Tens or Better Video Poker
The game of Tens or Better video poker is a classic example of casinos exploiting the ignorance of unknowledgeable players.
Of course, every casino operator has the right to create games that put players at a disadvantage; in fact, the entire gambling industry is predicated on this concept. After all, if you had a realistic chance to win every time you spun the roulette wheel, the game would quickly be consigned to history’s scrap heap.
Roulette is as good of an analogy as any through which to consider Tens or Better Video Poker. The original roulette wheels contained just a single “0” space, also known as the house space because it provides casinos with their inherent edge. When playing on these so called “European” roulette wheels, players are faced with a 2.70 percent house edge – which isn’t all that great, but still remains reasonable.
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Sharp casino operators soon deduced that adding a second house space, in this case, the “00,” could pad their house edge significantly. In fact, the house edge on an “American” roulette wheel, one containing both the “0” and “00” house spaces, jumps all the way to 5.26 percent.
The same principle was used to develop the variation on Jacks or Better, which offers players an extremely favorable expected return of 99.54 percent. When casino operators introduced a new version of the game featuring a lower minimum hand threshold, on its face this appeared to be good news for players. After all, with an additional pair now offering payouts, the game had to be more profitable, right?
Getting Started with Tens or Better
Before we move on to a deeper investigation of Tens or Better video poker, readers who may not be totally familiar with Jacks or Better are advised to visit our main Jacks or Better guide first. There you’ll find an illuminating look back through the history of video poker, an introduction to the standard rules and game-play, the hand ranking order, and other essential information.
The reason we recommend brushing up on your Jacks or Better basics is clear: you won’t be able to understand the crucial differences between Tens or Better video poker and its inspiration, including why one game is much more player friendly than the other, without knowing the basics of the base game.
After you’ve finished absorbing this Jacks or Better knowledge, head back here to discover why Tens or Better video poker is not the improvement it appears to be. In addition, you’ll find everything you need to know about Tens or Better online, including the rules and game-play, the various pay tables in play on different machines, and a strategy chart which can be used to make close decisions as optimally as possible.
Tens or Better Online Rules
If you’ve arrived here after reading through the Jacks or Better rules section, we’ve got good news: both of these games play in identical fashion, with one crucial caveat.
Rather than needing to make one pair of jacks or higher in order to qualify for a payout, one pair of tens or higher will do the trick in this game. Other than that, the rules and gameplay of tens or better video poker are the same in every respect:
Tens or Better Video Poker Hand Rankings
For players who haven’t had much experience in online video poker, or the poker table for that matter, the standard poker hand hierarchy used to determine payouts has been compiled below in descending order of strength:
10 J Q K A, all in the same suit.
Any five-card straight, all in the same suit.
Four of a Kind
All other four of the same card ranks.
Three of a kind AND one pair.
Any five cards all of the same suit.
Any string of five consecutive cards.
Three of a Kind
Three of the same card rank.
Two sets of two cards of the same rank.
One set of two cards of the same rank.
Aside from the reduction in the minimum hand from a pair of jacks to a pair of tens, the hand rankings for Tens or Better video poker is exactly the same as that found in Jacks or Better.
This would seem to make Tens or Better video poker the more favorable game from the player’s perspective, and indeed, that would be true if the payouts for each hand were left the same. But as you may have surmised by now, casino operators and game manufacturers seldom make things that easy.
Tens or Better Pay Tables
The reasoning behind creating Tens or Better video poker – and not a game like Queens or Better – comes from the fact that casinos rely on uninformed customers to pad their profit margins. Learn about how to avoid practices like these, and choose from our recommended online casinos.
For every sharp, studious player who researches their game of choice, practices with the aim of improving, and plays according to proper strategy, there are literally thousands of folks who take the opposite approach. This group of players take on long odds in unfavorable games, attempting to “get lucky” or find a “hot machine.”
When a player like this sees two video poker machines standing side by side, with one offering online Tens or Better payouts and the offer requiring Jacks or Better, invariably they will sit down to play the game which appears to be easier.
Online Tens or Better Pay Table
By taking a look at the standard pay table used in Tens or Better video poker, also known as “full pay,” you’ll notice that something doesn’t seem to add up:
|Full Pay 25 / 6 / 5 Tens or Better|
|1 Coin||2 Coins||3 Coins||4 Coins||5 Coins|
|Four of a Kind||25||50||75||100||125|
|Three of a Kind||3||6||9||12||15|
|Tens or Better||1||2||3||4||5|
Comparing with Jacks or Better Pay Table
In case you’ve forgotten your Jacks or Better pay table already, let’s review the payouts for that game as well for the sake of comparison:
|Full Pay 9 / 6 Jacks or Better|
|1 Coin||2 Coins||3 Coins||4 Coins||5 Coins|
|Four of a Kind||25||50||75||100||125|
|Three of a Kind||3||6||9||12||15|
|Jacks or Better||1||2||3||4||5|
Payout Similarities and Differences
The payouts for the three highest hands – the royal flush, the straight flush, and four of a kind – are identical all across the table. However, when you move downward to the payouts for a full house and a flush, you’ll notice that they’re higher on the Jacks or Better machines. With a payout of:
- 9 credits for a full house, opposed to 6 credits.
- 6 credits for a flush, as opposed to 5 credits.
Jacks or Better offers a greater reward for landing a hand – even though the odds against making that hand are exactly the same in Tens or Better video poker.
Payouts Affecting Return Rate
The overall effect of this seemingly minor manipulation of the payouts can be seen in the bottom figure in each row, which describes the player’s expected return rate for each pay table. If you’re playing full pay 9 / 6 Jacks or Better and betting less than the maximum (between one and four coins), your expected return stands at 98.37 percent. This leaves a house edge of 1.63 percent to overcome, which isn’t all that bad when compared to games like roulette, keno, and most bets in craps.
On the other hand, playing a full pay 25 / 6 / 5 Tens or Better video poker while betting less than the maximum offers an expected return of 97.85 percent (house edge of 2.15 percent). This is significantly worse than the odds you’ll face playing Jacks or Better, even though Tens or Better video poker appears to be the easier game.
Even when you bet the maximum amount of five coins, which is how most video poker players approach the game (and correctly so), Tens or Better video poker offers a slightly worse bet than Jacks or Better. Although the expected return for Tens or Better is closer to Jacks or Better, 99.13 percent to 99.54 percent, in this case, this drop off is still quite meaningful when considered over the long run.
Beware of Alternate Pay Tables
Another thing to watch out for on Tens or Better casinos is an alternate pay table which decreases the player’s expected return even further. This pay table is nearly the same as the 25 / 6 / 5 full pay version, but the 25 credit payout for landing four of a kind drops down to 20 credits. Playing a Tens or Better casino game which uses the inferior 20 / 6 / 5 pay table reduces your expected return all the way to 97.96 percent, making it one of the worst video poker bets in the house.
Simply put, Tens or Better video poker is the equivalent of casino snake oil, a game sold to players who don’t know any better by casinos looking to take advantage of casual, recreational gamblers. The game should never be played in lieu of Jacks or Better, or other video poker variations like Deuces Wild, Aces and Eights, and Double Bonus. To learn additional information, and pay table figures, check The Wizard of Odds.
Tens or Better Strategy
If you haven’t realized this by now, the best strategy for playing Tens or Better video poker is simply to stand up, walk around the casino, and find a more favorable machine. The realities of statistical probability are indisputable, and you’ll always be put at a disadvantage when you deposit funds into a Tens or Better casino.
Even so, not all of us are lucky enough to live in close proximity to gambling meccas like Las Vegas or Atlantic City. For many players, the offerings found at their local tribal casino represent the only available options. If you simply love video poker, but the only game found in your local casino is Tens or Better video poker, you’ll simply have to make do.
In that case, the best play is to bet the maximum of five coins at all times, which brings your expected return up to respectable 99.13 percent – provided you play your cards correctly.
Tens or Better Strategy Chart
The chart below can be used to help discern between the tough decisions you’ll inevitably be confronted with along the way. To use the chart, start by assessing your five card hand and determining which possible hands you currently hold. Then, scan the chart and locate the positions for each hand, before keeping the highest ranked hand.
|RANK||PRE-DRAW HAND||OPTIMAL DECISION|
|1.||Four of a Kind, Straight Flush, Royal Flush||Hold pat hand|
|2.||Four cards to a Royal Flush||Draw one card|
|3.||Three of a Kind, Straight, Flush, Full House||Hold pat hand|
|4.||Four cards to a Straight Flush||Draw one card|
|5.||Two Pair||Draw one card|
|6.||One high Pair (Tens or Better)||Draw three cards|
|7.||Three cards to a Royal Flush||Draw two cards|
|8.||Four cards to a Flush||Draw one card|
|9.||Four cards to open-ended Straight, K Q J high||Draw one card|
|10.||Suited J 10 9||Draw two cards|
|11.||One low Pair (2’s through 9’s)||Draw three cards|
|12.||Four cards to an open-ended Straight, any other||Draw one card|
|13.||Three cards to a Straight Flush, 1-2 gaps + 2 high cards||Draw two cards|
|14.||Suited Q J, Q 10, or J 10||Draw three cards|
|15.||Four cards to a Straight, with four high cards||Draw one card|
|16.||Three cards to a Straight Flush, no gaps or high cards||Draw two cards|
|17.||Two suited high cards||Draw three cards|
|18.||Four cards to an inside Straight, three high cards||Draw one card|
|19.||Three unsuited high cards, no Ace||Draw two cards|
|20.||Two unsuited high cards, no Ace||Draw three cards|
|21.||Three cards to a Straight Flush, 1 gap + no high cards||Draw two cards|
|22.||High card (Ace through 10)||Draw four cards|
|23.||Three cards to a Straight Flush, 2 gaps + no high cards||Draw two cards|
|24.||Discard all cards||Draw five cards|
As this chart is nearly the same as that used by Jacks or Better specialists, we once again refer you to that game’s page for further information on how to apply these guidelines.
You can also check out Video Poker Trainer, which has a training tool for Tens or Better.