Understanding Volatility in Video Poker

When it comes to the term "volatility" you've probably heard it more in reference to online slots than any other online casino game. It comes as a surprise to some players that it is relevant in video poker too.

So how do you ascertain the volatility of a particular video poker game and will the volatility vary depending on the odds offered on a specific game variant? We'll discuss the answers to these questions here.

Understanding Volatility

If you are not familiar with the term, volatility refers to the swings or variance in results that you experience while playing casinos games like slots or video poker. The higher the variance of a game, the fewer and more far between are the wins that you will experience, and the greater bankroll you will need to sustain your game play between wins and losses.

Play on these machines can be likened to a reverse roller coaster ride. On a traditional roller coaster you will find that the ride climbs to the summit of the peaks slowly then plunges at a rapid rate. Video poker machines are different in that your earnings potential decreases slowly because the most you can lose on any hand is the total value of your wager, but you have the capacity to climb quickly and increase your bankroll when you experience winning hand combinations.

The values and odds on the winning combinations determine the game's volatility. So frequent, low value wins equate to low volatility and less frequent, high value wins result in high volatility.

Determining the Volatility in Video Poker Games

Interestingly, there's a way to tell the relative volatility of a video poker game that doesn't require knowledge of the odds or complex mathematics and that's simply to look at the name adjectives listed in the paytable. You probably think that we're having you on, but we're not. As a general rule of thumb, the more adjectives in a game's name and on the paytable, the more volatile its paytable is likely to be.

When it comes to slots machines, the game designers and programmers can influence the volatility through placement of the various symbols on the reels, in video poker paytables, the only way to affect the volatility of the game is to change the rules with regard to winning hands and altering how much is paid for specific hands. When selecting a video poker game variant you should always check on the minimum payouts for a Jacks or Better hand versus Three-of-a-kind or better and whether kickers have been added to the quads or not. Higher volatility games will pay less on two pairs and occasionally three-of-a-kind in order to pay more on quads and on quads with kickers.

Which Video Poker Games to choose

If you're looking for a low volatility video poker game - which you should be doing in order to conserve your bankroll and extend your game play enjoyment - then 9/6 Jacks or Better games are your best bet.

Games like Double Double Bonus and Triple Double Bonus video poker on the other hand have high volatility and unless you've got a substantial bankroll, should be avoided until you do and also only played according to perfect video poker strategy.

When it comes to multi-hand machines, the odds on long term payout rates are not affected by playing multiple hands, but multiple hands will affect the game's volatility. When compared with single hand versions of the same game variant, multi-hand machines have a lower volatility due to the fact that the risk of your wagers is spread over multiple hands instead of a single one.