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Fun is good, smarts better

I think it is human nature to want to constantly push towards things that are faster, more exciting or a higher degree of thrill.

I certainly haven’t done a scientific survey, but based on my experience in the gaming industry, I’d like to know what percent of players start at a relatively low denomination and slowly move up as they become more comfortable in the casino environment.

I’d also like to know how many players start by playing relatively mundane games before moving on to the new and more complex variety?

While I’m sure there are some who will sit down for the first time in a casino and start playing Deuces Wild video poker or jump right into an Ultimate Texas Hold’em game, these are not really the games for novices.

That’s not to say that it’s a good idea to play any casino game without some knowledge of it, but some simply require more strategy or larger bankrolls or a stronger stomach to handle the ups and downs of a few hours of play. Played correctly, the two games I just mentioned offer some of the highest paybacks in the casino and are excellent choices for someone who knows what to do.

It’s no surprise that a question I frequently get from readers is, “Once I’m done with Jacks or Better video poker, which game should I play?” It is hard to give a short answer to this one.

From a purely mathematical perspective, we should all probably be climbing over each other to get to the full-pay Deuces Wild video pokers that pay over 101 percent. If there was some way to play automated with just providing the bankroll so a robot could go at it all day and night with perfect precision, I’d sign up in a second. You could make a lot of money in a year playing a game like this.

While there are no guarantees, but with near certainty you’re going to win more years than losing.

This is not something that the casinos have yet to offer (and I can guarantee will never for a game paying over 100 percent or the line will go from the Strip all the way to the California border). Nor can a human play 100 percent perfect 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Once we have to leave the robot at home and actually play ourselves, many other factors enter.

I know that when I play, I want to have fun.

Winning goes a long ways to this, but I really don’t want to sit there and play a game I don’t like for hours, even if I win $20. So, I wouldn’t suggest playing a game with a good payback if you don’t enjoy it. I’ve never really enjoyed playing Deuces, so I tend not to play it often.

Another factor is how much energy you want to put into learning the strategy. Because I only come out to Las Vegas a couple of times a year, I tend to play Double Double Bonus. I like the idea of the two ‘jackpots’ (royals and 4 aces), so I’m willing to trade off some payback for the hope of a bigger win.

Double Bonus offers a significantly higher payback than Double Double while still being a bit more exciting than Jacks or Better. On the other hand, it also has one of the most complex strategy tables of any game. The player choosing to learn can be rewarded well.

So, once you’ve gotten bored with Jacks or Better, which game should you move to? I think the best way to answer that is to go back to the basics of Expert Strategy. First, know which games to play and the payback.

We can’t all play only the game with the highest payback, but you do want to make sure it offers a fighting chance and is the full-pay machine for the variation you are looking for.

Second, know how to play that game. There is no compromise here. Learn the strategy for whatever game you want to play. Buy a book. Practice on some computer software. Don’t go to the casino to play until you’ve gotten to a low error rate.

Third, have some idea how streaky the game can be. You have to know what size bankroll to bring and some idea of the pattern of hands that you can get. For Joker’s Wild, if you get disappointed that the joker only seems to be showing up in the initial deal about 1 in 10 hands, you’re playing the wrong game – because that’s right about what should be happening!

Last but not least is you must enjoy the game being played. If not, you’re going to lose interest and veer away from proper strategy. And, even if you do win, unless it’s a big cash, there may be no fun involved.

What’s the point of that?

About the Author

Elliot Frome

Elliot Frome’s roots run deep into gaming theory and analysis. His father, Lenny, was a pioneer in developing video poker strategy in the 1980s and is credited with raising its popularity to dizzying heights. Elliot is a second generation gaming author and analyst with nearly 20 years of programming experience.

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