in your bonus hand, you get to play the bonus game-"Final Table Bonus". (You also have a random chance of getting a "free seat". This just means you have a chance of getting to play the bonus game even if you don't have a pair of jacks or better.)

During this bonus game, you face 9 computerized opponents. This bonus game is meant to evoke playing in the World Series of Poker, and it assumes you're in 10th place when you start the bonus game. You play against these opponents one at a time. Every time you beat an opponent, you move up-9th place, 8th place, 7th place, etc.

You win according to how you place at the end of this bonus game.

The base game also accounts for the bonus round. For example, if the base game is Double Bonus Poker, you get to double your winnings on a 4 of a kind if you make it to the bonus round. If you're playing Double Double Bonus, winnings for a 4 of a kind are multiplied by 4.

Those 2 bonus cards you got after the draw are your hole cards against your first opponent. You can keep these cards or discard them and get 2 new cards-these are also dealt from a brand new deck of cards.

You can discard these cards, too, but you must keep the 3rd hand. You can only discard your 2 hole cards twice, no more.

Once you've settled on your hole cards, your computerized opponent gets his hole cards. They're dealt from the same deck. Since this game is meant to evoke Texas holdem, you'll see a flop (3 cards on the board), a turn (the 4th card on the board), and a river (the 5th and final card on the board.) The cards on the board are "community cards". You and your opponent both use these cards to determine your final hand.

As in regular Texas holdem, you can use any combination of cards in the hole and on the board to make your final hand. You can use 0, 1, or 2 of your hole cards, and 5, 4, or 3 cards from the board. You win against your opponent if you have a better hand.

If you win, you get to play another opponent. In fact, you even get to play another opponent if you tie. You get 2 new hole cards with each new opponent. The bonus game continues until you finish in 1st place or lose against one of your opponents.

The game also has a bad beat bonus. If you have a 4 of a kind or better, and your opponent still wins, you get a payoff of 10,000 times the bet you made on the bonus game (the 5-coin bonus bet).

Your payoff during the "Final Table Bonus" round is based on how you place, and it's separate from your winnings on your main video poker hand. Here's an example pay table for the Final Table Bonus round:

1st place 650
2nd place 350
3rd place 225
4th place 150
5th place 100
6th place 50
7th place 25
8th place 15
9th place 10
10th place 5

Pay Tables, Payback Percentages, and the House Edge

Like many video poker variations, World Series of Poker uses a base game and tacks a bonus game on top of it. This game is available with the following base games:

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

The pay tables for these base games determine the payback percentages for the initial round. A payback percentage is a mathematically predicted amount you'll win for each dollar you bet in the long run. For example, if you're playing a game with a payback percentage of 97.3% (which is the payback percentage for the commonly used Jacks or Better pay table in this variant), the casino expects you to win back 97.3 cents for every dollar that you bet.

But this payback percentage is an expected long-term average. In the short run, anything can happen. You can lose more than expected or win more than expected. This short-term variance is what enables some players to walk away from the casinos as winners, even though the odds are in the casinos' favor.

But in the long run, the actual results always begin to resemble the mathematically expected outcome. Keep in mind that when we talk about the long run, we're talking about thousands or tens of thousands of hands.

The flip side of the payback percentage is the house edge. That's how much money the casino expects to win from every bet. If the payback percentage is 97.3%, the house edge is 2.7%. When you add the house edge to the payback percentage, the total is always 100%.

You can use these numbers to predict how much money you'll lose over time playing a specific video poker game. You just multiply the house edge by the amount of money you're wagering each hour.

Here's an Example

You're playing 600 hands per hour at $5 per hand, so you're putting $3000 into action each hour. 2.7% of that is $81. The casino expects the average player to lose that much per hour.

Another fact to understand about video poker payback percentages is that they assume you're playing with perfect strategy. In video poker games like World Series of Poker, the decisions about which cards you keep and which cards you discard affects the expected return on each bet.

In other words, if you play badly and make lots of incorrect decision, you'll lose more than the expected amount in the long run. (You might still walk away a winner in the short term, though.)

Here's an example of a Jacks or Better pay table that returns 97.3%. (This is the version that's used for most World Series of Poker VP games.)

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 5 10 15 20 25
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

This is called an 8/5 Jacks or Better game, because the payoff for a full house is 8 for 1, and the payoff for a flush is 5 for 1. Jacks or Better pay tables are categorized according to the payoffs for those 2 hands, because almost all Jacks or Better games use the same payoffs for every other hand in the game. They just adjust the payoffs on those 2 hands to loosen or tighten the game.

The bonus game in World Series of Poker adds to the overall return for the game. It's basically a separate bet with a separate payback percentage, but you get to average the 2 returns for an overall payback percentage on the game. In the Jacks or Better variant, the bonus game has a payback percentage of 97.6%, making the overall payback percentage for the game 97.4%. That's a marginal improvement of just 0.1%.

The bonus game for the other base games add between 0.1% and 0.2% to the overall return, too.

But none of the variations offer an overall payback percentage of 98.2%. That's the payback percentage for the Double Bonus version of the game.

The worst payback percentage for World Series of Poker belongs to the Double Double Bonus game, which averages a total of 97% payback.

We like to recommend that players stick with games which offer at least a 99% payback percentage. None of the variations of World Series of Poker offer this, but the Double Bonus variation comes close with its 98.2% payback percentage. If you're looking for something novel to play, Double Bonus World Series of Poker might be worth trying.

Where to Find WSOP Video Poker Online or Off

World Series of Poker is relatively obscure. You won't find it online, but you might find it tucked away in some of the casinos in Las Vegas.

You might look at the machines in Ballys, Caesars, and/or Harrahs.

WSOP Video Poker Strategy

For the most part, you'll use the same strategy during the first round as you would for the base game. The only exceptions are if you're playing the Double Bonus or Double Double Bonus variations. Since the 4 of a kind is worth so much more because of the potential multiplier, you should be more willing to skew toward trying to hit a 4 of a kind than you usually would.

The strategy for the bonus round is different, and it varies based on which place you're in. The bad beat jackpot is so large that it's impossible to ignore. This means you'll want to play more conservatively during the earlier rounds.

You'll always keep any pair except a pair of 2s. If you have a pair of 2s on the first deal, you'll discard them. If you have a pair of 2s on the 2nd round, you'll keep them.

The only time you'll have something other than a pair is when you win a free seat. In that case, you'll want to measure the relative strength of your hand.

You'll never keep any hand that doesn't at least have a 10 or a face card in it. And most of the time, you'll throw away a hand with a 10 in it. You'll only keep an 8/10 or 9/10 combination if you have it in the 2nd round. Otherwise, you'll discard it.

You'll play a hand with a jack as the high card the same way.

You'll play more hands as the high card increases. With a Q, you'll hang on to it if you have a 9 or higher as your 2nd card every time. You'll even hang on to a Q6, Q7, or Q8 if it's the 2nd round.

You'll always discard a K2, but you'll keep a K3, K4, K5, or K6 during the 2nd round. You'll always keep any other hand with a king.

If the hand has an ace in it, you'll always keep it unless you also have a 2. And you'll only discard that if you have it in the 1st round.

You'll be more likely to keep weaker hands as you move up in the rankings. For example, after round 2, you'll never discard any hand with an ace in it.

Conclusion

World Series of Poker is an interesting variation, but it doesn't pay off well enough to make it the meat and potatoes of a VP player's diet. It's probably okay as a change of pace, but you can almost always find a game with a better payback percentage.

Also, the memorization of the elaborate strategy for the bonus round is more time consuming than it's worth.

The bad beat jackpot is attractive, but it just adds to the volatility of the game. We can't imagine playing a game with a payback percentage this low long enough to ever see a bad beat jackpot.

You might have different tastes in video poker than we do, though.

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