The days of quality quarter video poker games seem to be nearing an end. That denomination is finding its way into the same category as nickels and dimes at several casinos we track. There are some clear reasons why this is happening.
A fast video poker player sees about 700 hands an hour. Slower players will be in the 400 to 600 range. The average hourly coin-in for a quarter video poker player is around $700.
Casinos win little from quarter video poker
A coin-in of $700 an hour does little to help the casino’s bottom line. Here is the hourly theoretical win on perfect play at various video poker games. Slots and keno hold 10 or 20 times more than the games shown below.
- 9/6 Bonus Poker Deluxe: $2.52
- 9/6 Jacks or Better: $3.22
- 8/5 Bonus Poker: $5.81
- 9/7 Double Bonus: $6.23
- 9/6 Double Double Bonus: $7.14
The numbers above assume perfection by the player. That rarely happens. However, players will usually not make enough mistakes to overcome the small hold. Doubling the numbers above is probably close enough to cover the average player’s strategy errors. The theoretical casino win does not include drinks, slot points, mailers, taxes, and other casino expenses related to the play.
Expert video poker players are more likely to be drawn to these games than casual ones. Progressive meters will reduce the house win.
Costs of offering video poker
There are costs involved in offering video poker. There are licensing fees and taxes on the machines. The device manufacturer, usually IGT, receives royalties or sells the machines to the casino. There are labor costs involved that include paying slot attendants, cocktail servers, bartenders, security, and surveillance. The cost of beverages served is another factor.
If the player uses a loyalty card, slot points are likely awarded. There may also be mailers with free slot play and other perks that cost the casino money.
Each drink costs the casino about a dollar. If the player is offered one every 20 minutes, this takes half or more of the theoretical win from the full-pay video poker. The labor involved finishes the rest of the gross gaming revenue off, and then some.
Raising the minimum denomination up to $0.50 or $1 offsets most of this
Raising the minimum denomination is one way for a casino to put revenue in line with costs. I have seen instances of Las Vegas Strip casinos removing quarter and half-dollar games from bars entirely. In downtown Las Vegas, the half-dollar denomination has become the lowest with a full menu of full-pay games. This doubles or quadruples the house’s theoretical win.
However, there are two problems with this practice. One is that higher limits may alienate players with smaller bankrolls. Another is that players will now receive W2Gs when hitting a royal flush, and in some games, four aces.
Lowering the quarter video poker payouts seems to be the best answer
Offering a lower return on quarter video poker is probably the answer to the problem. If a casino doubles the house edge on the quarter denomination, the theoretical win is the same as a half-dollar. The same could be said about lowering the $0.25 and $0.50 games, leaving the better pay tables at $1 and higher.
A recent example I saw of this was at the Sand Dollar Lounge at Plaza in downtown Las Vegas. A few weeks ago, the lowest denomination was $0.50. Today, there are 97% quarter games. This allows players to choose their favorite level while giving higher-limit players a better game.
Many online casinos still offer quarter full-pay video poker
Online casinos do not have the overhead that live casinos do. This means that many still offer full-pay video poker at the quarter denomination. Some good games start at nickel or dime. The same types of video poker games are offered at both online and live casinos. Players in Connecticut, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia can play these games at licensed and legal sites.
While Delaware also has legal online video poker, the games there are not full-pay. The pay tables that we found generally return below 99%.