Some time ago, a friend and I were walking through a casino. He stopped in front of a Double Bonus video poker machine and started to deposit quarters. I commented that I didn’t know he played that game. He responded that he played REAL poker, so surely he could handle this. When I later asked him why he didn’t draw to inside straights, the correct play in Double Bonus, he replied that since he wouldn’t do that in regular poker, he surely wouldn’t do that here!
It hadn’t previously occurred to me that the games had much in common. Let’s look at some similarities and differences.
1. Hand rankings are similar. Every video poker game pays more for full houses than for three of a kind, but some pay the same for straights and flushes, and straight flushes are not always worth more than four of a kind. Indeed, in many games, four fours are worth more than four fives.
2. Royal flushes get a big bonus. In regular poker, a king-high straight flush is very marginally inferior to a royal flush. In most games, either hand would win every pot every time. In video poker, the difference between these hands is huge, especially if a progressive is involved.
3. There are no bad beats in video poker. If you end up with 4 of a kind, you are going to get paid. You can’t lose out to another player getting a straight flush. It is possible, however, to hit a 4,000-coin royal immediately after somebody hit a progressive for, say, $6,523. This will be a minor disappointment, but it’s amazing how $4,000 will salve your wounds.
4. Regular poker frequently has several betting rounds, and sometimes several decisions per round. In video poker, there is only one decision point. You make your one choice before the draw. The draw occurs and the game is over. And every player is in every game until the end.
5. Bluffing, raising, calling, sandbagging and a variety of other poker strategies have no place in video poker.
6. Both games include several variations. Video poker includes a variety of draw poker types. One of these (jacks or better) has a direct analogue in real poker. Most others (various types of bonus poker, for example) do not.
Regular poker includes several stud varieties, as well as high-low games, which do not directly compare to video poker types. In both games, good players vary their strategies considerably as they go from one variation to another.
7. In video poker, you know at the outset what any hand, such as three of a kind, is worth. In regular poker, three of a kind may or may not be a winner. And it may be very expensive to find out for sure.
8. In video poker, you know at the outset what any hand will cost. You rarely know this in real poker, unless you or a sole opponent is close to going all in.
9. A good mathematician will do well at video poker. A good psychologist, who happens to be inscrutable, will do better at regular poker.
10. Video poker games are always available, twenty-four hours a day, in a huge number of variations (at least in casino cities). You do not always have enough live players to make up a poker game, and the first game that is made up may not be to your liking. However, live poker games may be found in thousands of cities every night.
11. “Cheat Sheets” won’t do you any good, and are usually illegal, at regular poker. However strategy charts can be extremely useful at video poker. And most casinos allow you to use them.
12. At video poker, helping your neighbor is allowed, although many neighbors prefer it if you keep your advice to yourself. Collusion of any sort between players in the same poker game is strictly forbidden. This is not to say, of course, that it doesn’t happen.
13. In most live poker games, the “house” has no stake in the game. Usually, the house collects a fee for providing certain services, and the players go after each other. In video poker, the house is the direct opponent of every player. And the players do not play against each other, except in the case of progressive jackpots or video poker tournaments..
14. In video poker, usually the size of any hand does not matter. For example, an ace-high flush is worth no more than a 7-high flush. To be sure, in some games a pair of jacks is worth more than a pair of tens, but even in that game, a pair of kings is no more valuable than a pair of jacks. In real poker, a low two pair might very well lose out to a high two pair.
15. In regular poker, good players will win most of the time. In video poker, that won’t happen. I personally lose about two sessions out of three, even though I always play in games where I have the advantage, play virtually perfectly, and overall am a significant winner.
In regular poker, you very well may be close to even after three hours. In video poker, this is not likely.
16. At video poker, you can analyze your opponent (the machine) very accurately. After several hundred thousand hands, your expected win (or loss) will be very close to the mathematical expectation — assuming you play perfectly. At live poker, your opponents come in a variety of strengths. And each of these opponents has good days and bad days. And many of these opponents will be making adjustments to their game depending upon results. Your score after several hundred thousand hands is far less predictable.
17. At live poker, the competition increases with the stakes. The players in a $2 – $4 game are generally not nearly as competent as those at the $100 – $200 table. Optimal strategy will differ between the games. In video poker this is not true. You can find 9-6 Jacks or Better machines for anywhere between 5¢ and $100 per coin, and multi-line versions for even higher. The strategy for either game is identical.
18. You can trust your opponent at video poker, at least if you play in well-regulated states, or on machines which are available in these states (like IGT or Bally). State gaming commissions ensure an honest game. Cheating incidents are very rare. In live poker, most players are honest, but there are many who have no scruples about bending the rules. You can’t assume an honest live poker game. You must be vigilant.
19. In both games, bright people who have studied and practiced extensively will do better than not-so-bright folks or those who only dabble at the games. This is true of most things in life. The more you put into it, the more you get out of it.
So which game is better? It depends upon the player. Computer nerds will do better at video poker. People people will do better at regular poker. I guess that I’m confessing to being nerdy, because I do a lot better at video poker than I do at regular poker. Oh well, could be worse.
Be sure to check out some of our other articles on casino loyalty programs :
Casino Loyalty Cards are Similar to Those of Airlines and Hotels — But Not the Same – Part I
Casino Loyalty Cards are Similar to Those of Airlines and Hotels — But Not the Same – Part II
Casino Loyalty Cards are Similar to Those of Airlines and Hotels — But Not the Same – Part III
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.)