Video Poker Variance: High vs Low Variance Games

Video poker variance

Video poker variance is a crucial aspect for players who want to manage their bankroll and maximize their chances of winning. It refers to the measure of the size of swings, both up and down, in a player’s bankroll. Different video poker games have different variances, which are impacted by the game’s features and pay tables. In this article, we will explore the concept of video poker variance, its impact on gameplay, and how understanding it can help players make better decisions when choosing which game to play.

Low Variance Games

Low variance games are characterized by having few or no high-paying hands and many lower-paying hands. This results in minor bankroll fluctuations, allowing players to enjoy longer gaming sessions with a smaller bankroll. One popular example of a low variance game is Jacks or Better. In this game, the frequency of winning hands is high, and the difference between the highest and lowest paying hands is not significant. As a result, players can expect a lower risk of losing large amounts of money while playing low variance games.

High Variance Games

On the other hand, high variance games have more of the winning amounts coming from higher paying hands, resulting in significant bankroll fluctuations. Double-Double Bonus is an example of a high variance game. In this game, the frequency of winning hands is similar to Jacks or Better, but the difference between the highest and lowest paying hands is significant. The top paying hands contribute over 20% of the total return, while the six lowest paying hands contribute less than 80%.

High variance games require a larger bankroll to ride out the losing streaks and offer the potential for big wins. Players who enjoy the thrill of chasing large payouts may prefer high variance games, but they should be prepared for the increased risk of losing significant amounts of money.

Understanding Video Poker Variance

When choosing a video poker game, it’s essential to understand the variance and how it affects your gameplay. Low variance games require a smaller bankroll, making them suitable for players who want to minimize their risk and enjoy longer gaming sessions. High variance games, on the other hand, offer the potential for big wins but require a larger bankroll to manage effectively.

To determine the variance of a video poker game, players should examine the game’s pay table and consider the frequency of winning hands. A game with a high frequency of winning hands and a small difference between the highest and lowest paying hands is likely to have low variance. Conversely, a game with a similar frequency of winning hands but a significant difference between the highest and lowest paying hands will have high variance.

Managing Your Bankroll

Regardless of whether you prefer low or high variance games, managing your bankroll is crucial for a successful video poker experience. For low variance games, players should ensure they have enough funds to enjoy extended gaming sessions without risking significant losses. For high variance games, players should be prepared to withstand losing streaks and have a larger bankroll to sustain their gameplay.

One strategy for managing your bankroll is setting loss limits and win goals. By determining how much you’re willing to lose and how much you want to win before starting a gaming session, you can better control your spending and know when to walk away.


In summary, video poker variance is an essential factor to consider when choosing a game to play. Understanding the difference between low and high variance games can help players make informed decisions about their gameplay and manage their bankroll effectively. By examining the pay table and frequency of winning hands, players can determine the variance of a video poker game and select one that best suits their preferences and bankroll.

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