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19 November 2016
By Henry Tamburin
A reader asked me if I’ve ever had a losing streak playing video poker. Short answer: You bet I did. But here’s why and how I deal with losing streaks.
It’s been my personal experience that I lose on average about two out of every three video poker sessions, even though I’ve come out ahead 10 out of the past 12 years that I’ve played video poker. You might find that strange, especially when the video poker games I mostly play have returns in the range of 99.5% to 99.7% (i.e., slightly less than 100%). That’s because even when you play each hand perfectly, you can still expect to win nothing 54.54% of the time; furthermore, 21.46% of the time, you will only break out even (when you bet five coins and end up with a high pair, you only get back five coins).
Therefore, 76% of the time, you will gain nothing because the big payoffs occur infrequently in video poker; therefore, you are more likely to have more losing than winning sessions, although in the long run, your winning sessions will wipe out most (but not all) of your losses and you will come close to the theoretical 99.54% return for the game (assuming you play every hand perfectly).
A friend of mine ran a computer simulation of 50 sessions of play, each session consisting of 7,200 hands (playing 9/6 Jacks or Better). (That’s 360,000 hands, about a year’s worth of play.)The result of the simulation was this: 16 sessions were winners (32%) and 34 were losers (68%). This comes close to my experience of losing two out of every three playing sessions.
Bottom line is this for video poker: Even when you play every hand perfectly, in the short run you will experience losing streaks, although in the long run you can win money (especially when you take advantage of a casino’s cash back and bounce back promotions). So if losing sessions and streaks are inevitable, how do we muddle our way through them? Here are some tips based on my playing experience.
1. Have the mindset going in that most of your sessions will be losers. This means that you shouldn’t be upset when you lose. (That’s a tough thing to get used to, but if losing stresses you out and gets you sick, then you really shouldn’t be playing video poker.)
2. Have enough bankroll set aside to play video poker, especially when those inevitable losing streaks occur.
3. Only play with discretionary funds that you don’t need to pay bills. (If you play video poker with the mortgage or rent money, the constant worry of how to pay your bills when losing streaks occur will be devastating.)
4. Take full advantage of a casino’s benefits and promotions. For example, schedule your playtime during promotions that multiply the points you earn for playing (the bigger the multiplier, the better).This extra money that you earn from being a member of a Player’s Club will decrease the losses from playing. In fact, most smart video poker players (me included) play video poker games that we know in the long term we will be losers (because our return is less than 100%, even playing perfectly) but the cash we get from casino promotions exceeds the losses from playing, leaving a net profit.
5. Play video poker games that have a low variance, like 9/6 Jacks or Better, and 8/5 Bonus Poker. The lower the variance, the less bankroll you will need to weather those negative short-term losing streaks.
6. If you find yourself in the midst of a losing streak, take a break, go home, and check your playing accuracy on a software trainer. (Be sure you are not making playing mistakes.) At the minimum, always take along a strategy card when you play so you will have the correct playing strategy for any hand readily available.
Henry Tamburin is a blackjack and video poker expert. He is the author of the Ultimate Guide to Blackjack and editor of the Blackjack Insider e-Newsletter (www.bjinsider.com). To receive his free Casino Gambling Catalog, call 1-888-353-3234 or visit www.smartgaming.com.
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