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Knowledge essential to win at video poker

Sep 9, 2008 7:00 PM

Winning Strategies by Elliot Frome | I spent most of my column last week discussing my fifth anniversary at GamingToday, and now it is time to get back to work. In this case, work means teaching my readers about expert strategy and about giving up the slots habit.

Frequently, people I meet will ask me about what I like to play when I go to the casino. Surprisingly, I tell them that it varies on my mood. This might seem to be an answer that goes against expert strategy, but I don't think it does.

Expert strategy as my father, Lenny Frome, defined it is about three basic concepts:

Knowing the right games to play.

Knowing the right strategy to play.

Knowing what to expect.

The first concept could be defined in a variety of ways. In simple terms, it means playing the games with the highest paybacks. Some could argue this means that you should play the single game with the highest payback. If this were the case, I would be an advocate that you seek out only the highest paying video poker machines in a particular locale and play just that type of machine.

I could go one step further and suggest that you should play only the highest paying machine, period. So, if Las Vegas, or for that matter, one casino in Las Vegas has a particular machine with a particular paytable that is the highest payback machine anywhere, I could suggest that everyone should fly to Las Vegas and play on that machine.

This doesnt sound very practical. Expert strategy was created with the idea to be practical. So, when we apply real life to the first concept of expert strategy, we really mean that you should look for the highest possible paytables for whatever game you are interested in playing.

Generally speaking, I would advocate if that means playing across the street at a different casino because it has significantly better paybacks, that you do so. This assumes everything else is the same.

If going across the street means going into a casino that plays music you cant stand while youre playing, then you might decide that this is not for you. In the end, you cannot look at only the paytables, but they certainly should be very high on the list of important items.

Now, in case anyone is wondering why this same concept doesnt apply to slot machines, I have a very good answer. Because with slots, the paytable is meaningless. Two machines can sit side by side. The one on the left could appear to have the better paytable, but the one on the right may be programmed for the higher payback.

This cannot be the case for video poker or table games. Given a paytable for video poker (or table games), I can compute the exact theoretical payback, and the machine with the higher paytable will always have the higher payback.

Besides taking into consideration the paytable, there are other factors that should be considered. However, the rest of these items do not speak directly to the math of the game, which is a direct link to how you can expect your bankroll to do. These other items can and will affect the enjoyment you get from playing.

If you lose sight of the fact that for 99 percent of the players, gambling is merely a form of entertainment, it may be time for you take a long break. So, this is why I tell people that what I choose to play depends on my mood.

Sometimes, Im in the mood for video poker which takes a great deal of concentration to play the right strategy. Sometimes, Im in the mood for blackjack, which takes an even higher level of concentration but at a far slower pace. Then there are the times I want to just relax and not have to think too much and Ill sit and play Three Card Poker or Let It Ride, which are games that I find very enjoyable but require far less strategy.

I realize that my choices can affect my bankroll, as the paybacks of these games can range from 101+ percent for video poker to the 97-98 percent range for the less stressful table games, but if I try and play video poker when Im not in the mood, I probably wont achieve those paybacks, and I wont have any fun. This would really be a lose-lose situation.