PRACTICING VIDEO POKER PLAY STRATEGY
By now you have all the knowledge you need in order to begin your successful journey playing video poker. You know about how the pay table gives you important information about the characteristics of each game. You understand the importance of having an adequate bankroll and how to determine the proper size of that bankroll. You understand what a strategy chart is and how the strategy is developed in order to allow you, the video poker player, to extract everything that you can from the casinos. You know how to use a strategy chart in order to obtain those results.
In this chapter you will learn the importance of practicing your video poker strategy. You will also learn how to practice the strategy without the use of a computer program or smartphone / tablet application as well as the best way to practice the strategy with the aid of a computer program or smartphone / tablet application.
Are you ready to learn?
Excellent, let’s start.
THE IMPORTANCE OF PRACTICE
Practice is important in developing and honing any skill. All of the greats in sports have rigorous practice sessions.
There is a whole lot of truth to what he said.
If you are like me, you marvel at how football players can make spectacular plays with ease. They do not even seem to be trying while making a header into the goal’s mouth just past the goalie’s outstretched hands. The pinpoint passes and deft maneuvers as they work the ball up and down the pitch seem to be made without effort or planning. They just make them happen. As the Nike ads proclaim, they “just do it.”
While all of their plays on the field of battle may seem to be effortless, they are developed only by the players submitting to an intense regimen of practice.
Playing video poker is by no means an intense physical sport such as football, rugby, American football, baseball, cricket, or golf. Practice, however, is none the less a very central and important part of becoming a successful video poker player.
You already know that you must follow a mathematically derived playing strategy to get the most from your video poker play. Imagine how your play would be if you simply take your strategy chart with you into a casino, plop down at your chosen video poker game and start to play. You put your initial playing stake into the currency reader. You hit the Max Credits button and are dealt your first hand. It could be a no brainer of a hand such as a royal flush, a straight flush, or a four of a kind.
It COULD be.
Much more likely, however, it is a mixture of high and low cards in several different suits. To determine what to hold, you pull out your strategy chart and start from the top of it, comparing your hand to each line of the strategy until you locate your hand. You make the proper hold, hit the Draw button and see what happens. Then you once again hit the Max Credits (or Deal/Draw) button, see the hand you are dealt, look at the first line strategy chart and begin checking line after line until you locate this hand in the chart. You then once again hold the proper cards and hit the Draw button. And the process starts all over again.
While this process will definitely work and you can achieve the maximum possible return by playing in this fashion, it is very tedious. Taking 30 to 60 seconds or so to play each and every hand is not a normal way to play the game. It is an extremely slow way to play the game. And, while the slow play will keep you from losing as much on a video poker game that has a house edge (not a player edge), a lot of the fun of playing the game will be lost if you actually play in this fashion.
One of the main reasons people prefer playing video poker to playing table games is they do not like everyone looking at them when they play the game. Other players watch you when it is your turn to play in the games of blackjack, craps, and most other casino table games. While it is just fine to refer to a strategy chart while playing video poker in a casino, using the strategy chart in the fashion outlined above will certainly get you noticed.
If instead you spend some time at home practicing your video poker play before heading to a casino to play for real, your experience will be much more pleasant and fun.
A few hours (it will most likely be more than just a few hours) spent in practice at home will dramatically speed up your play in the casino. By playing at a faster (and more normal) speed you will not only fit in with the usual video poker playing crowd, you will also be more relaxed. This will make your video poker playing experience a lot more fun.
Keep in mind that just because you have the playing strategy memorized well enough that you do not need your strategy chart for most plays, there is no problem if you pull out your strategy chart for hands about which you are unsure. During the live casino playing sessions you will have shortly after practicing the strategy at home, you may find you will have to refer to your strategy chart quite often. However, as you play more and practice more at home, the instances where you will need to reference your strategy chart will become fewer and fewer. Before you know it, you may find you do not need to refer to it at all.
Just like professional sports figures have a strict regimen of practice in order to keep their skills sharp, so must a successful video poker player also practice regularly.
Although you could play video poker in the casino without first practicing, it will slow play and can get you noticed.
Even though a video poker player may feel like they have the strategy down cold, errors can creep into their play over time.
Video poker strategy practice is not a onetime thing. It must be a continuous process.
HOW TO PRACTICE WITHOUT A COMPUTER APP
You now know why practicing your video poker playing strategy is a good idea. But what is the best way to practice it? It is a well know axiom that bad practice produces bad results and only good practice produces good results. In this section you will learn how to practice your video poker strategy in a way that will produce the good results.
PRACTICING WITHOUT A COMPUTER APP IS DIFFICULT
Practicing without a computer program or a smartphone / tablet app is more diffcult than practicing with the aid of one. The main reason for this is when you practice without a computer program or smartphone / tablet app you are never absolutely sure that the choice you make for the hold is the correct one. You may have misread the chart or you may not have interpreted what the chart says properly. When this does happen, you have no indication that you have indeed made an error.
It is entirely possible that by practicing without the aid of a computer program or smartphone / tablet app that you will be doing exactly what we are trying to avoid. That is, you will be engaging in bad practice which will produce bad results.
With all that said, you should seriously think about purchasing a video poker application for your computer or smartphone / tablet if you do not already have one. Most of them cost around $50 or less. The added benefit you get by using one is well worth the relatively minor cost.
If you already have a computer or smartphone / tablet app and plan to use this to practice, you should still continue reading this section. Do not go straight to section 7.3 as this current section contains some good information about memorizing the strategy charts.
GETTING STARTED – MEMORIZING THE CHART
Okay, you have made the decision to practice your video poker playing strategy without the help of a computer or smartphone / tablet application. That is fine. You may not get all the possible benefits from your efforts, but practicing manually is better than not practicing at all.
It makes no dierence whether you practice manually (without the aid of an automated application) or not. The first thing you should do to achieve your goal is to memorize the strategy chart.
But, you might ask, where can I find a strategy chart for the game I want to play? You could search the internet. There are several places where strategy charts are available. Better still, however, you can go to the chapter in this guide that details the play for your game of choice. Each game that is covered in this guide includes the pay table, the odds of completing each of the paying hands, and the playing strategy chart for the game. Check the index to this guide in order to locate the section that describes how to play the game the interests you. It will also have the strategy chart for that game.
In order to demonstrate more clearly just what is involved in memorizing a strategy chart, I will use a simplified strategy chart for the 9/6 Jacks or Better game. A simplified chart combines some hands that have a very close return into fewer lines. Very little return is sacrificed in order to significantly simplify the strategy. The chart is shown immediately below.
While memorizing the entire chart may seem like a daunting task, it is not quite as bad as it seems. In the top line of the chart are the words “4-of-a-Kind or Better.” This includes all four of a kind hands as well as the straight flush and the royal flush. It is very easy to remember these as they appear rarely and pay handsomely. These are hands that you would no doubt hold even without memorizing any strategy.
The second and third lines add a little wrinkle. They say to hold four cards of a royal flush before holding a three of a kind or better. Three of a kind or better hands include the three of a kind, flush, and full house. The only one of these three that actually matters is the flush because there is no way to have a three of a kind or a full house while at the same time having four cards of a royal flush.
Continuing down the chart the next line reads four cards of an open straight flush. This is followed by two pair which in turn is followed by four cards of an inside straight flush, with a high pair listed after that.
Breaking the chart up into sections of three to six lines that make sense to you will simplify the memorization process. Notice in the line that says “4 Cards of an Open Straight Flush – 2345-9TJQ Suited” that even though the chart shows the top of the range as 9TJQ, you do not need to remember the high range because the TJQK would already have been selected as four cards of a royal flush. Where the ranges are shown, it is simply to make sure the player understands what is being referenced. You already know what an open straight flush is. The additional information does not need to be memorized. In this case simply remembering “4 Cards of an Open Straight Flush” will suffice.
When you begin memorizing the chart, break up the memorization process. Concentrate only on the first several lines for a while. Then concentrate on the next group. Continue this until you feel fairly confident you have the entire chart mastered.
Once you are confident in your knowledge of the strategy chart you are ready to test yourself. Proceed as follows:
Shuffle a deck of cards several times in order to make sure they are thoroughly mixed.
Deal a five card hand face up.
Decide which card(s) you would hold, if any.
Look at the strategy chart to see if you made the right choice.
If you made a mistake, look closely at the chart to see where you went wrong and make an eort to remember the correct play.
Continue dealing five card hands face up and repeating the steps above.
Shuffle as necessary.
Keep it up until you get tired or frustrated then take a break for a while.
Continue the testing / learning process until you get all of your holds for two consecutive shues correct.
You should now be ready to go to a casino and play for real money. By practicing in the manner described above you will have gained the confidence that you know what you are doing. You will also know what type of hands give you a bit of trouble. When those hands appear while playing a live game, you can pull out the strategy chart to make sure you handle each of them properly.
Practicing without the aid of a computer program of smartphone / tablet app is not as eective as using one, but it does work.
You must first memorize the strategy chart.
This memorization can be aided by breaking the strategy chart into sections and memorizing them one at a time.
Once you have the strategy chart memorized it is time to test yourself.
Once you can go through an entire deck twice without making any errors, you should be ready for the casino.
HOW TO PRACTICE USING A COMPUTER APP
Practicing video poker playing strategy by using a computer program or smartphone / tablet app is far more eective than practicing manually as described in section 7.2. The only real problems that might get in the way of you doing so are that you need a computer or smartphone / tablet and you need the program or application. As mentioned previously, there are several good video poker programs and applications available. They are also quite reasonably priced. If you do not have a video poker application, I strongly suggest you purchase one as soon as you can. You can practice manually for a while until you receive it, so you will not be just sitting around and doing nothing while you wait.
HOW VIDEO POKER APPLICATIONS WORK
Almost all video poker applications work in a very similar fashion. They each include the pay tables and resultant strategies for several video poker games of all types. Most allow you to customize the games that are included in order to allow you to practice the exact video poker game and version that you want to play. Some will even allow you to set up completely new games, should you so desire.
Some, but not all video poker applications allow the user to generate readable and printable strategy charts for the games that are included as well as any customized or added games. This is extremely helpful when the games you play are not the standard games for which you can easily find ready-made strategy charts. As mentioned in chapters 3.5, 4.5 and 5.6 this feature is also necessary if you decide you want to play progressive video poker. Since the jackpot size constantly changes in progressive video poker, you need strategy charts for playing the game at increasingly high jackpot levels. These programs / applications allow you to generate strategy charts that have progressively higher jackpot sizes. You can then play the strategy chart that has the jackpot size closest to the games current jackpot.
All video poker computer programs or smartphone / tablet applications of which I am aware allow the user to actually play the selected game on the computer or smartphone / tablet. This is one of the major reasons to practice using a computer program or smartphone / table application – you get the feel of actually playing the game in the casino. There will be plenty of other distractions when you are in the casino. By practicing with a program or application, you will eliminate at least one of those distractions.
The program / application can be configured to issue warnings when you make a strategy mistake as you play. Most of the programs allow you to set what the program / app will do when an error is encountered. The options include simply issuing a warning, issuing a warning along with the cost of the error, or stopping play when an error is made to allow the player to correct the hold. Some of the programs / applications allow the action to be different depending on the seriousness of the error. Some of the better applications even have an option to repeat hands that you have previously held incorrectly in order to drill the proper holds into your memory.
HOW TO PRACTICE USING AN APPLICATION
A video poker program / application will automate much of the practice routine. One thing it will not do, unfortunately, is memorize the strategy chart for you. Just as with manual practice, the first thing that you need to do is memorize the strategy. You can use the same trick of breaking the chart into several sections and memorizing them a section at a time, but no matter how you do it you will need to memorize the chart.
Actually, that may not be entirely true. Because video poker programs / applications are very quick to shuffle and deal hands, you just might be able to get away with relying on your logic to decide which cards to hold and then learn from your mistakes. As you make mistakes the program / application will tell you what you did wrong and sometimes how much the mistake actually cost you. If you repeat the same mistake often enough, you will be corrected so often that eventually you will learn the correct hold.
While you might be able to get away without memorizing the strategy chart, I strongly recommend that you go through the effort of memorizing it. If you are like most people, you will not get it down perfectly right away. But, because you will have a large portion of the strategy down cold, you will only get a few errors. Believe me when I tell you that getting an error warning while practicing can be more than a little frustrating. It completely disrupts the flow. You rhythm is thrown into disarray. So, the fewer errors you make, the fewer disruptions you will have and the more productive your practice sessions will be.
Memorize the strategy chart until you are confident you have it committed to memory.
If available, set the application option to stop when you have an error and allow you to correct it. It is helpful to also see the cost of your error so also set this option, if available.
Practice for 15 to 30 minutes or until you become tired or frustrated. A tired or frustrated player does not generally make good decisions.
Continue for several 15 to 30 minute sessions until you are making very few errors.
If the application has the option to repeat samples of your most common errors, make sure to go through that exercise, also.
Once you can go for 15 to 20 minutes without any errors, you are most likely ready for live casino play.
Even though you have practiced hard and achieved a high level of skill, there may still be times when you are unsure of what to hold. It is perfectly alright to bring a copy of the strategy chart to the casino so you can reference it when you are uncertain. The casino uses all the tricks it can to relieve you of your money. You can and should also use all the tricks you can (provided they are not illegal) to maximize your take from the casino.
Automated practice using a computer program or smartphone application is highly preferable to manual practice.
Automated practice will catch every mistake you make so you can be confident that you are indeed making no mistakes when the program catches no mistakes.
Automated practice prepares you for casino play by simulating the play of the actual game in the casino.
Even though you practice using a program or application, there is nothing wrong with bringing a strategy chart for the game to reference as required during live casino play.
In this chapter you learned why practice is important if you want to be a successful video poker player. You learned that not only do you need to practice to initially learn to play video poker properly; you also have to practice on a regular basis in order to maintain that skill. Practice can be done manually, without the aid of any computer programs or applications for smartphones or tablets, but it is highly preferable to use such a program or application. Not only do the programs and applications catch every single error you make, they also simulate play of a live casino video poker game making the transition from practice to live casino play much less traumatic.
And speaking of live casino play, in the next chapter you will learn many tips to employ in order to attain the greatest benefit possible from your live casino play. It will cover locating the best video poker game, etiquette while playing video poker, playing speed, how to know when it is time to stop playing video poker, the dramatic importance of the royal flush to your video poker play, and information on the casino slot players clubs. This is all vital information if you want to become a successful video poker player.
See if you can answer these questions based on the information presented in Chapter 7.
True or False - Practice is necessary to become a successful video poker player.
True or False - If you do not practice video poker playing strategy you will not win at video poker.
Name two disadvantages of manual video poker practice sessions.
True or False - All video poker programs and applications have the capability of generating strategy charts.
True or False - In order to be able to play video poker successfully in the casino, you must be able to play 100 straight hands perfectly in practice.
Name two or three reasons that practicing with a video poker computer program or smartphone or tablet application is superior to practicing without one.
True or False - You must never pull out and reference a video poker strategy chart in a casino as it is illegal to do so.
False. Even though you do not practice before heading for a casino, you could reference a strategy chart that you brought with you to help insure you are playing properly. Also, due to the random nature of video poker, someone playing hunches or even just saving for a royal flush or other low return strategy could actually win. In order to perform the best over the long run, however, practice is necessary.
1- You might miss errors that you make. 2- It is fairly tedious to shue and deal cards. 3- There is no feel for how the live casino game is played.
False. Make sure when you are looking for a program or application that you verify that this function is available. You may want avoid the product if it cannot generate video poker strategy.
False. While playing 100 straight hands perfectly in practice means you have a great grasp on the strategy, you can be entirely effective in casino play by referring to the strategy chart instead.
1- Every error in play will be caught. 2- You will know how much the error costs you. 3- You can replay your problem hands in order to learn to play them correctly. 4- You practice in a way that mimics live casino play.
False. Referring to a strategy chart in a casino is completely legal in the United States.
Written by Jerry "Stickman" Stich