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Million Dollar Video Poker
by Bob Dancer
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Bob Dancer is a video poker legend. His software, books, and strategy cards have become sought-after items for beginners or serious video poker players. His books provide beginners, serious players, dedicated players, tournament players and anyone even thinking of playing these addictive, sometimes lucrative machines with more angles, strategies, and stories about those who win or lose (and why) than any book published in recent years.
Read a review of Million Dollar Video Poker
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Should I stick with video poker or try Texas Hold'em?

I'm developing considerable knowledge and improving my skills at Texas Hold'em poker, and it's primarily because I'm co-hosting Gambling with an Edge, a radio show on Thursday night.

About 10% ofBob 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  the guests on the show have been poker players, including, alphabetically: Andy Bloch, Nolan Dalla, Annie Duke, Ed Miller, Daniel Negreanu, Blair Rodman, and Arnold Snyder. Usually these guests wanted to talk about their most recent book. I always read the book before the show so I could ask more knowledgeable questions.

On the legal online website, I've practiced some of what I've learned. For live experience, I've also entered a few small tournaments. I occasionally get offers to participate in invitational tournaments and I don't want to be the biggest fish at the table. And I won't be. I'm now knowledgeable enough to follow a discussion that begins: "I had 24 BBs in a SNG, was UTG+1, bet on big slick, and I was the only one to call the big blind's raise, who basically was a TAG. The flop came out rainbow rags and since he failed to c-bet, I figured I was ahead. So..." Two years ago, I would have had no idea what much of that meant. Even with the part I understood, I failed to grasp many of the nuances.

Several years ago I wrote a column explaining why I was sticking with video poker over live poker. Those arguments are still valid, but the dynamics have changed a bit. Today, video poker is tougher to beat than it was seven years ago and I know more about live poker today than I did then. Does that change the bottom line for me?

One factor not discussed in the earlier column was age--my age in particular. I'm 65 now and my mental agility isn't what it was 40 years ago. At one time, I was above the 90th percentile intelligence-wise of all poker players. Today, I'm closer to the 70th percentile. Mental skills definitely deteriorate with age.

At video poker, the deterioration hasn't been nearly so noticeable simply because I've accumulated such a vast amount of video poker knowledge over the years. Experience is very valuable and my video poker experience can make up for certain mental shortcomings.

As an example, I haven't played Two Pair Joker Wild in four or five years. It's a tough game with LOTS of penalty card situations. It has a high return, but I don't know of any places close to me where the game is found in denominations I like. However, that could change at any time. I don't remember the strategy very well. But with the strategies I still have on my computer and the various tools I have available to me, I could again become an expert-level player in that game with less than three hours of work--at essentially no cost other than my time. (Yes I'd be using certain computer programs which cost money, but I already own them and at this point they are free for me to use.)

I've never played Pot Limit Omaha live poker. I could read the books, practice with various tools, and play in some live games. With about 300 hours of study and $30,000 in "learning-the-game mistakes," I might become a competent player. Not a good player and certainly not an expert one. But a competent one, able to grind out $20 or so an hour. I don't know for sure, but becoming an expert PLO player might be beyond my capabilities at this point in life.

I still have positive EV at video poker. Since I started playing in 1994, I've only had one losing year at video poker--2009. However, it won't surprise me if I have two or three losing years in the next decade. The game is tougher and the edge is smaller. Even with two or three losing years in the next ten, I'm betting my overall score at video poker will be positive during that time period. Fortunately, I also have some additional sources of income as well as a financial cushion that I've accumulated over the years.

So my decision remains the same today as it was in 2005: I'm going to remain a video poker player and not try to become a professional live poker player. Whatever my decision on this subject is should be relatively unimportant to you. You should go through the same evaluation exercise periodically. Your skills and strengths are different from mine and your conclusion might well be different. Every five or ten years it's a smart idea to re-evaluate what you want to do when you grow up.
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