I don't play progressives very often. The methods I use are mostly home-grown, so they'll be different than what other successful players use. Still, since other strong players are not, generallyBob Dancer is one of the world's foremost video poker experts. He is a regular columnist for Casino Player, Strictly Slots, and the Las Vegas Review-Journa land has written an autobiography and a novel about gambling. He provides advice for tens of thousands of casino enthusiasts looking to play video poker. Bob's website is www.bobdancer.com
speaking, forthcoming about their methods for playing progressives, I decided to share my techniques.
I'm going to talk about a game and a slot club
specific to one casino. Almost every casino has some progressives that offer a decent game at least some of the time. The tools I use to attack the specific progressive below would be the same as the tools used to attack the progressive anywhere.
One of the few progressives I play is a $5 8/5 Bonus Poker
progressive at Sam's Town. At the royal reset of $20,000 ($20K), the game is worth only 99.17%, and that's not close to being playable for me. There are four games attached to the meter, but only two of the machines have 8/5 Bonus. Another is 9/6 Double Double Bonus and the last is 8/5 Jacks. 8/5 Jacks will NEVER be preferred to 8/5 Bonus, but I wasn't sure about 9/6 DDB. I know the 8/5 Bonus has a 0.19% advantage when the royal was at $20,000, but I didn't know about $30,000. Upon checking, it turns out that the difference between the return on the two games INCREASES as the royal increases, so the DDB game will never be my preferred choice on this particular bank of machines.
An addition problem with DDB is that ALL quads return over $1,200, whereas in Bonus Poker only the aces bring the W2G. The tax forms themselves aren't a concern (I get a lot of them each year and I know how to deal with them), what is a concern is that it takes five or ten minutes each time for the casino to process them. Since I'm only playing when I have the advantage, ten minutes of downtime every hour reduces my income by 17%. I don't like that. On the Bonus Poker machine, if I get aces (or a straight flush) for the tax form, I can often move over to the adjacent 8/5 Bonus with virtually no downtime.
The exact level I play at depends on the slot club. The normal Sam's Town return is a paltry 0.1%, but frequent players get mailers entitling them to regular point multipliers, including at least one day a week of six times points --- which turns a paltry 0.1% slot club into a robust 0.6% slot club. Since this multiplier is often in effect on Saturday, when other casinos choose not to offer multipliers, this is convenient for players seeking an edge.
My personal rule of thumb for this game at this casino is to add the progressive amount of the game (in thousands) and the point multiplier. If it adds up to 32 or higher, then it's an acceptable play for me (depending on what else is going on at the time.) That is, for 6x points, I play at $26K or higher because 26 + 6 = 32. For 4x points, I play at $28K and higher, and for single points, I'd only play at $31K or higher. If there was another worthwhile promotion going on (such as free drawing tickets based on coin-in), I'll lower these attack numbers accordingly.
The progressive meter on this machine is 0.25%. This was not hard to calculate. When I was the only player there (which isn't such a rarity), I'd write down the progressive amount, play four hands (i.e. $100), and check the progressive again. (You need to wait a few seconds because there is a slight lag). Once, when I did this it showed $26,293.39 and then $26,293.64. Since that is a 25¢ increase with $100 coin in, that means 0.25%.
In round numbers, a royal is hit every 40,000 hands. That is $1,000,000 in coin-in, during which time the progressive increases by $2,500. So for the progressive to be at $26,000 or higher, it must have been at least 2.4 royal cycles since the last royal was hit. This always takes at least a month or two, and can take years. After all, if the royal keeps getting hit at $21K or $24K or $25K, I'll never get to play.
I've developed a strategy for $26K, another for $28K, another for $30K, and another for $32K. These are personalized and not for sale. On a hand like (AKT)K6, the strategy at $26K is to hold KK and the strategy at $28K is to hold (AKT). How about at $26,828.43? I don't really have that memorized, although I could figure it out. (It turns out that it's slightly better to hold the kings here).
In cases like this, I generally assume that the break point is exactly $27,000. That is, if the progressive is closer to $26K than to $28K, I use the $26K strategy. This is a simplified way of doing things, as some break points might well be at $26.1K or even $27.9K. Still, the errors introduced by this simplification are small and a precise list of breakpoints is long. Since I irregularly play this game, these numbers don't stick in my brain. It's far easier for me to memorize a few strategies than it is to memorize which hands change at which break points. Others might well come to another conclusion on this.Editor's note: Be sure to check out ReadyBetGo's Online Video Poker progressive tickers!