Smarter Gambling

Improve Your Skills with Video Poker Training

Royal Flush at MGM Springfield
Written by Joshua

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Many slot players are familiar with the fact that Video Poker games have higher paybacks than slots, but for that payback to be achieved, you have to play the game with knowledge. If you do not know how to play Video Poker, you can make mistakes that over time can be very expensive.

Everyone needs to start somewhere, so here are some recommendations on how to learn, practice and reinforce:

Studying Recommended Strategy

There are a variety of Video Poker variations out there, each with their own strategy. It’s smart to pick a version and become proficient at it first, before playing other variations. This way you have a go-to you can feel comfortable that you can play accurately.

Michael Shackleford, also known at the Wizard of Odds, maintains a website where he shares various Video Poker strategies. This includes simpler strategies that don’t strip too much off the optimal strategy for payback, but can make learning a lot easier.

Among the simpler games to learn is Jacks or Better, which also happens to be the least volatile. But many slot players like more volatile Video Poker, just like they love more volatile slots, so there’s definitely games out there for you, that just take a bit more getting to know.

If you’re a book reader, there’s plenty of books on the topic, written by a variety of experts in the space, and can get into even more detail than a website traditionally will.

Bob Dancer, a renowned expert on Video Poker, teaches classes in Las Vegas during more normal times, and you can learn directly from an expert on various games. He also writes a weekly column at Las Vegas Advisor talking about Video Poker.

Practice on Video Poker Software

There’s a variety of software options that let you practice playing Video Poker at home. More critically, some will flag when you’re making mistakes vs. strategy playing a version of Video Poker, and will help you understand how to correct your mistakes.

This training can help strengthen (or refresh, if you’ve been doing it awhile) your ability to play as close to perfect strategy as possible.

Dancer has attached his name to the Video Poker for Winners software, which is Windows compatible. It features such capabilities as AutoHold, which can show you the right hold on a deal, Warn, which can alert you when you’re making a mistake, and Show, which tells you the right play if you want some help.

The software is developed by Action Gaming, a division of IGT responsible for developing many of the video poker variations you see in casinos. As such, the software is a faithful recreation of the video poker games you’ll find in casinos, creating some familiarity when you

Less expensive, but also available, is WinPoker, which has similar hand training capabilities as Video Poker for Winners, but doesn’t look and feel like the games in a casino.

On the online side, (also developed by Action Gaming) features two training levels, both of which require a subscription. Basic hand training is available at its Gold level subscription, which costs $8.95 a month or $79.95 a year.

There is also a ProTraining package, which on its own costs $6.95 a month or $49.95 a year (gold members can add it at a discount). This layers on additional training capabilities, such as the ability to remember hands you previously made a mistake, and allow a replay of just those hands.

The site being web-based means it’s compatible with both Windows and Mac computers, as well as iPads and many mobile devices (and they have apps for mobile devices that can link to your account as well), as long as you have an Internet connection.

Since the site was also developed by Action Gaming, you get access to a broad array of Video Poker types that are available in casinos as well, making practice more comfortable and making it easier to spot the same games when you hit the casino.

Since pay tables matter, on many of these options you can also select the pay table to match what your home casino(s) offer so your play is optimized for those pay tables.

When At the Casino

Inevitably you’ll hit a hand where you don’t remember the best play. There’s a couple of ways to check up on your strategy.

The first is strategy cards, which can be printed off the Internet or purchased through various websites such as Amazon, which sells Bob Dancer’s among others. The nice thing about these are they’re pretty low tech, so you don’t have to worry about things like battery life or Internet connections.

I, however, turn back to another option from the Gaming team, and that’s Best Hold, which is available for both Android and iPhone. You can quickly select the game and pay table you’re playing, as well as the cards you were dealt, and see the best strategy for that hand. This is great if you’re simply uncertain and want to check what should be the best move.

Video Poker may seem initially intimidating, but the right way to play has already been figured out and documented, so all that’s required is a bit of research and practice!

About the author


My name is Joshua, and I’m a slot enthusiast who works in tech as a marketer by day, and dabbles in casinos periodically during off-times. Know Your Slots will reflect my interests in understanding the various ways you can play slots, travel, casino promotions and how you can get the most out of your casino visits.

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