A month ago, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts featuring Tim Lawson and Eric Rosenthal at “The Bettor Life” covering professional bettor and recreational gamblers concerns alike about poker, table games, sports betting, slots, and other games of chance. This one episode included a discussion about playing video poker, video poker value (video poker pay tables), preferred games, comps and the occasional know-it-alls that criticize one’s decision on what to play. Inspiration hit me – I felt there was even more to tell!
This post is NOT to tell you what to do, as compared consider the reasons and possibilities. I agree with the Bettor Life in saying “play what you want to play – recreational playing should make you happy.” However, if you are a recreational video poker player, there are many things to consider if you want to give yourself the best chances to win, play longer and/or earn more comps while having fun. Let’s look at the big picture.
WHY DO YOU PLAY VIDEO POKER?
Could it be any of these many reasons?
- “I like playing games with a low house edge”
- “I like playing with no casino “heat” “
- “I play only what’s available in my local casinos.”
- “I prefer to play at the pace I prefer.”.
- “I like Free Drinks”
- “I like social time with a friend”
- “I’m prefer to play independently”
- “I don’t want to bother with other players in a community setting”
- “I love the skill and strategy involved”
- “I like to pass the time slowly (low denomination, no max bet, relaxing)
- “To play off my free slot play”
I’m sure there are other reasons I haven’t included. I know depending on the situation, I might play with any one of these in mind. The fact is, recreational gambling can be for many reasons besides beating the game, no matter what the game is.
Now, before some of you serious gamblers yell “BLASPHEMY!” and stop reading (you know who you are – you’re good, but you’re no AP), give me a chance to explain. But first, a public service announcement.
A Casino DON’T for VP (And ANY Other Casino Game)
No matter what game you play, unsolicited criticism or advice is just a “no-no.” Unless someone asks you for help, just keep your mouth shut. Video Poker is definitely a game full of “experts” that feel they need to share their myths and superstitions. With so many game options and configurations with different video poker pay tables, giving unwanted advice to the person next is wrong – unless you’re Bob Dancer, and even then, the ultimate VP expert wouldn’t bother you either.
BRIEF STORY ABOUT VP CONTENTMENT
One of my best friends enjoys playing 8/5 JoB on one credit at a bar top at Mohegan Sun to relax while his wife plays slots. He recently hit his first Royal Flush on $0.25, and was proud of the accomplishment. No remorse, no regret because he was comfortable with his choice – a 97% game with out Max bet (diminishing the % to 95%) with little comp earnings and no extra multipliers or promotions. A relaxing time with free drinks to pass the time while his wife played high limit slots.
Some would shout “for shame,” but his priorities are comfortably set. No criticism here because he enjoys Video Poker on his terms. For all those who criticize, remember another player may have different expectations – and there’s nothing wrong with that. For my friend, his mission was accomplished – and more.
DOESN’T IT SEND THE CASINO THE WRONG MESSAGE?
I admit, I once thought that playing VP with poor pay tables sent the message to casino management that as players we condoned decreasing conditions and increasing house edge. That was then, this is now. They don’t care what you play, as long as it means for money for them. The belief that if we don’t play the poor games, the casino bean counters will be fearful and return to higher paying slots, more full-pay video poker pay tables, exclusively 3:2 blackjack and single zero roulette is just crazy.
There will never be enough players interested in putting in the work or time to play only the best games, so move on…….get over being entitled to receive great low and medium roller games that keep the players’ bankroll in mind – it just ain’t gonna happen.
REACHING YOUR PERSONAL VP NIRVANA
Depending how much practice and thought is part of your Video Poker play, there are many aspects to your play to ponder, such as:
- What games are available at your casino that you prefer? – Jacks or Better, Bonus, DB, DDB, Ultimate X
- How large is your bankroll? – bankroll does matter, depending what game you are playing. For example, the money suggested for a successful session of Double-Double Bonus is more than Jacks-or-Better (JOB) because of the higher volatility. Also, denomination complicates it further depending if you are playing nickels, quarters or dollars. Finally, playing multi-line machines like Triple Play, 5-Play & Ten-Play not only changes the denomination but also alters the game chosen.
- What are you willing to compromise? I enjoy playing at Foxwoods Play bar in the Cedars Casino. It has decent nickel multi-line games and quarter single line games, but not great. However, the service is great and the bartenders make you feel like you just entered “Cheers.” It’s a compromise I’m willing to make for the enjoyment aspect of the session. Do you make compromises playing lower percentage games for your enjoyment? Many of us do.
- What is your “casino currency”? This is a term Eric Rosenthal used on the Bettor Life. It refers to the value placed on other things besides the game itself. It may be that worse video poker pay tables gives more comp points. If tier credit, tier level, and comps are as important (or more) than the game itself, it is part of your casino currency. Video Poker is notorious in earning 1/2 to 1/3 of the points slots accrue, so other things make be accountable to what you play and when. Some casinos give very little back to VP players, or may even be given little in tier gains, points, and attention in offers, because casinos makes little money off of JOB full pay tables, for example. Eric mentions, “Considering what the machines cost to run, usual casino costs, and very little money made off of you, there is nothing in it for them if all you play is full pay JOB….no need to court you…..better off playing lower pay tables to appear less astute…..the benefits may mean more than payout percentage.”
- Low rolling full pay brings little to the player – consider this: playing full-pay JOB at quarter level may not earn as much as playing one or two credits on a $1 8/5 JOB machine. Also, according to Bob Dancer, be careful of single line machines with many games. A machine that has a full pay game may earn the same minimal pittance in tier and reward points on other non full-pay games such as 8/5 DDB or lower pay Deuces Wild. It might be better to check for for multi game machines or single game machines that will accrue a higher reward.
- Should you play with/without a card? I have a confession to make – sometimes I play without my card. – Short sessions or small play sessions are bad for a player’s EV. On occasion, for a relaxing short play and free drink I willI play…..wait for it…..VIDEO KENO! When that occurs, I play without a card so that I don’t damage my ADT (Average Daily Theoretical). I may know that time is short or bankroll is small, so why not? Consider doing the same and using your card only when playing big.
- What? Practice? – Yes, practice. If you truly want to win more, give yourself a chance to win more by practicing on the many apps, software and websites that provide for instruction. Without perfect strategy on your favorite game, the EV/ payout % will be decreased – even if it’s full pay! Even playing 8/5 JOB using the perfect strategy of 9/6 makes a difference, not to mention using the strategy 9/6 JOB on a 9/6 DDB.
COMPROMISE IS THY MIDDLE NAME
Here are examples of where I play and why. Notice it isn’t full-pay or nothing:
Mohegan Sun – Bars that include 9/6 JOB ($1), Cleopatra Video Keno ($.25, no rewards card), Triple Play 9/5 DDB & 8/5 JOB ($.25 or $1, depending on bankroll) Ultimate X 10 play ($.5) . Good service, decent paytables and full pay for big plays. Especially good on multiplier days.
Foxwoods – 9/5 Ultimate X 5 Play ($.5), 8/5 JOB & 9/5 DDB TP($.25 & $1) Great service at Play bar. Cedars casino also offers nickel Ultimate X Tp, 5-Play, & 10-Play (only 10-play at nickels at all bar tops)
Plainridge Park – Ultimate X DDB 10-play ($.5). Not much play here, but I do find this casino fun.
Tiverton Casino – talk about compromises, I love this little place – but not for the VP. the VP is horrible, just like it’s parent company Twin River Casino. But one thing separates it from the rest – the iPourIt Wall. 26 self-serve beer & wine taps served by the ounce, however you’d like it. This makes 8/5 DDB a winning compromise in my book.
Chill Out and Enjoy
Play what makes you comfy – place, bar, craft beer, great drinks, bartenders, may mean more than best video poker pay tables and look at big picture. Play the game you are comfy with. Play where you are comfy. Play what and where you get the biggest bang for your buck. Don’t give unsolicited advice and accept players for their recreational video poker play – what ever that means to them.
And remember, even the best of us compromise our play at times. So, chill out and enjoy putting the “recreation” back into recreational gambling.
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