The good and bad of strategy cards

Jul 2, 2007 2:33 AM

The video poker strategy card ”¦ what a concept. It’s as simple as the author consulting with the nearest robot on which cards to hold when and putting it all down on a little piece of paper. Or is it really that simple?

At first glance, any regular video poker player would think there’s not a lot to it. After all, the math defines which cards to hold depending on the draw, does it not? Well, to some authors it does and to others it does "a little bit more." Why? Because some like to include the abstract concept of "penalty card" situations while other do not, and some prefer to carry out the decimal point eight places while others stick to two or three. Get my drift?

Before we get into this any further, let’s see if we can make our own determination as to whether or not these strategy cards are our cup of tea. Good video poker players almost always first study and practice the game on any of a number of good software programs available everywhere gaming products are sold.

The reason is obvious: They want to be able to play the game in a reasonably intelligent fashion. Eventually — at least for me — almost every hold becomes common sense and you just can’t imagine playing any other way.

But what about the deals that seem to have multiple options for the hold, and their hold values are not all that far apart?

Usually, but not always, these type hands involve penalty cards, which to the player trying to play mathematically perfect they may be extraordinary, but to a player like me they are completely meaningless. In fact, with my play strategies I deviate from optimal-play at least 5% of the time in order to maximize the opportunity of certain deals at certain times anyway, so penalty card issues — with their miniscule possibilities of added value — have no meaning at all to my play.

But that doesn’t stop a few from obsessing over penalty card existence. You’ll generally see these type people trying to maximize penalty card value with statements like "I play $15million here and $22 million there each year, so it’s gonna cost me NOT to follow exact penalty card strategy."

And what do I say about such statements? Yada, yada, yada”¦.the first problem is playing that much through the machines (and you know why), and the second is worrying about the tiniest of specs — especially when misplaying those specs could catch just as much or even more value in winners as not misplaying them. Again, it all boils down to simple common sense as well as in understanding how to enjoy what you are doing.

So let’s get back to the practicality of even using a set of strategy cards — if they’re even usable in the first place. Certainly not everyone can learn optimal holds, and many video poker players just don’t have the aptitude to be playing the game anyway. Thus, they carry the strategy cards around the casinos with them, and what a spectacle they are.

Since I’ve played a lot over the years I’ve seen a lot of strategy cards being pulled out and reviewed by puzzled faces at the machines. It is a sight to behold bar none. It’s like the player needs the info but just doesn’t want anyone to see him looking up the answer — sort of like cheating on an exam! And generally, the player gets so nervous over their actions that they STILL make the wrong mathematically correct hold.

Lately on one of the major video poker forums, I’ve watched as author after author and math guru after math guru take each other’s strategy card efforts apart — and it is not without the usual troll or two who despises every famous name just because they themselves never were able to make it that far.

The problem? They’re all trying to find fault with each other’s calculations and degree of accuracy, and instead of all joining in to bad-mouth me they’re going after each other! And it is hilarious!

At the end of the day none of it really matters anyway, because players will play on and whether they use strategy cards or not, the casinos will still get their business. And what do I think about all these various strategy cards? Well, I did buy a set years ago, and it didn’t take long before I laminated them and used them as coasters near my computer — where they still reside to this day. In doing so, you might say I "maximized their value."