I’ve written multiple posts about the value of various free game simulators and whether it’s worth practicing on them.
For the most part, such simulators are free versions of games from various online casinos. But video poker is a horse of a different color. A good video poker trainer can be worth its weight in Bitcoin.
In this post, I look at how to use a video poker trainer to get the most out of your casino gambling hobby.
Why Gamblers Should Love Video Poker
I’m not a fan of slot machines. They cost gamblers too much money. I always suggest they play video poker instead.
Not only does video poker have a lower house edge, but the decisions you make during a video poker game affect the math behind the game. Make good decisions, and the house edge is lower. In that respect, video poker resembles blackjack.
I like to play games where I have at least some agency, and I don’t get that from games like roulette or slot machines. In those games, my results are entirely based on chance.
But in video poker, I can make decisions based on the odds about which cards to keep and which cards to discard. And if I make good decisions, I’ll face a lower house edge.
With the right pay tables and the right strategies, you can usually find a real money video poker game in any major casino with a payback percentage of 98% or more.
If you combine the right pay tables with the best players clubs, you can even play with an advantage over the casino. But you must put in the practice to make this happen.
How Video Poker Strategy Works
When you’re dealt a hand in video poker, you get five cards, and you can keep or discard any number of cards—from zero to five.
Keeping some combinations of cards has a higher expected value than keeping other combinations of cards.
What does that mean? Well, expected value is a statistical measure of how much you can expect to win or lose on a bet in a specific situation. It’s just the probability of the various prizes multiplied by the amounts you win if you hit those hands.
Here’s an Example:
A royal flush has the highest payout of any hand in video poker. If you’re playing for max coin, you get a payout of 800 for 1 when you hit this hand. When you get four cards to a royal flush, you can discard the extra card and have a 1 in 47 probability of getting the card you need to make your royal flush. 1/47 x 800 amounts to an expected value for that play of 17.02.
You also have probabilities of getting other winning hands which add to that expected value. If you’re playing Jacks or Better, for example, some of the cards will have the potential to make a big pair. You don’t have a way of making three of a kind or four of a kind here, but you also have lots of potential for making a flush or a straight.
But what if one of the cards in that hand pairs one of the other cards? You might have a pat hand—one that’s guaranteed to pay out.
Is a 100% probability of that payout better than the approximately 2% probability of hitting that royal flush? Obviously not. A pair only pays off at even money in Jacks or Better, so even if the hand improves, it’s not going to have an expected value greater than 17.
Every situation in video poker works this way; you must decide which cards to keep and throw away based on the expected value behind that move.
Video Poker Strategy Tables Help Get the Lowest House Edge
In blackjack, you can use a basic strategy chart to inform your playing decision. If you follow the basic strategy, you’re going to see a house edge of between 0.5% and 1%.
Video poker games also have strategy charts, but they’re different from the blackjack charts. A video poker strategy table just has a list of potential card combinations listed from best to worst. You compare the cards you have with the cards on the table and choose the combination that’s highest on your chart.
Those are the cards you keep. The other cards, you can discard. Video poker strategy charts are, of necessity, approximations. They all sacrifice a minor tenth of a hundredth of a percentage for playability’s sake.
If you created a video poker strategy chart that covered every potential situation, it would be so long as to be useless. But the best thing for most people to do is learn video poker strategy using a video poker trainer.
What’s a Video Poker Trainer and How Does It Work?
A video poker trainer is a computer program that simulates a video poker game. You can choose the game and the pay table for the game you want to learn how to play. You then play that version of video poker in the trainer, which advises you when you’ve made a less-than-optimal decision.
Notice the difference between a video poker simulator and most of the other casino game simulators I’ve written about before now. Sure, you can find blackjack trainers that provide you with a play money game to practice on.
But other games, like craps and roulette, have no strategy. There’s no need for some kind of training software, so the easiest way to access a simulator is by using the play money games from the online casinos.
Video poker trainers aren’t exactly free. They’re like a lot of software and a lot of apps. They require a purchase from you.
But once you’ve bought the trainer, you don’t have to risk money while you play. The credits on the simulated game have no dollar value at all. They’re just a means of keeping score.
The WinPoker App
One of my favorite video poker training software packages is called WinPoker. It’s a video poker trainer that will teach you how to play video poker with near-perfect strategy. It’s free to a certain extent but will warrant a purchase for all the features.
If you download the software online, you can spend less than $40 and have state-of-the-art video poker training.
Other Video Poker Trainers
If you’re playing from the United States, you’re out of luck. But if you’re playing from elsewhere in the world, you might consider Microgaming-powered casinos. All their games check your decisions to see if you’re making the strategically correct move.
They’ve offered this feature for years, but it comes with a catch. You’re playing for real money at these online casinos. And even at a Microgaming casino, you’re facing a house edge when playing video poker.
If you’re looking for a way to train on video poker games without having to risk your own money, you’re stuck buying a software package.
Bob Dancer’s Video Poker for Winners is another great software package you can use as a video poker trainer. Unfortunately, the Frugal Video Poker software that Jim Wolf used to produce is no longer compatible with the latest versions of Windows. And it doesn’t look like there are any plans to update the product.
Dan Paymar also sells a video poker trainer program, but you must use a Mac. It’s not compatible with a PC running on windows.
Should You Use a Video Poker Trainer?
If you’re serious or even semi-serious about playing video poker on a regular basis, using a video poker trainer is a great idea. The software isn’t expensive, and if you get good enough at video poker, it will pay for itself many times over.
I’m sure some of my readers will scoff at the idea of spending $50 or so on a training software, but they’ll easily lose that much money in a single trip to the casino by making multiple strategy mistakes on their video poker games.
They should probably just switch to roulette or slot machines if they’re not interested in playing video poker optimally. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
With any casino game, your goal should be to get the house edge as low as possible. Video poker offers the opportunity to do that by playing each hand optimally. But most people can’t do that intuitively.
Video poker strategy is a learned skill, and the strategy for different varieties of video poker are often different. A video poker trainer is the best solution.
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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