Get the most from v-p strategy tables

Jul 18, 2005 1:42 AM

Last week, I described how using expected value (EV) can help us figure out what is the right play given any particular deal. As I said last week, it is not important to memorize the specific EV of any hand, but rather, you must learn which hand has a higher EV than another.

The rankings of expected values for a particular game are called a strategy table. It lists all of the playable hands for that game with the hand with the highest expected value at the top (usually a Royal Flush) and the hand with the lowest expected value at the bottom (usually a ”˜Razgu’ or discard all five cards).

Strategy tables can be found in many places nowadays. There are numerous books and computer software products that list strategy tables for most of today’s popular games. This is the first step in kicking the slot habit. The problem with playing a game that involves strategy is that you need to actually learn the strategy in order to obtain the higher paybacks the game can offer. So, if you’re serious about giving up slots, you’re going to have to invest a few dollars on one of the books and/or software products on Video Poker.

I would suggest you start with a book like our own Expert Video Poker for Las Vegas. This book will explain all the basics of the game from which games to play and why, to a detailed explanation of how expected value is calculated and why it works. It also provides the strategy tables for a handful of the most popular full-pay machines found all over the country. Additionally, I would suggest that you pick a relatively basic game to learn first. Full-pay jacks or better or maybe Bonus Poker would be a good place to start. These games have average length strategy tables so learning them will not prove too difficult. Also, because there are no wild no wild cards, recognizing hands should be relatively easy.

Once you decide which game you are going to start with, you will have to get a copy of that game’s strategy table, preferably for the specific paytable that you will be able to play. This is another reason I suggest jacks or better as a place to start, because it is available just about everywhere video poker is found. Now comes the hard part. You have to memorize the relative rankings of the strategy table. This can look challenging at first, but after a little while you’ll realize that about a third of the table (the top third) are mostly pat hands that require very little thought. The rest of the table will be more difficult to learn. The best way to do this is to practice, practice, practice.

You can practice either by using a regular deck of cards, buying software that allows you to practice and corrects your mistakes or by going to a casino. The deck of cards will be the cheapest option, but it is also the slowest and it can’t automatically detect your mistakes. Software costs about $20-$50 and might seem like an expensive alternative, but it will prove to be a lot cheaper than going into a casino and practicing there! Most of the better video poker software programs that are out there can be set for virtually any paytable and game version. They can also tell you when you made a strategy error, which can assist you to speed up the learning process.

Once you’ve mastered the game at home, you’re ready to head to the casino. Even if you don’t play perfect the first time, my best guess says that in just one night of playing, you’ll cover the cost of the book and the software just by playing video poker and kicking the slot habit.