No substitute for playing real Poker

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With reference to the “dispute” between Elliot Frome and myself regarding Video Poker vs. Real Poker, the January 1 issue of Ante Up magazine has an interesting column by Mark Brement.

In his “2019 Resolutions that Make Sense,” Mark states that “poker is a brain game, a game of skill.” As we all recognize, brain games stimulate our cognitive functions, boosting memory and ability to reason. The more we challenge our brains, the better for our mental well-being.

In that regard, real Poker has it all over Video Poker and similar games that barely challenge the brain. But each person has his right to choose how he wants to maintain his body and mind. To each his own. . .

Getting back to our showdown on Video Poker vs. real Poker in the January 1 issue, Elliot explained why he prefers playing Video Poker. Basically, his reasons boil down to the fact that Video Poker is a much easier game to play.

I agree. Video Poker entails little mental challenge. There is only one skill needed: Using the Strategy Tables after you have been dealt five cards to decide which to discard and replace, so as to have the best chance of connecting to get the highest payouts. If the “right” cards don’t come, you lose your investment (bet). What could be easier? Just one decision to be made.

Other than that one skill, Video Poker is very much like playing the slots. Put your money into the machine and push a button. A child can do it. It’s just the player and the Video Poker machine, over which he has neither control nor influence. It’s just a matter of luck.

On the other hand, real Poker involves many decisions from beginning to end (showdown), with betting/raising along the way.

There are many skills to master. These include table selection; starting hand selection; betting and raising; using position at the table; coping with the types of players you are up against; looking for tells; counting your outs to determine if you have a Positive Expectation (i.e., is the reward worth the risk?); deciding if this is a good situation to make a bluff; knowing how best to bluff, and using the Esther Bluff; building “your” pot when you catch a monster hand (best if it’s the nuts); and more.

While you cannot control the cards dealt, you can very much influence how the hand plays out. That’s why all those skills gain you so much influence over the results.

I agree that real Poker is much more complicated. But that is what makes the game more of a mental challenge. Analogous to exercising your body for physical fitness and health, the mental exercise in real Poker helps the player’s mental health – his ability to think and analyze, and to make sound decisions. (No more Alzheimer’s disease for us!)

Also important, the human element is completely absent when playing Video Poker. There are no opponents sitting around the table, competing for the same pot. There is no “enemy” to beat out. No way to apply your many different poker skills.

As we get older (it’s a part of life), time becomes ever more important, more precious. Many people go to the gym to exercise their bodies; that takes time. Likewise, challenging your mind – exercising it – will enhance its strength and make it healthier. The more skills you learn and apply, the better does that game improve your mental health. Your precious time is well invested!

And, once again, with all due respect to Gaming Today super-columnist, Elliot Frome, I’ll pass on Video Poker and stick to the real thing!

I’ll give a signed copy of my book, “The Art of Bluffing,” including the “Esther Bluff,” for the best responses received during the next two weeks. Just send me an email at the address below.

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About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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