Video Poker

Old May 8, 2022, 9:19 pm
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Video Poker

A lot of people probably know this, but there are some video poker games with extremely good odds,

Consider that blackjack with perfect strategy and reasonably favorable rules has a house advantage of about 0.6%. Lately I've been playing Triple Bonus Plus at Orleans at 0.2% for the house, and Deuces Wild at South Point at 0.27%.

You have to be very attentive to the pay table. For example, there are some deuces wild machines at South Point that pay 15 for 5 of a kind and 9 for a straight flush, while others pay 16 and 10. Of course I only play the 16/10. The payout tables will also be less generous for lower stakes; you usually have to play 25 cents to get the max. And you absolutely have to play 5 units to get the bonus payout for a royal flush on any machine. Royals are rare (about 1 in 40,000) but they contribute a lot to your total return. Since I started playing a lot of VP last fall I've hit one royal.

You don't want to pay for more than 25 cents because if you do, a royal will pay over $1200 and that's the threshold for tax reporting. If I were a long-run winner I wouldn't mind sharing with Uncle Sam but I prefer not to play "Heads-you-win-tails-I-lose" and pay taxes on big wins but get no credit for offsettting losses. I'm pretty sure they are also supposed to give you a tax form if you win more than $1200 in a day, which is defined at midnight-to-midnight playing with the same player's card (how else do they know it's you?).

Of course you have to know what you're doing, but that's part of what makes it fun - that there's a skill element.

The only casinos I know about the points/comp structure are the two I mentioned. Orleans gives only half as much credit for VP as for slots, and their points are worth 0.1 cents, so if you bet $1000 you'll get points worth 50 cents. On Tuesdays, if you're over age 50, they have a 10x promotion so if you play $650 you can get a slice of pizza! South Point gives full credit for VP and gives 0.3%. They don't have a bonus day but I think that if you are over 50 and use points for food on a Monday you get a 50% discount, so basically if you play $1000 you get $3 in credits, or $6 for food on Monday if you're over 50.

Bottom line is that if you like a game of skill with good odds, and are willing to make sure you're getting a favorable pay table, Video Poker can be a pretty good game to play. Note that Deuces Wild involves a lot more skill than most of the variants of "Jacks Or Better."
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Old May 8, 2022, 9:55 pm
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There used to be some VP machines in Vegas (off-strip) that returned slightly more than 100% -- with perfect play. Do they still exist?
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Old May 10, 2022, 4:17 am
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Originally Posted by guv1976
There used to be some VP machines in Vegas (off-strip) that returned slightly more than 100% -- with perfect play. Do they still exist?
Yes, at least according to: https://www.vpfree2.com/casinos/by-r...las-vegas.html
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Old May 13, 2022, 12:22 am
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Originally Posted by Zorak
I might try to check this out next time I'm in town.

It would still be difficult to make much of a profit though. If you play for more than $1.25 per hand, a royal flush would pay over $1200 and you'd get stuck with tax reporting if you hit one. It's not that I think it's evil to pay taxes on income you earn, but I think it's evil to pay taxes when you win but not get to deduct them when you lose, which is the practical effect. I'm not a super-fast player and I think I play about 400 hands per hour, so that's about $500 and a profit of $3.50 per hour. It's one thing to do that if I'm getting my morning free coffee-and-Kahluas and staying at the property where my points will be worth something, but it's not like finding a casino with really great blackjack rules and pit bosses who have no idea how to spot a card counter.
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Old May 13, 2022, 8:04 am
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Originally Posted by redtop43
It would still be difficult to make much of a profit though. If you play for more than $1.25 per hand, a royal flush would pay over $1200 and you'd get stuck with tax reporting if you hit one.
Note that, as a technical matter, you are supposed to report *all* gambling income, whether it results in a W2G or not. Now. I'm not telling anyone how they should do their taxes, just sayin'...

Originally Posted by redtop43
It's not that I think it's evil to pay taxes on income you earn, but I think it's evil to pay taxes when you win but not get to deduct them when you lose, which is the practical effect.
Note also that you *can* deduct your losses, even if you do not file as a professional; the way they screw you is that you are supposed to declare all your winning sessions as income, and then deduct your losing sessions on schedule A. You cannot simply do the logical thing and net out your wins/losses across the entire year (although I believe you *can* do that if filing as a professional, which in theory you can do even if you do it as a second job, but there lots of nuances that are prob out of scope for a FT thread).

Having to report wins/losses separately artificially inflates your AGI, which can have unpleasant secondary effects on things that are based on percentages of your AGI.

So it *is* evil, but in a more subtle and inisidious way than it may seem. And probably unlikely to change, since gambling is not exactly a strong political cause, and even if the casinos have lobbying power, they aren't the ones getting screwed so they're not highly incentivized either (e.g. how long has the W2G threshold been stuck at $1200)
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Old May 13, 2022, 9:06 am
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Originally Posted by Zorak
Note that, as a technical matter, you are supposed to report *all* gambling income, whether it results in a W2G or not. Now. I'm not telling anyone how they should do their taxes, just sayin'...



Note also that you *can* deduct your losses, even if you do not file as a professional; the way they screw you is that you are supposed to declare all your winning sessions as income, and then deduct your losing sessions on schedule A. You cannot simply do the logical thing and net out your wins/losses across the entire year (although I believe you *can* do that if filing as a professional, which in theory you can do even if you do it as a second job, but there lots of nuances that are prob out of scope for a FT thread).

Having to report wins/losses separately artificially inflates your AGI, which can have unpleasant secondary effects on things that are based on percentages of your AGI.

So it *is* evil, but in a more subtle and inisidious way than it may seem. And probably unlikely to change, since gambling is not exactly a strong political cause, and even if the casinos have lobbying power, they aren't the ones getting screwed so they're not highly incentivized either (e.g. how long has the W2G threshold been stuck at $1200)
I don't know how long the W2-G has been $1200, but I remember when it was $600, so it hasn't been as long as my memory is.

And what you say is true; that's why I said "as a practical matter." With the increase in the standard deduction, far fewer people itemize. Since I'm retired and don't have a mortgage, my only significant itemized deduction would be property taxes of around $4000. Since I'm over 65 as of this year, my standard deduction is around $14K. Therefore, the first $10K of my losses would not be deductible, and as you said, there would be unhappy AGI effects.

There is an IRS rule drafted in around 2007 that was never finalized but I believe has been the governing authority in this area that casinos must report winnings of over $1200 per day, with a "day" being defined as midnight-to-midnight using the same player's card. However, I've frequently seen them making hand payments and having the player sign something. So I think that if in a session you hit a $2000 royal and lose $1500 otherwise, you get a W2-G for the $1500.

It does occur to me that the over-100% games are mostly (all?) deuces wild, which is much more difficult to play optimally than other games. I've been practicing a lot and still make some mistakes.
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Old May 13, 2022, 7:05 pm
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Originally Posted by redtop43
I don't know how long the W2-G has been $1200, but I remember when it was $600, so it hasn't been as long as my memory is.
...
The $1200 reporting requirement for a slot machine has been in effect since 1977. Prior to 1977 there was no specific requirement for slot machines beyond the general requirement for reporting of gambling winnings with wager odds of at least 300 - 1. In January 1977 the IRS set a $600 reporting limit but didn't enforce this limit while it considered comments. In May 1977, the IRS replaced the $600 limit it wasn't enforcing and imposed the $1200 limit. IIRC, the IRS proposed to lower the reporting requirement to $600 around 2015 but withdraw the proposal after universally negative comments.

There is currently at least one bill in Congress to raise the reporting requirement to $5000.

Last edited by jerry a. laska; May 13, 2022 at 9:45 pm Reason: Edited to add more info about 1977.
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Old May 18, 2022, 11:08 am
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Originally Posted by redtop43
I don't know how long the W2-G has been $1200, but I remember when it was $600, so it hasn't been as long as my memory is.

And what you say is true; that's why I said "as a practical matter." With the increase in the standard deduction, far fewer people itemize. Since I'm retired and don't have a mortgage, my only significant itemized deduction would be property taxes of around $4000. Since I'm over 65 as of this year, my standard deduction is around $14K. Therefore, the first $10K of my losses would not be deductible, and as you said, there would be unhappy AGI effects.

There is an IRS rule drafted in around 2007 that was never finalized but I believe has been the governing authority in this area that casinos must report winnings of over $1200 per day, with a "day" being defined as midnight-to-midnight using the same player's card (for the purposes of issuing W2-Gs, I mean). However, I've frequently seen them making hand payments and having the player sign something. So I think that if in a session you hit a $2000 royal and lose $1500 otherwise, you get a W2-G for the $1500.

It does occur to me that the over-100% games are mostly (all?) deuces wild, which is much more difficult to play optimally than other games. I've been practicing a lot and still make some mistakes.
In my experience, and as far as I know, they do hand pays for anything $1200 or over that is hit all at once (single slot machine spin, high value Video Poker hand, whatever...). You will receive a W2G for each of those payments, however many you happen to hit on the trip. They do not deduct for any losses you've incurred throughout the rest of your day. So, in your example, you'd get a W2G for $2000 for the Royal you hit. Whatever amount you happen to lose for the rest of the day has no bearing on the amount reported on the W2G. They don't track these amounts through the Players card (for the purpose of issuing W2Gs, I mean). Players cards sometimes stop registering and the player has to reinsert the card (for whatever reason -- too long between spins/hands, etc.). And some people don't use cards at all.

Last edited by lindaiah; May 18, 2022 at 2:11 pm Reason: clarifications
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Old May 19, 2022, 1:12 pm
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Originally Posted by redtop43
Bottom line is that if you like a game of skill with good odds, and are willing to make sure you're getting a favorable pay table, Video Poker can be a pretty good game to play. Note that Deuces Wild involves a lot more skill than most of the variants of "Jacks Or Better."
If you factor in the free drinks from the cocktail servers (if they even come around the VP area!), then you do come out ahead; as you noted regular comp earning on VP is peanuts, precisely because the house edge can be so low. But of course getting that theoretical house edge depends on perfect play, which I think is probably harder for poker than for BJ, no?
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Old May 28, 2022, 10:50 pm
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I'm going to Vegas tomorrow and I'm going to see if I can find any of the over-100% machines. I'll report back.

Waitresses do come around the slot/VP areas. Maybe SLIGHTLY less often than the tables but if you want a drink you can get one.

Re: Perfect play it depends what you consider "perfect." I practice VP a lot at home and I do make mistakes but they are generally pretty small ones. I haven't taken the time to log my average error rate. The hardest one for me are the three-to-a-straight-flush hands. But yes, there are way more decisional combinations at VP than at blackjack. I have triple bonus plus VP pretty much nailed, but deuces wild is harder.
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Old May 31, 2022, 6:49 pm
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There are still Full Pay Deuces Wild machines at Arizona Charlie's Boulder Highway. I was not able to find any at Sam't Town. I haven't yet checked Arizona Charlie's Decatur. I don't plan to look for any of the other 100%+ variations; I don't have the time or interest.
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Old Jun 3, 2022, 9:40 am
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100+ VP machines used to be fairly common and a few of them still exist in the casinos on Fremont. If I recall, there's some DDB machines paying ~ 101, but limited to 25 cents (1.25 per hand). Full pay deuces wild is probably my favorite but incredibly rare to find these days, even NSUD has become pretty rare anywhere near the strip.

On the strip, the Bellagio has the best one with full pay bonus poker at around 99.2%. Anything better, one would have to increase to at least $5 per, and only JOB. The days of easily arbitraging VP for comps is long gone, unfortunately.
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Old Jun 7, 2022, 11:14 pm
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I avoid the Strip. BTW, Planet Hollywood is now charging for parking!

I also only play Triple Bonus plus and deuces wild. I'm not really interested in learning strategies for a lot of different games.

Orleans has Triple Bonus Plus. South Point, the other place I spend a lot of time, has NSUD, although you have to be careful. Some machines pay 16/10 (for five of a kind and a straight flush) and some pay 15/9. I DID find FPDW at Sam's Town, but there is a message on the machines that says "This machine does not participate in marketing bounses or promotions." I did get rewards points for my play, but not tier credits, I'm not sure if it participates in the 10x points "Young At Heart" on Tuesdays.

I had a spectacular run of luck at VP last week. One morning I hit two sets of quad Aces (1200 coin payout for 5 bet) twice in a half hour.

I bet around $500 per hour, so the long-run difference between FPDW and TB+/NSUD would be around $4 per hour. I'm not sure how much that makes it worth my while to drive out to Boulder Highway. As noted above, I don't want to win over $1200 and get a tax form, so I can't raise my bet. So I think FPDW will remain a novelty for me. I also did pretty well at blackjack last week.
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Old Jun 9, 2022, 12:27 pm
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Originally Posted by redtop43
I had a spectacular run of luck at VP last week. One morning I hit two sets of quad Aces (1200 coin payout for 5 bet) twice in a half hour.
Damn, that's pretty lucky! I'd be happy if I hit 2 of these a year. The furthest I've gone away from the strip is probably Fremont? Perhaps, after all these years, I should consider seeing other parts of the city. I'm assuming there's more to LV than just the Strip?
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Old Jun 10, 2022, 1:32 am
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I keep somewhat good records, and I would estimate that I've played 32,000 hands of video poker at Orleans since I took it up. I've hit one Royal, and I'd guess 10-12 quad aces. I'm ahead about $1500 I think. That's obviously very lucky, although most of that $1500 was won last week.

Yes, there is WAY more to Vegas than the strip.

www.vpfree2.com is a good source for information on what VP machines are where, and wizardofodds.com has good simulators for practice.

There are a number of casinos "near" the strip, like Orleans, Palms, Rio, Silver Sevens, Tuscany, OYO, and I'm sure I've forgotten some. And some much further like Palace Station (somewhat close), the Boulder Highway properties, Arizona Charlie's Decatur, Rampart, Red Rock, Aliante, etc. About 7 years ago I had a girlfriend in Vegas and we had an apartment on Decatur and one week I had a business meeting at Planet Hollywood and when I took an Uber over I realized I hadn't been to the Strip in about three months.

When I'm not at Orleans I'm usually at South Point, because I like their selection of both restaurants and blackjack tables. Their best VP game is "NSUD" - "Not So Ugly Ducks" - a deuces wild game with 99.73% payback.
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