Nothing beats playing vs. humans

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Elliot Frome, author of the “Winning Strategies” column for Gaming Today, recently wrote several columns about Video Poker. In the December 19 issue, he explains “Strategy Tables” in considerable detail – what these tables (charts) are and how to use them for best results when playing Video Poker.

Video Poker has been available in casinos for about 40 years and has become quite popular, especially among gamblers who prefer playing alone, without any competition.

But there is one HUGE difference – a very important difference – compared to what I would call “REAL Poker.” Playing Video Poker, you are interacting only with a machine – just as if you were playing the slots; human interaction is completely absent. There’s only the player and the machine.

In other forms of Poker, a skilled player counts the number of cards that will complete his hand – his outs – to determine the card odds, and compares these to the pot odds. From this, he can quickly estimate the Expected Value. This is similar to using the Strategy Tables for Video Poker. And that’s where any skill resemblances begin and end.

But, in my view, even more important, the human element is completely absent when playing Video Poker. There are no opponents sitting around the table with you, competing with bets and raises for the same pot. There is no bluffing. There is no “enemy” to beat out. . . no way to apply your many different poker skills.

Thus, there is no need to evaluate your opponents – what kind of hands they may hold, and how you expect each to play them.

Don’t bother to look for tells to gain more information. There is complete disregard of opponents’ playing traits – no loose or tight, aggressive or passive players, nor deceptive players.

There is no such thing as a calling-station; no “maniacs” are involved; no slow-playing; no check-raising to build the size of the pot; no one to bluff out. he machine will not know the difference.

Hence, the skill required to go home a winner in Video Poker is limited to merely the ability to use the Strategy Tables (or equivalent) – hardly comparable to the many skills you can use in real Poker. I wonder if we should even call it Poker.

Furthermore in Video Poker, without any opponents with whom to compete, there is no such thing as psychology; nor is there any social interaction. Many recreational players enjoy the opportunity to interact with other players and even the dealers seated at the table – to talk to them, observe them, smile or scowl at them.

With all due respect to my Gaming Today colleague, despite his extensive columns, I’ll pass on Video Poker – even if I had the Strategy Tables readily available to me – and stick to real Poker.

What do you think? I will give away a signed copy of my book, “The Art of Bluffing,” including the “Esther Bluff,” for the best responses received during the next two weeks. Email me with your thoughts.

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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