Video Poker Archive
Can I Really Win?

Yes. Or rather, yes, but....

Profitable play at video poker first requires you play each and every hand correctly. The edge you might have is, in even the best of games, rather thin, so you cannot afford to make mistakes. That's not to say that you can't miss a pair and draw to a King and Queen every once in a while, but if you make that a habit, you can easily give up your edge. If you learn the proper strategy really well, you'll also begin to play faster and that's the other key to profitable play. If you can play just as accurately at a rate of 600 hands per hour as you can at a rate of 200 hands per hour, it stands to reason that you'll win 3 times as much money in the same period of time. The rewards can be considerable. Since I play mostly Blackjack, I don't spend a lot of time at VP, but recently I began keeping detailed notes of my play. Since October 14th of this year, I've played 58 hours of 25-cent video poker. My profit at this point is $992, which works out to be $17 an hour. Less than half of what I make at Blackjack, but still a decent return, considering that 99.9% of the other people who were there when I was, lost. You don't have to lose at the casino if you don't want to. But, you can't win by hoping, either. You've got to work at it. Here are some things to consider.

Pick a Game

Take a minute to peruse the most recent two articles in The GameMaster's Video Poker Bible. In them, you'll see which games to play and which to avoid. Once you recognize a game which is available in your area, and are SURE that it returns over 100% on long term play, learn that game. You might want to eventually learn two different games (assuming they are available), but I can't recommend any more than that. It's just too confusing, otherwise.

Learning Your Game of Choice

You need GOOD information on how to play the hands and there are several ways to do it. As for me, I have Lenny Frome's book, "Winning Strategies for Video Poker"; Dan Paymar's book, "Video Poker - Precision Play"; I subscribe to Video Poker Times and I have a bunch of 'pocket' strategy cards from Dan and also carry some I've made up on my own. I also own Stanford Wong's video poker software, got the free VP program we mentioned in a front page 'Hot Tip' recently and have several other VP programs. You're reading this on a computer now, but if you don't want to get some of this software, go buy a little hand-held game and use that for practice. It's easier (and cheaper) to practice at home than to try it in the casino, so do that for at least 20 or 30 hours of play before you commit any of your hard-earned $$$ to actual play.

Establishing a Bankroll

The bad thing about playing VP is that you'll lose most of the time, so you can't go at this with a hundred bucks and expect to make a fortune. The reality is that you'll likely lose $1000, $2000 or more (and that's at a quarter game!), but IF, and only if, you play games with a 100+% return, one fine day, the money will start rolling in. So, you should, while you're practicing, start setting aside risk capital for this venture. I say 'risk' capital, because this is no 100% sure thing, unless you've got a $10,000 bankroll and you play perfectly. You can probably do it with less, but the risk is higher if your bankroll is smaller. For example, with a $2400 bankroll committed to quarter games of 10/7 Double Bonus poker, there's a 1 in 30 chance that you'll lose it all. Now that's not all that scary, especially if you have a source of renewable funds (a job), but $2400 is still a lot of dough to throw at a casino. I think a serious VP player needs $6000 set aside to give this venture a fair shot.

Consider a Team or Joint Effort

If you have a friend, spouse or significant other who also likes to play VP, consider splitting the risk between you. As long as you both play equally well, the same amount of money should work, it's just that you'll hit the 'long run' quicker. If it's meant to be that you're going to lose, it'll happen faster, but so will winning. And, if you play beatable games, the odds are you'll win.

Join the Slot Clubs

Most give back cash now, and that adds to your edge over the casino. For example, if the club awards 1 point for each $10 in quarters played and it takes 40 points to get back $1, that club is paying 40 X $10 = $400 X .0025 = $1 or .25%. If you're playing a game with a long term return of 100.7%, with the slot club your return is 100.95%. The cash is great, but so are all the room deals, free dinners, etc. Yes, a good, active 25-cent VP player is a desired patron in almost any casino. They're willing to give it away; you need to get your share.

Have Fun

I really enjoy playing VP and I have fun at it, win or lose. When I lose, I know I'll eventually get my $$$ back and, since my bankroll is separate from my 'real' money, I don't sweat it. Practice when you aren't at the casino; avoid taking 'shots' at the slots and get all the freebies you can from the casino. You'll do just fine.

Winning at Video Poker for 11-3 Part 3

15,000 hands of video poker

This exercise, which I've been doing for quite a while now , will give you a good idea of what to expect from playing video poker on a long term basis. I have a program which I use to practice my 9/6 Jacks or Better strategy and it keeps track of my stats as play occurs.

Now, for those of you just getting involved with video poker, the 9/6 Jacks game is probably the grand daddy of them all; it was the game which started the VP 'boom'. Played correctly, this game will return about 99.5% long term. Since a big part of the return (about 2% overall) is from the Royal, a player can expect to run at a 97.5% payback until the royal comes up. If you play this at a casino which has a decent slot club, say .5% return on all the $$$ you bet, a return of 100% is theoretically possible. So, you say -- what's the big deal about a 100% return; that's just getting your money back. True. But it's a much better return than you'll ever get off a slot machine and who's to say you can't get 'lucky' and realize a return of over 100%?

Let me show you how that could work. On my practice machine, I've played 15,000 hands. That means I've bet 75,000 coins (at 5 coins per play) which translates into $75,000 if I was playing a dollar machine or $18,750 if I was playing quarters. My return to this point has been 72,625 coins which means I'm down $2,375 at a dollar machine or $593.75 at a quarter machine. What if I hit a royal on the next hand? I'd get $4000 for $5 at a dollar machine and then I'd have a net profit of $1620, not to mention a slot club return of $375 (at a .5% rate). Since a playing rate of 400 hands an hour is easily attained, that 15,000 hands represents about 37.5 hours of play which works out to be a 'pay' of $1620 + $375 = $1995 divided by 37.5 or $53.20 an hour. At a quarter machine, it's $13.30 an hour. But, we got lucky because we cannot expect to hit a Royal every 15,000 hands or so; it's expected once every 40,000 hands. If it took us exactly 40,000 hands to hit a royal, we'd be down about $1000 at a dollar machine, though we'd have about $1000 in slot club points.

So, when we're playing a machine where the house has a small edge, we're looking to get lucky. But, if you were a dollar player and just broke even, you would have probably received free hotel rooms, comped dinners, etc., so breaking even isn't all bad.

But, enough chit-chat; here are the numbers. I've displayed them in such a way as to show how many I should have received in 15,000 hands versus how many I actually got. Of course, one cannot receive .37 of a Royal, but it will give you an idea of probability against reality.

# Probability # Actually Received
Royal Flush .37 0
Straight Flush 1.58 .3
Four-of-a-kind 35 35
Full House 173 184
Flush 163 130
Straight 170 163
Three-of-a-kind 1117 1151
Two Pair 1941 1912
Jacks or better 3218 3135
No Pay 8184 8287

Expected total return (excluding the Royal): 97.51%
Actual return: 96.83%

So, at least thus far, I'm below expectation by 510 coins, which is not that big a deal in the grand scheme of things. But you can see that I will likely continue to lose at this game until the Royal hits. The nice thing about video poker is that it WILL hit; I just don't know when.

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