Put simply, a full pay video poker machine is one in which the casino, or house, pays out as much as it can to a player while still keeping enough to stay in business. For example, for every $100.00 you put into a full pay machine, if you play a perfect game over the long-run you’ll make back $99.50. That’s a loss of only 50 cents for every hundred dollars.
Full pay video poker is as close as you can get to a 50/50 game in a casino. Casinos can’t offer much more than that because they’d go out of business. However, with a little luck on your side it would be easy to come out ahead.
As you might guess, short-pay machines are the opposite. For every $100.00 you put into a short pay machine, over the long-run you may only make back $75.00. In other words, even if you play a perfect game and have luck on your side, for every one hundred dollars you put into the machine you can expect to lose $25. With odds like that, it is practically impossible to come out ahead in the long-run.
Another way of talking about full play is with a concept known as expected value. You may hear poker pros refer to this as “EV.” All this means it that, on the hypothetical full-pay machine discussed above, your expected value is 99.5%. On the hypothetical short-pay machine, your expected value would only be 75%. Put this way, it’s easy to see why it pays to seek out full pay video poker machines.
Unfortunately, casinos do not usually advertise which machines are full pay. Some hide them all the way in the back. For this reason, you might have better luck finding a full pay machine on an online casino.
How to Find a Full Pay Video Poker Machine
In theory you could call a casino and ask what kind of EV you can get on their video poker machines, but you’d probably get laughed at.
There is an easier way to find out which machines are full pay without the added humiliation. All you have to do is look at the payoff schedules, or pay tables. Most games will have a button labeled something like “See Pays” or “Rules.”
From there, look at the rightmost column (usually highlighted in red) and identify the pay rate for a full house and a flush. Depending on what kind of poker variant you’re playing the numbers may be slightly different, but for a game like Jacks or Better you can identify full pay machines if they offer a payout of 9 for a full house and 6 for a flush. Poker pros would refer to this as a “9/6” machine.
Getting Fully Paid on a Full Pay Machine
Notice, however, that the 9/6 payouts are only offered in the rightmost, highlighted column. That means that you can only receive those payouts if you play the maximum bet—usually 5 coins–on every single hand you play.
You’ll notice that the payout decreases the fewer coins you choose to play. This is by design. You might ultimately be able to play for a longer duration of time by only betting the minimum, but you’d be voluntarily obliterating your EV by doing so.