How to become a video poker expert

How to Become a Professional Video Poker Player

Do you think you could live as a professional gambler? You can learn to be an “advantage gambler” that consistently beats the odds. You might be thinking Blackjack systems, poker strategy, etc… but have you tried video poker (VP)?

Why Video Poker?

It’s been around since 1975. It combines the action of slots, but on a five-card draw hand of poker. There is skill and strategy involved, but it’s simple to learn and very easy to play. And it can produce some very large jackpots. Vegas is still the gambling mecca, but video poker machines are found all over the U.S., as well as in online casinos. With some study, perseverance, and self-discipline, it’s possible to become a professional player.

Being an Advantage Player

Even as a VP beginner, you can expect a return on your gambling investment of over 99 percent. Although this varies by machine, it’s still slightly higher than what expert Blackjack players get. With video poker, the extra little tweak of real experience will put you into a position of making money.

Like the basic strategy of other games, you have to know the correct response for every scenario. While Blackjack experts always know when to hit, hold, or double down, the advantage for VP players is to study each machine to learn which pay off most. Play the machines where you have the best advantage. The full pay version of Deuces Wild, for example, can provide an advantage of slightly over 100 percent while you’re still learning, and more if you master it. There are times when the casino actually wants you to win a little so you spend more. Though it’s admittedly rare, when you come across these games as a professional you can exploit them.

Even if you’re starting on a common game like Jacks or Better with a negative payback percentage, you can still win and learn while you do it. When you’re ready for real casino play you can generate comps in the form of merchandise, food, drinks, or other perks based on what you spend. Caesar’s for instance, awards 1 comp point for every $10 spent at nearly 40 gaming locations. Look for a casino with a similar Players Club program so that even if the machines disappoint, you can still benefit.

The key takeaway is to learn where your advantages are and not waste your time with anything less.

Life as a Video Poker Professional

To win consistently is almost impossible. But winning enough to stay ahead is a realistic goal. You keep plugging away until you get that Royal Flush or four-ace hand while the jackpot builds.

You can travel from Atlantic City to Vegas, or find machines in virtually any casino you choose to visit. But expect to spend lots of time playing; for most professionals, this is an eight-hour per day job.

Don’t do it because you anticipate those jackpots. Do it because you enjoy it. Even good players might spend hours at VP and still come away a loser. Gambling is a roller coaster of ups and downs, so it takes a dedicated mindset that isn’t easily frustrated and doesn’t become obsessed with a NEED to win.

Legendary player Bob Dancer struggled for years before moving up from 25-cent machines to the big time jackpots. But even the best can have losing streaks.

Video poker, like most forms of gambling, is a solitary game and a solitary lifestyle. When you play all the time, with real devotion, it’s liable to impact your relationships. Winning often can also mean that casinos will view you with suspicion. Before you get serious, you have to ask yourself if you can live like that and still be content.

Managing Your Bankroll

Gamblers who want to come out ahead learn to risk only what they can afford to lose. But that doesn’t mean cut your losses and run if things aren’t going your way. In his book, Dancer relates how he dropped $1,200 on video poker in one losing streak. But with a $25,000 bankroll, he kept playing and eventually doubled it to $50,000. This allowed him to progress from $1.25 machines to $5 machines. As his bankroll grew, his play was all about chasing the big jackpots on the $100 machines. He was so successful, and wagered so much, that the MGM Grand casino decided to cancel his Players Club membership.

The trick is to always keep an eye on your budget. With a smaller bankroll, even if you’re feeling lucky raising your bets could wipe you out in the next downturn. Sometimes the pros find a partner who’ll finance half the bets in exchange for half the winnings.

You don’t have to be a math whiz, but it will certainly help to limit your losses if you can keep track of what you’re winning and losing in your head. If you can afford to keep playing, do so. When you’ve exhausted your bankroll, walk away. You can always extend your funds by lowering your bets and hoping to last until fortune comes your way again.

Earning a bankroll is one thing; protecting it is another. For instance, when Dancer reached a $1 million winnings mark, he went back to lower payout games. In gambling, greed usually leads to disaster. Those who come out on top in the end are those who play with discipline, not ambition.