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Best of Henry Tamburin

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Video poker tips

2 October 2009

Over the past seven years I spend some of my time in casinos playing video poker (the rest, playing blackjack). Why video poker? Because I can get the edge in video poker and make money as I have done playing blackjack. Here's how I did it.

There are three important steps to become a skilled video poker player. First and foremost, you need to join the casino's players' club. It costs you nothing and every time you play video poker be sure to insert your player's card into the machine's card reader. This way, the casino can keep track of how much you play and how long you play. Based on your playing habits, you will get comps, including cash back from some casinos. This will help increase your overall return. In fact, depending upon on how much cash back (or free play) the casino gives you, you can often turn a negative expectation video poker game into an overall positive expectation game.

Step #2 is also easy. It involves looking at the pay schedule on the front of the machine to select only the highest-paying machines to play.

For example, one of the most prevalent video poker games is Jacks or Better. But not all Jacks or Better machines have the same payoff. In order to locate the highest-paying machine, you need to check what the machine pays off for the full house and flush per coin play. On most machines it pays 8 coins for a full house and 5 for the flush per coin (or even less). That's not good enough (the overall return for an 8/5 machines is 97.3 percent). What you want is a machine that pays 9 coins for the full house and 6 coins for the flush. These 9/6 machines return 99.6 percent for perfect play.

Summarized below is the complete pay schedule for the full-pay Jacks or Better machine. Given a choice, always select a machine that has the pay schedule listed below.

One Coin Payoff
Royal Flush250 (1,000 for 5 coins)
Straight Flush50
Four-of-a-Kind25
Full House9
Flush6
Straight4
Three-of-a-Kind3
Two Pair2
Pair of Jacks-Aces   1

Where can you find these full pay machines? Go to http://vpfree2.com and you'll find information on the best video poker games for each casino across the U.S.

You'll also find the above pay schedule on progressive Jacks or Better machines. On these machines, the payoff for the royal flush increases as more coins are played. Progressive 9/6 machines are actually quite good because as soon as the payoff for the royal flush exceeds $1,220 (quarter denomination) or $4,800 (for dollars) the machines overall return exceed 100 percent. I often play in a Mississippi casino that has a progressive 9/6 Jacks or Better game (at quarter, half-dollar and dollar denomination); this game has been quite profitable for me.

There are other types of video poker games that offer the skillful player as good, and in some cases, even better returns. Some include 10/7 Double Bonus, Deuces Wild that pays 5 coins for Four-of-Kind and Not So Ugly (NSU) Deuces Wild. If all this is Greek to you, don't fret. Just stick to the 9/6 full pay Jacks or Better to start and you'll do just fine.

The third step to become a successful video poker player is to learn the correct playing strategy for the game that you are playing because the playing strategy for, say, a Jacks or Better game is much different than the one for a Deuces Wild game. You'll find a beginner- and intermediate-level strategy for several video poker games at www.wizardofodds.com. You need to print and learn this strategy, which will tell you which cards to hold and which to discard. You should also bring a video poker strategy card with you when you play (they are casino-legal) so you'll never make a playing mistake. I like the strategy cards by Bob Dancer and Liam Dailey (available in my store at www.bjinsider.com).

Let's put it all together to see how you can gain the edge playing video poker. Remember that progressive Jacks or Better game that I play? Let's assume the royal flush is high enough that my return for playing is 99.7 percent. This casino normally gives players 0.13 percent in free play based on your coin-in (total amount wagered). Several weeks ago, the casino had a 10-times point promotion meaning you got 10-times your slot points for that day. This increases the amount of the free play you will get at the end of the day from 0.13 percent to 1.3 percent times your coin-in. If you add the 1.3 percent in free play to the 99.7 percent return on the game, my overall return was 1.01 percent, meaning I had a one percent advantage over the casino during this promotion. And get this: I'll also get coupons in the mail from this casino in the future for more free play (bounce back coupons), free rooms, meals and other goodies just for playing a casino game where I had a 1 percent edge. Not bad.

Here's a true story about a successful video poker player who happens to be my father-in-law. At age 87, I taught Pete (who used to be a losing slot player) how to play video poker skillfully. Over the past several years, using the techniques I outlined above, he has quadrupled his bankroll. (Note: He just turned 91 and he's still winning.) One of the keys that he will say that helped him learn the strategy was practicing on my computer using video poker training software (he practiced until his accuracy was at least 99 percent before he risked any money in a casino; for information on these software programs, which I also use when I teach video poker to students in Las Vegas, go to my store on www.bjinsider.com).

If you want to learn more about video poker, I can recommend the books Frugal Video Poker by Jean Scott and Viktor Nacht, and the new book, Video Poker for Intelligent Beginners by Bob Dancer (also available on www.bjinsider.com).

Recent Articles
Best of Henry Tamburin
Henry Tamburin

Henry Tamburin is the author of the best-selling book, Blackjack: Take The Money and Run, editor of the Blackjack Insider e-Newsletter, and Lead Instructor for the Golden Touch Blackjack course. For a free 3-month subscription to his blackjack newsletter with full membership privileges, visit www.bjinsider.com/free. For details on the Golden Touch Blackjack course visit www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 866/WIN-BJ21. For a free copy of his casino gambling catalog featuring over 50 products call 888/353-3234 or visit the Internet store at www.smartgaming.com.

Henry Tamburin Websites:

www.smartgaming.com

Books by Henry Tamburin:

> More Books By Henry Tamburin

Henry Tamburin
Henry Tamburin is the author of the best-selling book, Blackjack: Take The Money and Run, editor of the Blackjack Insider e-Newsletter, and Lead Instructor for the Golden Touch Blackjack course. For a free 3-month subscription to his blackjack newsletter with full membership privileges, visit www.bjinsider.com/free. For details on the Golden Touch Blackjack course visit www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 866/WIN-BJ21. For a free copy of his casino gambling catalog featuring over 50 products call 888/353-3234 or visit the Internet store at www.smartgaming.com.

Henry Tamburin Websites:

www.smartgaming.com

Books by Henry Tamburin:

Winning Baccarat Strategies

> More Books By Henry Tamburin