Video poker is among the most popular casino games – both online and in a real casino. This is because the games have a very low house edge. In fact, sometimes the player has an edge.

To gain that edge the player must use the strategy that maximizes his or her return – and must play that strategy perfectly. 

It takes practice to perfectly play video poker strategy and achieve that maximum return. Continue reading for tips on practicing video poker strategy.

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1. Choose the Proper Game

Strategy Complexity:

  • Each specific video poker game and pay table combination determines the playing strategy. Some games and pay table combinations have a fairly simple strategy (i.e., fewer lines). Other games and pay table combinations can be much more complex (i.e., many more lines).
  • The simpler the strategy, the easier it is to learn and play that strategy perfectly. 
  • The complexity of the strategy is a consideration whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced player. The more complex the strategy, the more difficult it is to learn and play perfectly. If the strategy is not played perfectly, the player is giving the house more than necessary.

Game Popularity:

  • It makes no sense to practice the strategy of a game that cannot be found in the real world. Make sure the game and pay table you choose to practice is actually available to play for real.
  • The more popular the game, the better the chance that a favorable pay table can be found. A better pay table means more money for the player and less for the house.

2. Choose the Proper Practice Tools

Strategy Charts

  • A strategy chart is simply a list of the specific cards to hold (if any) from the initially dealt hand starting with the most favorable.
  • Charts can be found in books, online, and in computer- and smartphone-based video poker apps.
  • They are generally free and can usually be copied without cost.

Online, Computer- and Smartphone-Based Video Poker Apps

  • There are many online video poker practice sites. Simply search for “online video poker practice” to locate them.
  • There are also several computer-based video poker practice programs. Search for “video poker practice software” to locate them.
  • The same is true for smartphone-based video poker practice apps. Search for “smartphone video poker practice apps” to locate them.
  • These apps are sometimes free, but the most useful of them cost a nominal amount. Some of them are well worth the cost due to how helpful they are in practice.

3. Properly Use the Practice Tools

Strategy Charts

  • First, the strategy chart for the game and pay table to be played should be studied and memorized as well as possible. This should be done even if you are using an app for practice.
  • Next, one or more decks of cards are used to check the players mastery of the strategy chart.
    • The cards are shuffled and hands are dealt.
    • After each hand, the player checks the strategy chart to make sure the proper hold was made.
    • Don’t worry about betting or whether the hand wins or loses.
    • If a mistake is made, the player should make a note of what happened for future reference. This will also help him remember the hand that caused the error.
  • After several times shuffling and dealing all the cards, the player will feel confident about most hands, and will only need to reference the strategy chart for a few of the less common hands.

Online, Computer- and Smartphone-Based Practice

  • Select the proper game and pay table or modify an existing game’s pay table to match the game and pay table that will be used in live play.
  • Don’t worry about the amount bet, whether the hand wins or loses, or the total credits remaining.
  • Deal hands and choose which card or cards to hold.
  • If the app shows an error was made, make a note of the error for future reference, and to help remember the error the next time this hand is dealt.
Video Poker

4. Practice in a Proper Setting

Once you are making very few mistakes during practice, it’s time to begin playing in a setting that matches live playing conditions.

Develop a Good Level of Proficiency

  • Before worrying about the practice setting, develop a good level of proficiency. For example, fewer than two errors per 100 hands.
  • Your proficiency will suffer some in a simulated live setting. This is normal.

Simulate a Live Playing Setting

  • In order to be confident of your skill level, make practice conditions very similar to live playing conditions.
  • Set the game’s bet size the same as the game you plan to play for real. Add your planned initial playing amount to the game.
  • Since online play takes place in the home, it’s easier to match live playing conditions. 
    • They should match the way things will be when you are playing live.
    • The time of day, surrounding noises and distractions should all be considered.
  • To practice for live casino play, try to match the conditions in the casino.
    • Play during the same time of day as you will in the casino.
    • Try to make the practice sessions as long as real playing sessions. 
    • Add distractions such as noises to simulate the live casino. 
  • In quiet surroundings you may play perfectly, however, in noisy surroundings errors can creep into your play.
  • By making practice conditions as close as possible to your live play, your practice play will match, as closely as possible, your live play.

5. Practice Until You Get It (Nearly) Perfect

  • Continue your practice sessions with conditions closely matching your live play setting until you make nearly no mistakes. Nobody is always perfect.
  • If your play continues to be nearly perfect (less than one error per 100 hands or so) during the entire planned live session, you are probably ready for the real thing.
  • You will start making more mistakes as your sessions continue. Make a note of when this starts to happen. Consider ending live sessions at a similar session length. No sense giving the house more than necessary.
  • Be mindful that there will be additional distractions during live play such as drinking, people interrupting you, etc.
Video Poker

6. Online Versus Casino Play

Online play is much less stressful than live casino play.

Online Play:

  • You control your surroundings.
  • You can play when you are at your peak.
  • There is no stress when looking at a strategy chart while playing online.
  • There is no need to stay at the game. You can grab a snack or beverage and return when you are ready without the fear of someone grabbing your machine.
  • Your practice sessions and online play will most likely be very similar.

Live Casino Play:

  • You have little control of your surroundings.
    • People can and will interrupt you.
    • Smoke can be a factor.
    • All sorts of noises and activity occur around you.
  • Drinking alcohol will affect play. To play your best, limit alcohol intake.
  • There is a tendency to stay at the game too long. This affects your accuracy.
  • Practice sessions tend to be a bit better than actual casino play.

7. Maintain Control During Live Play

To gain the maximum advantage, you must play in conditions that are as close as possible to your practice sessions. Or you can make your practice sessions match your live sessions as closely as possible.

The biggest problem with most video poker players is loss of control during live play.

Online Sessions:

Fortunately, online live play is very similar to practice sessions. The only real difference is you are playing for real money.

To counter that:

  • When practicing, bet as if it’s real money. Watch your credit balance.
  • Make practice sessions last about as long as your live sessions. 

Casino Live Play:

While practice sessions can include some distractions, nothing at home can actually match a live casino.

You can pretend that the money bet during practice sessions is real. That will help. But most of the control needs to happen in the casino.

  • Try to not let other players bother you. Easy to say, hard to do.
  • Notice when you are making more mistakes and stop playing when that happens.
  • Stop playing when tired or otherwise not alert.
  • Stop playing when you are angry, upset or stressed.

Playing when not at your best virtually guarantees the house more money than it would ordinarily take. Don’t let that happen. You are in control.

One of the major causes of stress while playing video poker is loss of your bankroll. This can be minimized by having an adequate bankroll available. For more information on bankrolls, click here.

8. Summary

Video poker is a great game mostly due to its low house edge. However, in order to get that edge, you must play perfect strategy. To play perfect strategy, you must practice. 

The great football coach Vince Lombardi said, “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”

Perfect practice involves several things:

  • Picking the proper game – one with a simple strategy.
  • Making sure the practice game is available to play live.
  • Having the proper practice tools.
    • Strategy charts
    • Online, computer- or smartphone-based video poker practice apps
  • Using these tools to gain the best advantage. This means making practice conditions as close as possible to live playing conditions.
  • Practicing until your play is perfect – or very close to it.
  • Understanding and making allowances for the differences between practice and live play – either online or in the casino.
  • Maintaining your control (and therefore your advantage) during live play.

By following this advice, you will make the most of your online or casino play. Isn’t that what you really want?
 

About the Author
By

Jerry “Stickman” has been involved in casino gambling for nearly 30 years. He is an expert in blackjack, craps, video poker and advantage slot machine play. He started playing blackjack in the late ‘80s, learned several card counting systems and used these skills to become an advantage blackjack player and overall winner of this game. He also acquired the skills necessary to become an overall winner in the game of craps, accomplishing this by a combination of throwing skill and proper betting techniques. Stich is also an overall winner playing video poker.