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Video Poker for Thrifty Gamblers

2 July 2002

By John G. Brokopp

There’s no doubt video poker is one of the best casino games to play. Pay tables make some games better than others, but overall video poker is among your best gambling options. Unfortunately, the limited floor space at Chicago-area casino destinations (and in the case of Illinois, the state regulated limit of 1,200 gaming positions per property) puts video poker close to the bottom of most of the license holder priority lists.

It’s just not financially sound to devote a lot of floor space to video poker around here. The reel and video slots are much more profitable, and as long as players keep flocking to them things are not going to change. Nevada is a different story. Thousands of square feet of room, unlimited gaming positions, and a competitive market give video poker players a veritable heaven on earth.

Walk around any locals oriented casino in Las Vegas and you’ll discover a treasure trove of video poker machines. You may have to shop around for the best games but they are usually available. Quarter varieties are plentiful, as are dime and nickel machines, in single-hand 5-coin machines as well as Triple Play, Five Play, and Ten Play.

In the Chicago-area gambling market I always have a difficult time finding good single-hand 5-coin quarter video poker. Harrah’s Joliet Casino has a bank of Double Double Bonus Machines with a progressive Royal Flush jackpot but seats are at a premium most any time of the day. Players that do get a machine will usually “save” them for bathroom breaks or their next-door playing neighbor will hold them as a favor.

The alternative is to gravitate to the popular Triple Play and Five Play Machines. There are some acceptable pay tables available in this market, but the machines dangle a lure that can swallow up a short bankroll in a hurry if the right cards don’t come: The more coins you play on each hand the greater your chances of hitting it big on a fortuitous deal from the random number generator.

On quarter Triple Play, for example, if you want to play the maximum number of coins on each deal it comes to 15 coins or $3.75. On quarter Five Play it amounts to 25 coins or $6.25. On quarter Ten Play you’re talking about 50 coins or $12.50. That’s a lot of money for thrifty gamblers to be wagering per deal no matter what way you look at it.

If you’re lucky enough to get a “big” hand you’ll get some good playing cushion. But if you hit a dry spell, your bankroll can evaporate very quickly depending on the speed you choose to play.

I have always reasoned that even though multi-hand video poker can increase your earning potential on good hands, it can also magnify your losing potential on bad hands. If you’re playing 5-coin single hand video poker and are dealt “garbage,” you just have $1.25 at stake, discard all five cards, and hope for the best. On multi-hand play you have much more invested on those lousy cards.

One big word of advice I offer to multi-hand video poker players is to always select the slowest playing speed on the screen when a casino makes that option available to you (some casinos have this feature blocked out, which forces you to play at the fastest rate). The more hands you play per hour the longer you subject your bankroll to the house edge. Slow down your play to a pace that’s comfortable and you can’t go wrong.

Also, check out those pay tables! Unlike reel and video slots, video poker’s built-in house edge is right there for you to investigate. Don’t play the game blindly, sitting down at the first vacant machine you play, and start feeding in twenty-dollar bills. There’s some really bad video poker around here, and also some very good video poker.

Next week I’ll continue this discussion with some more advice and observations.

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

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