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Last week, I implored everyone to make a New Year’s resolution to kick the slot habit. This week, I continue the process of getting you to start the New Year off correctly by giving you the steps to keeping your resolution.

The best way to kick the slot habit and to learn video poker is to start embracing Expert Strategy. Expert Strategy encompasses three main components. These are:

• Knowing which games to play

• Knowing the right strategy for that game

• Knowing what to expect

Knowing which games to play means playing games with high paybacks. A payback is what percent of the total amount wagered that you can expect to have returned to you. Thus, if the payback is under 100%, you can expect to lose in the long run. Video poker is pretty much the only game in the casino you may find paying over 100% in the long run. Ideally, these are the games you want to play as you have the opportunity to win money over the long haul if you adhere to playing the right strategy. If you do find the need to play games below 100%, you want to make sure that they are CLOSE to 100% so that your losses can be minimized and you at least will have reasonable opportunities for short-term wins.

Playing games with the right payback is nearly meaningless if you don’t learn the right strategy for that game. It’s great that Blackjack has a 99.5% payback, but if you split 10s you have no shot at earning that payback over the long term (probably not the short-term either if you split 10s!).

Generally speaking, the higher the payback of a game, the harder it is to learn the strategy. Casinos rely on human error, or in some cases human lack of knowledge to increase their hold on games.

It is hard to make a mistake on a side bet for blackjack so these tend to pay anywhere from 75% to 90%. The base game can pay 99.5% because of all those people who don’t know when to Double Down. Their loss can be your gain. If you learn how to play the game correctly, the casinos are willing to give you a game that pays nearly 100%.

A critical component of learning the right strategy is FOR THAT GAME. This means for the specific paytable or rules in use. Different casinos play with different blackjack rules and some of these may affect the strategy you use.

There are dozens of different varieties of video poker games and each version has many different paytables. You cannot use a one-size fits all strategy. Sometimes, this may result in only a tiny impact on the payback. Other times it may make a much bigger difference. You need to learn the strategy for the version AND paytable that you are planning on playing.

The last component is knowing what to expect. This does not directly impact our play, but is what keeps us on the right path. When things are going well, it is easy to get greedy and to start taking chances that you shouldn’t, hoping to go in for the kill.

Let’s be clear here – you will NEVER bankrupt the casino. Be happy with a nice win and don’t be greedy. Continue to play the right strategy regardless of the past. That brings us to what you do when things are going so well.

In THIS case, continue to play the right strategy regardless of the past! When it’s going bad, it is easy to think the strategy is wrong or to try to take big chances hoping for a big win to get you back to even. Once in a while this may work, but more often than not, all you’ll really do is lower the payback from that point on and REDUCE your chances of getting even. By understanding what to expect, you’ll be better prepared for the ups and downs and the apparently ‘strange’ results that may lead you to believe that the game is not as random as it is supposed to be. In reality, the game is random and everything you see is part of the normal chance process. If you remember this, you’ll remember that the strategy takes this all into account. Thus, your best path is to just continue to play the right strategy.

Learning to play video poker using Expert Strategy is not necessarily easy. It, however, can save you a lot of money lost, especially relative to playing slots. It is also NOT expensive to learn how to play.

More than 20 years ago, my father (Lenny Frome) developed a tip sheet “50+ tips for video poker” that I still think is the best gambling bargain anywhere. For only $2.95 (includes shipping and handling), you’ll get a wealth of knowledge about how to play video poker the right way. If you’d like to get started for less than $3, just send a check or money order to Compu-Flyers, p.o. box 132, Bogota, NJ 07603. You just can’t get started breaking the slot habit for less.

You can try out your strategy by playing our video poker game.

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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