Card Counting vs. Video Poker – Which Is More Profitable?

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Video Poker or Card Counting

Casinos don’t open giant complexes, pay dealers, and offer numerous games because they expect to lose. Instead, they offer casino games because they’re guaranteed to win in the long run—at least most of the time.

A few opportunities exist where you can gain the upper hand over casinos. Blackjack card counting and video poker are two of the rare exceptions.

Which of these opportunities is best, though? I’m going to discuss the details on why video poker and blackjack are profitable under the right circumstances. I’ll also recommend which route you should go with when chasing profits.

Why Is Video Poker Profitable?

Only a handful of video poker variations can deliver long-term profits. Here are the existing games that can do so:

  • Deuces Wild – 100.76% RTP
  • Joker Wild (Kings or Better) – 100.65%
  • Double Bonus – 100.17%
  • Loose Deuces Wild – 100.15%
  • Double Bonus Double Jackpot – 100.09%
  • Double Double Bonus – 100.07%

As you can see, these variations all offer over 100% payback. If you play them with correct strategy, then you’ll be looking at guaranteed profits.

Of course, you will need to learn extensive strategy for any individual variation that you play. Video poker trainers—both free and for purchase (customizable pay tables)—are great for learning strategy. You just need to find a trainer that covers the game you’re targeting.

Volatility is another factor to consider here. Video poker pay tables offer a range of payouts, including 4,000 coins for a royal flush (on a five-coin bet).

You aren’t going to hop on a full-pay Deuces Wild machine, for example, and win $100.76 for every $100 wagered. Instead, your winnings will come in a much rockier manner.

Nevertheless, if you play video poker games with over 100% payback long enough, you’re eventually going to make money.

Comps will boost your winnings to a small degree. The average casino offers a 0.1% comp rate to players. Therefore, you can earn $1 in cashback for every $1,000 wagered.

What Kind of Money Will You Make With Video Poker?

Video poker used to be one of the most lucrative gambling careers. Up until the late 1990s, it offered the chance to make over $40 an hour.
Unfortunately, times have changed greatly in this regard. You won’t earn nearly as much due to lower coin denominations.

Here’s how much you could’ve made with dollar Deuces Wild games versus those that are available today:

Quarter Deuces Wild

  • You play 1,000 hands an hour.
  • You wager 5 quarters on every hand.
  • 1,000 x 1.25 x 0.0074 = $9.50
  • The casino offers a 0.1% comp rate.
  • 1,000 x 1.25 x 0.001 = $1.25
  • 9.50 + 1.25 = $10.75 an hour

Dollar Deuces Wild

  • You play 1,000 hands an hour.
  • You wager 5 dollars on every hand.
  • 1,000 x 5 x 0.0076 = $38
  • The casino offers a 0.1% comp rate.
  • 1,000 x 1.25 x 0.001 = $1.25
  • 9.50 + 1.25 = $39.25 an hour

As you can see, the money isn’t great when playing video poker with an advantage. The best opportunity you have now is quarter Deuces Wild games. Even at that, you’ll still only be making $10 to $11 an hour no matter how good or fast you play.

Casinos Don’t Care If You’re Beating Video Poker

You may have seen movies were professional gamblers get kicked out of casinos. Video poker, however, is an exception to the norm.

Casinos that offer video poker machines with over 100% payback don’t care if you and other players are winning. Otherwise, they wouldn’t provide high-paying games.

Playing Cards

Of course, machines that deliver more than 100% RTP are rare. They’re limited to Las Vegas and a few other Nevada gambling destinations.

Again, though, casinos that make these machines available aren’t overly concerned when you win. Some even use games with over 100% RTP as a draw to their establishments, knowing full well they’ll lose money.

Why Is Card Counting Profitable?

Card counting is a famous advantage play method that’s employed in blackjack. It revolves around figuring out when the shoe has a disproportionate amount of aces and 10-value cards.

Two things happen when the deck is rich in these cards:

  • You have a stronger chance of getting natural blackjacks.
  • The dealer faces higher odds of busting out when hitting to 17.

You can use a system like the Hi-Lo to attach point values to card groupings. 10 through ace have a -1 value; 7 through 9 have a zero value; and 2 through 6 carry a +1 value.

You want a positive count, which indicates that more low cards (2-6) have come out than high cards (10-A).

The next step involves raising your bets when the count is positive so that you can take advantage of a loaded shoe. Given your edge, you stand to win higher profits with larger wagers.

What Kind of Money Will You Make When Counting Cards?

Your card counting winnings depend upon several factors, including your skill level, bet spread, and the exact system.

Regarding skill, you must be able to keep an accurate count while making few, if any, mistakes. This task might be easy when you’re practicing, but it becomes harder when gambling in an actual casino environment.

Bet spread refers to the distance between the table’s minimum wager and your maximum bet during a positive count.

You want to stick with the minimum bet when the count is neutral or negative. This way, you don’t lose as much money when the casino has an edge.

You then pump up your bets when the count goes positive. Here’s a sample system for how to increase your wagers:

  • 0 count or lower = table’s minimum wager (e.g. $5).
  • +1 count = $20 (1-4 spread)
  • +2 count = $40 (1-8 spread)
  • +3 count = $60 (1-12 spread)
  • +4 count = $80 (1-16 spread)

You may wonder why you shouldn’t simply jump to the table’s maximum bet with a +3 count or higher. As explained next, the problem with a high bet spread is that it makes the casino’s job easier when rooting out card counters.

Regarding what kind of profits to expect, a typical pro card counter makes between $30 and $100 an hour. Given that you’ll have a thin edge ranging from 1% to 1.5%, though, you’ll experience plenty of wild swings. With that said, you want an adequate bankroll before embarking on a counting journey.

Casinos Will Throw You Out

Unlike with video poker, casinos will kick you out if they think that you’re counting cards. Therefore, you need to factor this aspect into your moneymaking efforts.

You should definitely work on your camouflaging abilities. These efforts will help you blend in with other players and not look like a counter.

Poker Cards

However, your bet spread can still be a giveaway, even when you’re really good at avoiding detection. You need to prepare for the possibility that you’ll get thrown out of one or more casinos.

This thought can be somewhat unnerving, especially when the pit boss and security want to talk to you in a backroom. Again, though, it’s just something that you should prepare for mentally.

What’s the Verdict: Card Counting or Video Poker?

If you want to make real profits with advantage gambling, then card counting is the easy choice here. It actually rewards you for all of the hard work you put into improving.

You can earn upwards of $100 an hour with the right skills. You might even consider adding shuffle tracking — an extremely tough advantage play method — to your arsenal. Shuffle tracking can increase your edge to 5%.

Even if you don’t go the shuffle tracking route, though, you can still make solid profits with card counting. You just have to be good at keeping an accurate count and avoiding detection.

Video poker, on the other hand, is more about making money from a gambling hobby. It can provide profits under the right circumstances.
However, you’ll find that earning $10 or $11 an hour isn’t worth it when considering everything that goes into video poker.

You must train and develop your skills to play perfectly at a fast rate. You’ll also have to deal with plenty of volatility on the road to making just above minimum wage.

Conclusion

Both card counting and video poker are appealing in their own ways. The latter is good for when you want a challenge while earning some spare money from gaming.

Unfortunately, video poker doesn’t provide the type of money that a professional gambler should aspire to have. After all, it still offers less than $11 an hour even with perfect play.

Card counting is more difficult to implement due to how casinos can throw you out. However, it also provides $30 or more an hour when perfected.

You do need to worry about getting kicked out of casinos when counting cards. If you can avoid this problem, though, then you stand to make lots of money.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...

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