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Video Poker Terms

Every casino game comes complete with its own language. If you are new to the game, some of the video poker terms may prove a little confusing to you. Video poker is no different. Sometimes there is disagreement upon the meanings of video poker terms, but if you are not sure about something, check back here to this list of video poker terms to save yourself some time and energy trying to find the meaning of a certain video poker term.


This is the average number of hands for every royal flush or any other top jackpot. A cycle is the chance of getting a royal flush on the next hand. Each hand of video poker is random so don’t expect a royal flush after this average number of hands, or in other words, a royal flush after every cycle. There is 63.2% chance of a royal flush in a cycle and is offset by the probability of two or more royal flushes in a cycle.

Expected Return

This is the average payout on a certain play for a certain wager. Expected return is the expected value of a hand times the amount wagered. Most video poker analysis software shows the ER of every possible play. Programs sometimes call these values, “expected values”, but this isn’t exactly correct. See below.

Expected Value

This is the mathematically predicted average per single bet payback of a certain play. Expected value is the average outcome of all possible outcomes of a particular game. Most video poker analysis programs show the expected return of every possible play. On a 5 coin bet, divide the ER by five to get the EV.

Full Pay

Full pay is the best possible payoff in a certain game. Games such as 9/6 Jacks or Better or 10/7 Double Bonus Poker are your best bets. If you can find these games with a full pay schedule and a progressive jackpot are even better.

Optimum Play

This is the use of a strategy that is not a perfect strategy but attempts to yield the best payoff per hour rate of winning.


This is the long term expected return of a given game. This is usually a percentage or expressed as expected value. Players can expect a profit on a game if the payback over the long term is over 100% or an expected value of one or higher. Don’t forget to consider things like comps and other promotions.


Payoff is the amount of credits or coins paid after a winning hand. You’ll often see this expressed as a “per coin” amount. In a regular full pay Jacks or Better game, with a bet of five coins, the payoff would be 45 coins or 9 for 1.

Payoff Schedule

The payoff schedule for every slot machine or video poker machine is usually posted on the front of the machine. You’ll usually see this in table form showing the amount of coins paid for each winning hand depending on the number of coins bet. The advantage of video poker over slots is that many gaming regulations dictate that each unseen card has the same chance of appearing anytime, just as if they were dealt from a shuffled deck. You can then figure out the top payout and a strategy to get that payout.


The dispensing of winning coins is referred to as the payout. Older machines will payout in coins, but most modern machines payout in credits. They accumulate until a “cash out” button is pressed and a cash voucher is printed. Jackpots are usually paid out by hand.

Penalty Card

A penalty card is a card that is of no use in making a winning hand from your dealt cards. The absence of this card from the deck decreases the chances of some smaller payoffs. The expected value of your hand is smaller but the chances of making your intended hand are not.

Perfect Play

When a player makes each decision based on the highest expected value it is referred to as “perfect play”. Perfect play is not very difficult on games like Pick’em Poker or Jacks or Better, but gets harder in games like All American Poker.


No money is exchanged. However, in video poker, you have already deposited your coins into the machine. The machine will payout an amount equal to the amount bet. Although no money has been won or lost, the machine makes it appear as a win.

Rated Payback

This is the expected return of a game over the long term. Assuming perfect play, games like Double Bonus Poker is rated at 100.17%. It’s wise to assume a certain amount of error in play depending on human error and the complexity of the game.

Secondary Payoff

A large portion of the expected value of a play comes from the other smaller payoffs that are possible as well. You may draw some cards to make a Royal Flush but you may end up making another “secondary” hand like a straight or a flush. Payoffs for hands like these would be referred to as “secondary payoffs”.


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