Introduction to Video Poker
Audience member Paul asks an excellent question about another use in the casino for my winning slots strategies. He wants to know: Can they be applied to win at video poker? Let find out!
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Traditional Video Poker Strategies
Traditional video poker winning strategies strategies are long-standing and well known: Playing each video poker game perfectly, usually learned by practicing with software, and finding the best paytable available.
Every little bit of winning edge helps. Choosing the right machine, selecting the best available casino, and aligning your play to your gambling goals will each, individually, increase your overall odds of winning.
With this perspective in mind regarding video poker machines, I have assumed perfect play and the best possible paytable. Each video poker hand not played in the way math says it should result in simply throwing away whole return percentage points. You’ll need to avoid doing that!
Not playing the best paytable available results in a similar lowering of the odds of winning. Sometimes this is acceptable, however. For instance, maybe your casino doesn’t offer video poker machines with 9-6 odds. Or, maybe those wonderful, hard-to-find 9-6 odds are only available on $25 denomination machines when you’re not a high roller.
In any case, I assume:
- You’ve scrapped together every bit of winning odds you can find.
- You’ve learned to play your video poker game of choice perfectly.
- The video poker machine with the best paytable has been located, where “best” means:
- The paytable has the best odds of winning
- The machine denomination and credits match your bankroll
To learn more about different games, perfect play, and paytables for video poker, several good resources are available to you. For example, these topics are well-covered by Bob Dancer, author of “Million Dollar Video Poker”.
Another excellent resource is Robin Aubin from NE Time Gambling, who has been studying video poker for 20 years.
Can Identical VP Machines have Different Odds?
In most U.S. states video poker can be understood as skill-based slot machines. I imagine this is hard for long-term video poker players to accept. But notice I said, “most U.S. states”.
In the great U.S. state of Nevada, video poker has the same odds as the corresponding table game of poker. Why? Because a specific Nevada gaming regulation has made it a legal requirement. Here it is:
For gaming devices that are representative of live gambling games, the mathematical probability of a symbol or other element appearing in a game outcome must be equal to the mathematical probability of that symbol or element occurring in the live gambling game. – NCR 14.040, paragraph 5
This Nevada gaming reg applies to all table games converted into a video machine: Keno, blackjack, craps, and all versions of poker. This statute means my winning slots strategies do not apply to video poker machines in Nevada.
But guess what? I have been unable to find wonderfully specific gaming reg, or anything like it, in any other U.S. state’s gaming regulations. And slot machine manufacturers don’t add unnecessary (read expensive) features to slot machines when they aren’t required. So, going forward, let’s focus on everywhere else except Nevada.
The best video poker players know that card games are not video games. For instance, there is no card counting in video games because past hands are irrelevant. Also, there is no bluffing when playing a computer.
But it goes deeper than that. Someone who switches from poker as a table game to a video poker machine has a hard transition to make. How best to describe this difficulty? Well, consider the game of golf.
Do you like golf? Have you played a lot of it? Okay, let’s say you do and have. Now, let’s get you to play a video golf game. The advice I heard a video gaming expert give a golfer playing video golf was this: “Try to imagine that you’re not even playing golf anymore.”
In the same way, poker is not video poker. Translating poker to a video machine created something new. It’s not entirely different, as the rules are much the same. But, it’s not playing with physical cards anymore and that’s where the difference lies.
Maybe you’ve never played skill-based slot machines. When playing them, an incorrect move reduces your odds of winning. For instance, if you’re playing a Space Invaders slot machine, what happens when you fire your virtual weapon and miss? Well, your overall gambling performance, your winnings, will be less.
It’s the same way with video poker. Yes, certainly, play the video poker game perfectly. Also, of course, improve your overall odds of winning by playing machines with the best paytable. But, don’t stop there!
Some of the best card-based poker advice I’d ever heard was originally from Jimmy the Greek. He said, “Don’t play the game. Play the other player.”
My best advice for video poker players? Well, it’s the same advice I have for playing slots. It’s this: “Don’t play the computer. Play the casino.” Next, I’ll explain what I mean by playing the casino.
My Winning Slots Strategies
Briefly, my winning slots strategies are about recognizing patterns. For instance, casino operators may directly install a winning slot machine at a specific location in the casino. Or, winning slot machines may be indirectly determined through their choice of casino operating system.
Directly means a casino deliberately increases the odds of winning on a slot machine placed at a specific location in the casino such as a high traffic area. Whether or not the casino has chosen to do so is our task to uncover if we can.
Indirectly means modern casinos have started using a central computer to remotely set and adjust the odds of winning on slot machines. There are several strategic approaches a casino might use to do this, each with a tactical counter approach which I call winning slots strategies.
Not every winning slot machine strategy works at every casino. Remembering this is important. My winning slots strategies have been as much about how a slots strategy works as it is about identifying whether a specific casino is susceptible to it.
Put another way, if a casino hasn’t installed a winning slot machine in full view of a major walkway in their casino, to entice others to play slots after seeing someone else win, then it will be impossible for us to find it.
I’ll apply each of my winning slot machine strategy to playing video poker. Some will work. Some may not work. But let’s examine them.
Evaluating Slots Strategies for Playing Video Poker
My first winning slots strategy is about casinos deliberately improving the odds of winning on a slot machine in full view of other casino patrons. Basically, the idea here is to entice passersby to also gamble via slots somewhere else in the casino.
So, you tell me. Are video slot machines ever visible from high traffic areas? Consider how many video poker machines a casino might have. Typically, not a lot, right? They’re usually off in an area by themselves. They’re not spread all over the casino.
Having successfully employed this slots strategy, I’d say it might apply to one of the video poker machines in their area. Look for a machine visible from the entryway, on the end of an aisle, or by passersby. Are there any situated like that? Test those, but carefully.
My second winning slots strategy is when casinos set up their machines to win immediately, but then don’t offer any more wins if continuing to play. This slots strategy is just as cheap and easy to check on video poker machines as it is on slots. When I’ve found a casino sets up their machines this way, ALL their machines are set up this way.
So, go find a penny slot machine and bet 1-cent five times in a row. Did you win? Try the next machine that’s also been sitting idle for a while. Did it happen again? If this keeps happening for all kinds of slot machines, then you can expect it to happen with that casino’s video poker machines.
My third winning strategy doesn’t apply to video poker. Perhaps I’m wrong. Have you seen a progressive video poker machine? I know I haven’t. If they do exist, or start showing up in casinos, then this slots strategy may be applicable. Until then, however, it isn’t.
UPDATE – I was wrong about progressive VPs. Upon reading this article for me, Paul told me that progressive video poker machines do exist. From his description, teams of players will play them just as my third winning strategy suggests in its entirety. That it would be a winning strategy wasn’t in question. I just didn’t know progressive VP machines existed yet. Thanks again, Paul!
My fourth winning slots strategy is all about earning complimentary gifts. This is a well-known strategy for video poker. As mentioned so often by video poker experts, comps are often the only way to come out ahead in video poker.
With a long-term 99% return on some video poker games, a few complimentary gifts can show a personal profit for players. Sometimes, it’s the only way they can win more than they put into the machine. Because of this, casinos usually reduce the player club points earned for playing video poker relative to playing slots.
My fifth and sixth winning slots strategies are all about casinos adjusting the odds of winning during and after special events such as car giveaways, Derby Day, and holidays.
Could casinos do this? Yes, as modern casinos have central computers which adjust the odds of winning on their machines on a daily or multi-daily basis. Does your casino do it? Well, was it built in 2012 or after? If not, was it heavily renovated since 2012? Either way, that’s when wiring and a central computer was, most likely, installed.
My seventh winning strategy is about optimizing profit after finding a winning strategy that works. As mentioned, some of these strategies applied to machines require a very low bankroll. Then, if such a test is positive, try it on higher denomination machines to reduce your financial risks.
My eighth winning strategy is, apparently, rare to find. However, it is the strategy I used to get to Seven Stars top-tier status in six weeks over about a dozen 3-hour sessions. It didn’t help me win that car – that was the second strategy – but I was quite pleased with it.
Might you find that this winning strategy works for video poker? Well, it’s very casino dependent. I found it at the brand-new Horseshoe Cincinnati in the same year that the nearby Belterra Park finished their extensive renovations.
As I mentioned, this one is rare. But, incredibly valuable if your casino has it. Do I suspect any casinos having this winning strategy in place? Yes, I do. Without having tried it myself, and just looking at the business tension as it were, I suspect MGM Springfield is employing it.
Why? Because they are trying to build a reputation in southern New England where every resident has a casino within a 2-hour drive. Frankly, to penetrate that market they need to do something special. And this is indeed special. This approach worked very well for Horseshoe Cincinnati as, not long after, they were purchased by Jack Casino.
But this final winning strategy comes with a strong warning. If MGM Springfield has set itself to do this, to forevermore have billboards honestly saying they have the best slots and most jackpots, then take this warning to heart.
Enjoy your wins in the first year, as they’ll come easy. Enjoy your wins in the second year of the MGM Springfield being open as those, too, will still be easy. Not as easy, but still easy compared to everywhere else.
What you should watch out for, however, is the third year of it being open. MGM Springfield has a budget for construction as well as establishing itself. In the third year, casinos doing this drop their payout returns to the going-forward norm. Put another way, they’ll be wanting all that lost money back from you.
So, if you can’t adjust your gaming and think the wins will just keep on coming, you’ll be in for a world of hurt. Just remember to trim back your gaming machine betting at MGM Springfield at the beginning of 2020. You can thank me later.
Summary of Video Poker
To have the best odds of winning, you’ll need to be skilled at playing whatever poker game is on the machine and choose machines with the best paytables. But in states where video poker is skill-based slots, try applying my winning slots strategies that take advantage of how casino operators have set up their machines to win at video poker.
A special thanks goes out to Paul for asking this question about applying slots strategies to video poker. I’ve enjoyed our conversations on this and other slots topics.
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