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Video Poker versus Blackjack
Video Poker vs. Blackjack
Video Poker vs. Blackjack - Part II
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Video Poker vs. Blackjack - Part II

As I mentioned in the previous article, blackjack and video poker are two games where players can have a long-term advantage. Let's look at some more of the similarities and differences.

InBob DancerBob Dancer is one of the world's foremost video poker experts.  He is a regular columnist for Casino Player, Strictly Slots, and the Las Vegas Review-Journa land has written an autobiography and a novel about gambling.   He provides advice for tens of thousands of casino enthusiasts looking to play video poker.  Bob's website is  both games, the conditions vary widely from casino to casino. And many casinos frequently change blackjack rules or video poker machines. They sometimes do this because they are not making enough, or they need to compete with the casino next door. In both games, the closer the casino is to other casinos, the more competitive the games are. That is, do not expect good conditions for either game on a cruise ship that primarily exists for other purposes than gambling. These ships effectively have no competition while the cruise is taking place. Riverboat casinos that cruise exist primarily for gambling. Players tend to go on these again and again, so the casinos that have other riverboat casinos nearby tend to have better rules for the player than those that do not.

Part of effective competition is the ability to advertise what makes a casino different. In Nevada, each casino is free to tinker with its game to bring in more customers, and to tell those customers what makes them unique. The result is a lot of competitive games in many casinos. In Mississippi, the casino with the best games, the Copa, in Gulfport, aggressively advertises its pay schedules. New Jersey had a "closed" system for advertising for many years. And the games there were awful (from the winning player's point of view.) This seems to be changing. Now Atlantic City casinos are allowed to advertise differences in their games, and the games are beginning to improve. Slowly.

In blackjack, most games in a given casino are identical to most other games. You may have some 2-deckers and some 6-deckers, but the variation within a casino is limited. With video poker, you may find dozens of different types of games within the same casino. You may find different schedules side by side.

In blackjack, the amount you win or lose on each hand is similar. The bonus for naturals only goes one way, and blackjack insurance has odds associated with it, but for all other bets you can only win the same amount as you can lose. In video poker, this is not true at all. For a $5 bet, you can win up to $4,000 or more. This makes video poker much streakier.

Assume a blackjack player and a video poker each won $1,000 over five sessions. The scores for the blackjack player might be +230, +400, +120, +300, -50. In video poker, a more likely stream of scores would be: -70, -140, -60, +1230, +40. Notice that for these two equally successful players, the blackjack player usually wins, and the video player usually loses.

Being rated while playing blackjack is analogous to using a slot club card. In both cases, players receive various forms of casino complimentaries for playing. Slot clubs frequently pay cash back to the players, so most players use them. You need to show ID to collect the cash back, and you need to show ID when you hit a jackpot of $1,200 or more, so most video poker players use their real name. In blackjack, players use a variety of names.

Blackjack players frequently "rat-hole" chips to disguise their results. For similar reasons, video poker players frequently remove their slot club card so jackpots not registered.

Surveillance is more automated in video poker. The machine itself accurately registers the amount of the bet, whether or not a payoff is earned, and the amount of the payoff. Floor-people are there primarily to service the machine --- i.e. fill the machines when needed, fix the machine for various malfunctions, and hand-pay larger jackpots. In blackjack, most of the game monitoring is done manually. Dealers determine who wins a hand, and the amount of the payoff. Floor-people (and the eye-in-the-sky) keep a watch on the dealers, and further watch the players to determine if the player is "too good to let continue playing". There are various technological advances in blackjack to monitor the size of the bet, or even whether a player is counting, but so far these advances are not widely used.

The literature on blackjack is vast, and much is very accurate. Several people (e.g. Dalton, Schlesinger, Snyder and Wong, to name just a few) publish respected journals. These authors, generally speaking, admire each other and agree with each other¹s conclusions. In video poker, we have a very different situation. Information to be trusted is very limited, and frequently video poker authors do not speak highly of others in the same field.

Blackjack games are very similar from place to place. Game variations (number of decks, doubling after splitting, stand or hit on soft seventeen, surrender, and some others) are relatively unimportant. Although good players certainly make adjustments to their game depending upon exactly which rules are in effect, usually the play of a particular hand is identical no matter what the rules are. A game returning 100% is considered excellent. A game returning "only" 99% is considered terrible.

In video poker, the rules vary widely. Frequently in the same casinos you¹ll see Deuces Wild games returning 100.76% and some Double Double bonus games returning less than 96%. The strategy rules for deuces wild are totally different from those at jacks or better, or double bonus, or joker wild, or . . . Nobody is an expert at all video poker games. There are hundreds and hundreds of different variations. Even the most knowledgeable players only know a relative few of these.

There is a difference in teaching the games. I've taught video poker classes at casinos.  Picture if you can (I can't!) blackjack classes in a casino where the player is taught to count cards. Not likely to happen. So what's the difference? The bosses at video poker know that it takes lots of study to beat the house. And the vase majority of players will not or cannot go through that study with or without classes. So classes end up being basically a form of goodwill. And it works.

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