As I celebrated July 4th this past week, I couldn’t believe I missed the opportunity to write more directly about America’s National Game of Chance – Video Poker.
Why do I say this? Well, my father, Lenny Frome, gave video poker this moniker. So, I suppose I’m biased in this regard. But, I happen to agree with him – video poker is as American as any game in the casino.
First of all, it was invented here in America. The traditional games like blackjack, craps and roulette all have their origins in Europe. Roulette was invented in France (big surprise, huh?) more than 200 years ago. Blackjack would appear to be at least 400 years old with references to it in Spanish literature from the early 17th century.
Craps may date back to the Crusades, which clearly rules it out as an American success story. But, this by itself is not enough to give video poker the award. Many of the modern table games that have been transformative to the casino were invented here in America as well.
Perhaps Three Card Poker should have the nickname of America’s National Game of Chance. It is the most successful table game of all time. Of course, it was invented by Derek Webb, who happens to be a Brit. That puts a crimp in that plan.
I would also suggest that while Three Card Poker transformed the table game space in the casino, it lacks a key quality video poker brings to the table (pardon the pun). It lacks any real strategy. While I strongly advise you keep to a strategy of Q-6-4, if you stick with Queen high, you will inflict only minor damage to your bankroll.
Even if you were to go with never folding, the impact would still be less than that of choosing to play slots. In Three Card Poker, even the worst player is still playing only so bad. In other words, Three Card Poker offers some reward to the good player, but not nearly as much as many other games, including video poker.
So, how about slot machines as our award winner? Slots were invented here in the late 19th century. While they could be found on the East Coast in those early days, we’ve all seen western movies with some early looking mechanical slots. Although, it is possible some of those didn’t match with the time periods the film supposedly took place in. But, this isn’t the real problem.
The real problem is slot machines have absolutely no strategy. This means no one player can have any advantage over another. This just doesn’t seem very American. Quite frankly, it seems a bit more like socialism. You can study a machine for hours, days, weeks or years and gain no advantage over the drunk who walks up to the machine, manages to put some money in and pull the handle (or press the button). No disrespect to any other country or political system, but here in America, we reward hard work (please, no politics!) and skill.
A game that pays everyone the same just won’t do.
So, it would seem video poker is a perfect fit. It offers players who choose to learn the strategy the opportunity to achieve the highest possible paybacks. There are other games in the casino that offer strategy to players so good players can do better than poor ones. But, few of these games offer paybacks that are routinely over 99% and in some cases OVER 100%.
Ultimate Texas Hold’em offers a payback as high as 99.7% (and maybe higher) if you could play using a computer. But, the average human playing in a casino cannot go anywhere near that. Video poker strategy is complex, but nothing compared to UTH. In this regard, the ability to get those high paybacks is far more achievable. So, we have a game that rewards the good players over the bad and one that gives the good ones a realistic opportunity to win over the short run. In the case of the games paying over 100%, it is possible to even win in the long run. It seems like the American dream! Hard work is rewarded!
I’m not sure there is any organization that could truly name video poker as America’s National Game of Chance, but I’ll continue to nominate it as such here in my column. If you agree with me, I suggest the next time you head to the casino you play some video poker. If you don’t know the right strategy, I’d like to recommend my father’s first full-length book on the topic, which consists of several dozen of his best columns on video poker.
The book is entitled “Video Poker: America’s National Game of Chance” and it is available for $7 (lists for $19.95) for GamingToday readers. You can send a check or money order to Gambatria, P.O. Box 36474, Las Vegas, NV 89133 or order it from our website gambatria.com and use promo code GTJULY4.