An Instantaneous Professional
A version of this article was originally published in 2008. As I’ve progressed in my video poker knowledge and experience, I answer some questions differently. Therefore, I’ve changed several things in the article.
Not long ago I received the following email from someone I didn’t know:
I recently inherited some money. I’ve decided to set $50,000 aside as a bankroll so I can play video poker professionally. What games should I play? Please be specific. (signed) Lucky Heir
Dear Ms. Heir:
Congratulations on your windfall but I’ll need a lot more information from you before I can hope to answer your question satisfactorily. If you want to meet with me for consultation (for which I will charge) we can work this out together, but there’s too much I don’t know about you to blindly send out recommendations.
Any successful “coach” starts out by evaluating the strengths and weakness of his team. Before I (or anyone else) can devise a winning strategy for you, we need to look at YOU, not the game.
First of all, are you already a winning video poker player? Most people aren’t. Just having a bankroll doesn’t mean you’re capable of winning. My guess is that one player in ten “breaks even or better” and possibly one player in fifty or a hundred makes a decent living at the game. I assume you are not one of these players or you wouldn’t be writing to me for help. By the time you got this good, you’d know how to do it.
If you’re starting from scratch, we can certainly detail a study program that will help you succeed, but winning requires a certain level of intelligence and aptitude going in and a LOT of study. Are you able and willing to do this?
Second, where do you plan to play? If you’re a local in Las Vegas there are a number of profitable plays that I know and can tell you about. If you’re a local in Reno, Atlantic City, Biloxi, etc., I know fewer good plays. There ARE good plays in each of those cities but it takes a lot of local knowledge to learn about them. Figuring out which casinos send you good mailers for how much play, for example, is not something you learn overnight. If you are planning to travel to one of these casino cities, how often do you plan to go and for what length of time? If you live in Barcelona, I know of no good plays, although there may be some.
Third, what games do you already know and what games do you like? If you insist, for example, that Jacks or Better is “too boring” or Deuces Wild is “too difficult”, then that will cut down on opportunities.
Fourth, what are you good at? I know players who can play fifteen hours a day for three or four days running. I know other players who get bored or are physically uncomfortable after about two hours of play. Are you willing to drive around and play a little at several places or do you want it all at the same place? Are you willing to travel to several different casino locations to find good plays?
Fifth, how much scouting are you willing to do? Sometimes good plays come in the mail or are listed in the newspaper, but frequently good plays are only available to whomever stumbles across them. The people who scout the most are the ones who find the most plays. At the same time, most times you go scouting you won’t find anything. Do you see this as a waste of time, or an investment that infrequently pays big dividends?
Sixth, generally speaking, how are you with money? Historically have you usually been “between bankrolls” or have you almost always had some money in the bank? The ones who have been good savers in the past will be able to hold on to the $50,000 bankroll a lot longer than the people who tend to spend whatever they have.
Seventh, winning video poker is a moving target. Casinos are trying to make money and are constantly making adjustments, including changing the games, slot clubs, and promotions. The best opportunities today didn’t exist a year ago and presumably won’t be around for long. Learning how to evaluate situations that arise is an art that must be developed. How do you intend to obtain this knowledge?
Finally, even after we’ve looked at a lot of the factors listed, there are still a number of ways to win at video poker. If you take ten winning gamblers, you’ll find ten different “formulas for success.” There will be a lot of overlap, to be sure, but every winner does it slightly differently.
Looking at the way somebody else does it is useful, but don’t expect an exact map. Frequently, winning players have some unique talent that you don’t have and never will. Although it’s not quite the same, if you read a book by Michael Jordan telling you everything he did to become a great player, you still won’t be able to dunk a basketball!
If you’re going to go ahead with this, I wish you good fortune. It’s a hard life, but one that’s rewarding if you can master it. Video poker has been great to me and the others who have figured it out. But it has also been an expensive hobby for others who haven’t learned it as well. Whether it’s good or bad for you is largely a product of how hard you’re willing to work at it.
More from Bob Dancer:
Video Poker | The Kind Of Attitude Problems That Benefit Video Poker Play
Video Poker | When You Gamble Perfectly But Still Lose
Video Poker | Five Hundred Dollars Isn’t The Same As Five Hundred Dollars
Video Poker | Not All Lessons Are Learned So Easily – Bob Dancer
Video Poker | How To Learn The Right Lessons – Bob Dancer
Be sure to check out some of our other articles on casino loyalty programs & casino gaming:
Casino Loyalty Cards are Similar to Those of Airlines and Hotels — But Not the Same
Video Poker vs. Regular Poker
Why I Prefer Video Poker To Slots
Video Poker vs. BlackJack
Bob Dancer is the premier video poker writer and teacher in the world. He has created a number of how-to-win products available at bobdancer.com. He co-hosts a weekly radio show called Gambling with an Edge, which is also archived on his website. (The show is also available on iTunes.)