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

Some time ago, a friend and I were walking through a casino. He stopped in front of a 10-7 double bonus video poker machine (i.e. one that pays 10 for a full house and 7 for a flush) and startedBob 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  to deposit quarters. I commented that I didn't know he played that game. He responded that he played REAL poker, so surely he could handle this. When I later asked him why he didn't draw to inside straights (correct strategy for this game), he replied that since he wouldn't do that in regular poker, he surely wouldn't do that here!

It hadn't previously occurred to me that the games had much in common. To be sure, they were both a form of gambling and used quite a bit of similar terminology. Over this week and next, I decided to examine exactly how they compare.

1. Hand rankings are similar. Every video poker game pays more for full houses than for three of a kind, but some pay the same for straights and flushes, and straight flushes are not always worth more than four of a kind. Indeed, in many games, four fours are worth more than four fives.

2. Royals get a big bonus. In regular poker, a king-high straight flush is very marginally inferior to a royal flush. In most games, either hand would win every pot every time. In video poker, the difference between these hands is huge, especially if a progressive is involved.

3. There are no bad beats in video poker. If you end up with 4 of a kind, you are going to get paid. You can't lose out to another player getting a straight flush. It is possible, however, to hit a 4,000-coin royal immediately after somebody hit a progressive for, say, $6,523. This will be a minor disappointment, but it's amazing how $4,000 will salve your wounds.

4. There is only one decision point in video poker. Regular poker frequently has several betting rounds, and sometimes several decisions per round. In video poker, you make your one choice before the draw. The draw occurs and the game is over. And every player is in every game until the end.

5. Bluffing, raising, calling, sandbagging and a variety of other poker strategies have no place in video poker. (Go ahead. Try to bluff a machine. I dare you!)

6. Both games include several variations. Video poker includes a variety of draw poker types. One of these (jacks or better) has a direct analogues in real poker.. Most others (various types of bonus poker) do not. I have seen Heads Up Poker, a prototype video poker game by Gamecraft that combines the two games, but that hasn't been approved yet in Nevada. I'll talk about it when it starts to appear.

Regular poker includes several stud varieties, as well as high-low games, which do not directly compare to video poker types. In both games, good players vary their strategies considerably as they go from one variation to another.

7. In video poker, you know at the outset what any hand, such as three of a kind, is worth. In regular poker, three of a kind may or may not be a winner. And it may be very expensive to find out for sure.

8. In video poker, you know at the outset what any hand will cost. You rarely know this in real poker, unless you or a sole opponent is close to going all in.

9. A good mathematician will do well at video poker. A good psychologist, who happens to be inscrutable, will do better at regular poker. Social skills are largely unnecessary at video poker.

10. Video poker games are always available, twenty-four hours a day, in a huge number of variations (at least in Las Vegas and other casino cities). You do not always have enough live players to make up a poker game, and the first game that is made up may not be to your liking. However, live poker games may be found in thousands of cities every night.

11. Video poker players who only play for progressives above a certain level will have a bit in common for the live poker player waiting for the right "live player" to come along.

12. "Cheat Sheets" won't do you any good, and are usually illegal, at regular poker. However strategy charts can be extremely useful at video poker. And most casinos allow you to use them.

For more differences, see the next article in this series.

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