Video Poker Players – Practice Before Your Visit

It was a dark, cold and dreary night in New England.  Over 400 Video poker players were present for a Tournament that would go on, on, …into the night.  It was intense, it was stressful, it was……

Who am I kidding, it was just a video poker tournament……

Video Poker Machines at Mohegan Sun

Video Poker Machines at Mohegan Sun

Ok, so actually, it was a nice peaceful event, with good food that lasted from 8 – 11:00 pm.  But, while this was not my first VP tournament, it was different in one very important aspect – I won money!  Tenth place out of the ten paying spots, with over 400 people invited!  Ya-hoo!

While the payout was small, the badge of honor of winning after years of practicing paid off.  Yes, you read correctly – I practice.  I prepare three video poker games constantly – Jacks or Better, Bonus Poker, and Double Double Bonus Poker.  I have been practicing for years because as we all know, Video Poker does involve skill and luck.  Correct strategy goes beyond basic strategy. Knowledge of penalty cards, strategy changes according to games but different pay table (just ask any deuces wild player about that), and other nuances that might buy a few extra hands to try for that illusive Royal Flush is essential for keeping your bankroll intact.

(Did I tell you I won?)

Strategy cards are available and legal.

Anyway, this post is to suggest resources to practice video poker.  Someone I have been in contact with and is one of the leading gambling strategy gurus, John Grochowski.  In one of the many publications he writes for, John suggested these software programs to help improve your strategy and speed. ” As for software, at different times on different computers, I use Bob Dancer’s Video Poker for Winners, Jean Scott’s Frugal Video Poker and Dean Zamzow’s WinPoker. All can be set for different games and pay tables and will alert you when you are making mistakes. Video Poker for Winners and Frugal Video Poker will generate strategy tables. WinPoker doesn’t do that, but I find it the easiest to use when I need to adjust to a pay table that’s not one of the basics already included on the software.”

I would like to also add the website,  which allows you to play the newest video poker games free and for a paid upgrade you can learn best strategy, and get other perks such as no advertising.  An app I use on my devices is called “Video Poker and Perfect Play Trainer” by Robert Suh.  I love it because you can change the paytables and it’s easy to use.

So, practice, practice, practice.  It has helped me become an accurate and fast player.  By the way, the staple to any VP beginner’s book library would be John Grochowski’s “The Video Poker Answer Book.”  It’s a great place to start.

Remember, a good gambler isn’t someone reckless about betting, it’s a person who tries to get the best chance to win, be most prepared and lower the house edge in any legal way.

That’s all for now


Video Poker Bars – 6 Considerations for a Great Experience

Sitting down at a bar-top video poker machine with full pay games and ordering unlimited free quality drinks seem to be a thing of the past. The experience has been diminished – tarnished – by casino industry bean counters squeezing every penny they can out of their patrons.

So, what makes a good video poker bar-top experience these days?

I truly understand that to many players, it doesn’t matter.  The ambiance, the excitement of the destination, or playing side by side with friends is more important than how many credits won on a full house.  To sit at the Chandelier Bar at the Cosmopolitan Resort in Las Vegas is enough to put up with 7/5 JOB because of the extravagant $20 gourmet cocktails and the atmosphere.  I get it.

Video poker at your favorite bar top machine.

But some of us still want to play machines that give us a fighting chance and still get a quality beer upon asking. (However, even that is being taken away – see “drinks & coupons” later in this post.)

This post 6 Considerations for a Great Experience at Casino Video Poker Bars:

Quality of Games – Pay-tables

Multi Games Offered


Drinks & Coupons


Rewards Club & Promotions

As always, personal preference is most important when you play. But, many things need to be considered.  Let’s look into the possibilities to consider for the optimum video poker bar experience.

Quality of Games – Pay-tables

Video poker is a skill game.  Many of us practice specific games we enjoy because there IS a best play for each hand dealt, depending on the game.  I know I want to give myself the best chance to win.  I know I want the best chance to play longer, possibly giving myself a better chance to get more hands dealt and more chances for the elusive Royal Flush.  Full pay 9/6 JOB (Jacks or Better) plays slightly different that 8/5 JOB.

Full Pay JOB and a Royal Flush!

Many VP bars don’t offer good games simply because you’re getting to drink for free. On my last trip to Las Vegas, I stopped in at Caesars Palace to play a little VP and get a beer.  At this particular bar, they had 6/5 Double Double bonus, and Coors light.  Double whammy! Pitiful! (For those VP novices in the audience, the first number refers to payout for a full house, 2nd number for a flush.  This combination is one of the ways to tell if it’s a good game to play or bad concerning expected pay back over the long term.  But it isn’t the only consideration to find “good” games.)  Later, at downtown Las Vegas, I played 8/5 bonus, & 9/6 DDB with unlimited craft beer from Main Street Station’s own brewery. Let’s compare some pay tables:

Jacks or Better – 9/6 = 99.54% pay back (considered Full Pay, best pay table, and can be found at Mohegan Sun bar tops)……6/5 = 95% Dollar slots are a better gambling play, since a player will receive approximately 3X rewards points for slots as compared to VP.

Double Double Bonus – 10/6 = 100.07% pay back, 9/6= 98.98% payback, 9/5 = 97.87% payback……. 6/5 = 94% pay back, worst pay table I’ve ever seen.  Dollar slots are a better gambling play, since a player will receive approximately 3X rewards points for slots as compared to VP.

If playing a machine that gives you better odds is important to you, then check the paytables.

Superstar Multi Video Poker – numerous games, numerous denominations.

Multi Games Offered

Most bar-top machines offer many games, not only video poker.  Video Keno, Blackjack, slots, and many variations of VP can be found.  All bar tops are not created equal – even at the same bar.  Check out different machines.  Find one that offers what you want to play while kicking back your favorite cocktail or beer.

I will consider only video poker for this article.  Look for “All Star Poker” or Superstar Multi Poker which offer a variety of VP, from single line, triple and five play, to Spin Poker & Ultimate X VP.  Again, check the pay tables.  But you might enjoy a particular game and just prefer playing that.  Better payout = best gambling play, favorite VP game = enjoy the experience.  Best of all would be your favorite game with good pay tables. Take some time to search, they are out there – maybe even at your local casino.

Las Vegas, Cosmopolitan Chandelier bar, VP surrounded by beauty.


That’s right, to some players, the best game just doesn’t matter at times.  It’s the atmosphere, the camaraderie , the social aspect of it all.  Or, maybe, it’s watching a bartender juggle bottles while making an exquisite gourmet cocktail just for you. Maybe, you have a friendly relationship with the barkeep, you know the bar where “everybody knows your name.”

There are some bars that are surrounded by natural beauty – both for artistic decor and people watching.  Either way, it may be to pass time and take it all in, instead of concentrating on the skill involved.

Quiet – highly underrated in  casinos.  Playing VP in a quiet setting sipping a draft beer away from the crowds can be soothing and seem like an oasis in an otherwise crazy place. Two such places exist in New England Casinos – the Race books at Foxwoods & Mohegan Sun.

Drinks & Coupons

Playing crappy VP can simply be overlooked by the drinks served.  I remember playing 7/5 Bonus VP at the 32 Degrees Bar at M Resort, south of the Las Vegas Strip.  Why? – because of the 96 taps that were available.  A fabulous free drink can a key ingredient to your Vegas vacation.

Lights signal bartenders for vouchers. Some are automatic.

But free drinks, like free parking, are a vanishing commodity in Las Vegas, and all over the country.  In the old system — which still rules most hotel casinos, depending on state laws — if you gamble on the casino floor or at a bar, you get free drinks from bartenders who monitor your gambling.  But more and more, especially on the Las Vegas Strip, ticket systems at a video poker bars are now installed where gamblers must gamble to receive vouchers for drinks.  The estimated time for a free drink depends on speed of play, denomination, and apparently if the ticket system is actually working. According to a recent “Five Hundy by Midnight” podcast, the average time for an average speed player at the Cosmopolitan on the Strip tends to be 20 minutes between drinks. Cosmo, MGM and Caesars properties are all trying this strategy with mixed reviews. Rumors also abound in Las Vegas concerning coupon systems being used on the casino floor.

In New England, free drinks are still poured at Mohegan Sun, Foxwoods (both of which continue to have free parking), while state rules prohibit free drinks in the 2 Maine casinos, Plainridge Park in Massachusetts, and Rhode Island casinos.

Video Poker Progressive


Progressive jackpots are jackpots that grows as people play. It progressively gets larger and larger as a percentage of each bet is added to the total prize. They are usually linked to a whole bank of machines. This means that if there are players on all of the machines there is a chance that another player will hit the royal before you. Very often, video poker with lower pay tables at bar tops will be boosted with a progressive jackpot for Royal Flushes and sometimes “Quads” (four-of-a-kind).  These jackpots can get quite high, making a non playable game more of a better play.  Sometimes a combination of factors with a progressive is just what a player may be looking for, even for that low cost, watered-down “scotch on the rocks.”

Rewards Club & Promotions

Video Poker at Oxford Casino – pay for drinks, terrible paytables.

One final consideration is the rewards club. A good rewards club can make a difference, especially on multiplier days.  For example, a general rule by most casinos is that it takes 2X to 3X of play to earn one reward a status point compared to that slots.  But on a multiplier day, such as Mohegan Sun’s Triple Status Point promotions, playing VP can accumulate faster.  But read the fine print!  At Oxford Casino,


promotions such as their Tuesday “15X point” multiplier doesn’t include play on video poker machines. Some bar chains in Nevada have their own rewards club, as well as mini-marts, gas stations, pharmacies, and supermarkets!  PT’s Entertainment Group, who recently bought the Stratosphere and Arizona Charlies’ hotel casinos in Las Vegas, has 50+ taverns & restaurants and offer two award-winning loyalty rewards programs to sweeten the pot on its usually low paying VP.


It’s simple – whatever floats your boat.  Take a little extra time to weigh assess things and you may expand your good experience into a great experience.

That’s all for now.


6 Considerations for the Best Video Poker Tournament Strategy

Today I look at the strategy for playing in a Video Poker tournament, including variations to consider and how it differs from playing basic strategy.

A VP tournament is a lot of fun and excitement galore. Many tournaments only allow five or ten minutes for the contestants to apply their strategies, and hopefully score enough points to win some money. In this short span of time, few hands can be played. A very fast player in a tournament that allows 20 minutes of play to determine a winner will only be able to play about 500 hands.
A different strategy is needed for tournament play when playing in a VP tournament. Unlike a slots tournament, when you just “smack” the button over and over with no skill at all, Video Poker has a skill aspect to it, with correct strategy for each game. However , perfect strategy is not necessarily the way to go in a tournament situation. The highest scoring totals are usually fueled by 4-of-a-kinds with a kicker, or Royal Flushes. This means most players must tweak their strategy for those hands and play a little outside the basic strategy box to win.

1)“Favor a Royal Flush” strategy

According to Jerry “Stickman” Stich of CASINO PLAYER magazine, one approach (extreme, but believable) is the “Favor a Royal Flush” strategy. He says, “The thought behind this strategy is that hitting a royal means you have a great chance of winning at least something in the tournament. By only saving cards that could lead to a royal, you improve the chances of hitting a royal to about 1 in 23,000 from the 1 in 40,000 with optimum play….Playing 500 hands in a tournament, you could expect a “Royal” every 46 times.”

Royal Flush


How do you play a royals only strategy? If the hand doesn’t have any cards that will make a royal, discard the entire hand. Only keep cards that could make a royal. Sounds drastic, but it does offer a chance for more Royals.

2) Specific VP Games and Changes in Strategy for Tournament play

If the game is Double Double Bonus VP which has a pay table that pays higher for quads, especially 2’s, 3’s, and 4’s with a kicker, basic DDB strategy would work, but other factors must be considered. If it is JOB (Jacks or Better), the best strategy might be a Royal Flush or nothing approach is as stated above – Double Double & Triple Double Bonus not so much.  

3) Consider Minutes is Each Flight or Session

If it’s a length of 20 minutes per flight, you may have time enough to play perfect strategy if your play is close to perfect and fast – at least 600 hands per hour on the average – to get enough chances for that Royal Flush.  But this tournament was only 10 minutes per play, so it’s definitely time for Royal or nothing!  Ten minutes might be a situation for “all or nothing” with any VP game or pay tableable, with the exception of Deuces Wild.

4) Increase Your Speed

Most players should play faster, even though it may increase mistakes.  Remember, in a VP tourney, you want to increase the number hands played for the best chance for high paying hands.  If you are only a recreational player, stick to the strategy and speed o give you the best optimal play.

5) Practice, Practice, Practice – Use Both Hands

Another useful tip to be noted is when one participates in a speed tournament, he/she should consider playing with both hands instead of one finger only. The touch screen should not be used, as it is far too slow. If one practices playing with both hands before the tournament, he/she will manage to develop the mental and motor skills required to play more swiftly. In tournaments players with vast experience have a huge edge, because a key factor in fast play is to discern patterns and make timely decisions.

6) Time Limit vs. Hand Limit

According to, “The main difference between tournaments is if they are limiting play based on total hands, or based on total time on the machine. For example, one tournament … allowed each player 200 hands on the machine, and whoever had the most credits at the end of 200 hands was the winner…….some tournaments allot each player a certain amount of time on the machine. For example, allowing each player 45 total minutes on the machine, in three 15 minute sessions.  Although time vs. total hands may seem like a small factor, it actually is very important when determining your strategy. If you have as long as you want to play your hands, you can take your time and always make the mathematically correct decision. However, if the tournament has a time limit, then you need to hustle up and make sure you play as many hands as possible.”

If you find a tournament near you, take advantage.  Sometimes they offer snacks, drinks, and a chance to chill before and after.  All in all, it can be very fulfilling, especially for the experienced player.