Of all the many casino games out there, poker stands out because it’s a game that actually requires a lot of skill to do well at it. Luck is a part of it, for sure, as you never know what cards will be dealt to you, but there is a steep difference between a good poker player and a bad poker player in a way that simply doesn’t exist with, say, roulette or the slots. In fact, even blackjack, which requires some knowledge of when and when not to hit, stand, double or split, doesn’t come close to poker in this regard. Once you have the gist of blackjack, you can’t really get better or worse from there, just luckier or more reckless.
There’s a saying in poker that you don’t play the cards but the other players and that’s absolutely true. You do have very little control over which cards you’re dealt, both in the opening deal and when you discard cards in your hand for new ones. The skill involved with poker is really, when you get down to it, psychological and it’s about being able to read the other players to figure out what kind of hand they’re probably holding and whether they’re bluffing, while also either maintaining a “poker face” yourself or subtly tricking the other players into thinking what you want them to think.
Good poker players understand this and great poker players will have mastered it.
The question, though, is what about video poker – a poker video game, of sorts, that you play not against other players, but against the machine? Is there any skill involved in this and are there at least ways to increase the likelihood of your winning even by a fraction?
To answer this, first we need to understand what a video poker machine is.
Video Poker: What Is It, Actually?
Video poker, as its name suggests, is a computerized gambling game that replicates the gameplay of poker through its video interface. Once you strip away that interface, there’s actually very little difference between playing an online slot machine or a video poker machine, in that both create “spins” or deal “hands” based on random number generators.
Obviously, that interface is rather important and video poker games have a more advanced AI behind the better versions of the game, but you just need to understand that though it’s a simulation of poker, it’s not actually poker. Obviously, then, not only can you not use the same psychological skill against video poker, but because it’s not drawn from an actual pack of cards and it’s programmed like a slot machine to pay out a certain amount at a certain rate, most of the skill used in real poker games cannot actually be replicated in video poker.
Most, but not all.
Tips for Playing Video Poker
Despite the lack of actual similarities to real poker, there are still a few tips to do with video poker that can give you at least a slight edge.
- Don’t ever forget you’re playing against a machine. That extra card you need is not coming from an actual deck but from a random number generator. And while real poker hands are based on a certain amount of luck, it’s not actively stacked against you in the way that video poker is.
- Because of this, if it keeps coming up that you’re always just one card away from a royal flush, you probably aren’t and the algorithm will probably stick you with the least useful card imaginable. The payout on a royal flush would obviously be huge, but if you want to stick around for a while, playing safer is the way to go.
- One thing that video poker has over real poker are the bonuses that are built into many machines. Jacks or Better machines will pay you out just by having jacks in your hand, while double or double double bonus machines offer cash bonuses just for having certain hands.
- It’s always a good idea, therefore, to do some research about the video poker game you’re playing, whether online or even at a casino. Find out if it offers bonuses as well and read some reviews to find out its payout rate and general reliability.
- This goes without saying, but understand the basic hands of poker and the payout rates offered for each hand on that machine, and know when to play what. Again, though, just remember that this is only a simulation of real poker and your odds of getting that flush may well be lower than in the real thing.
- Remember, the bigger your bets, the higher the payout, but the smaller your bets, the less you’re likely to lose and the longer you are to stay in the game. Video poker like slots and the like are built to draw you in so responsible gambling practices are crucial. Just because the stakes are normally much smaller than when playing at a table or even, sometimes, against friends, it can add up very quickly. Set yourself a budget and stick to it, and seek help if you find you’re developing an addiction to the game.
Is It Worth Playing
So, with all this in mind, is there any point to playing video poker?
In short, sure there is. It can be a fun, convenient way to come to grips with the basics of poker and an enjoyable game in and of itself that might even give you some money back. If you have to choose between playing real poker, though, and video poker, you should always go for the former: it’s a much more rewarding experience all around.