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Because it’s Better

A slot player’s guide to playing video poker

By Henry Tamburin


Video poker is a game of skill where it’s possible to affect the outcome of the results. With slots, you just pull the handle (or hit the spin button) and pray because there is nothing you can do to affect the results.


This is a tough article to write because I’m going to try to convince slot players to play video poker. Why? Because in most casinos, the worst paying video poker machine often pays back more than the best paying slot machine. Read that last sentence again because if that doesn’t tweak your interest in learning how to play video poker, I don’t know what will. But perhaps you have an excuse as to why you haven’t tried video poker. In fact, your excuse might be listed below. (I’ve summarized the most often used excuses slot players have told me over the years as to why they don’t—or won’t—play video poker. Check it out.)


 I want to be entertained when I gamble. I don’t what to have to think.

That’s the same thing as saying, “I’m happy to be entertained and consistently lose when I play the slots.” If you think losing money is fun, try winning for a change. Furthermore, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to learn the ins and outs of video poker where you will have a much better chance of winning more (or losing less) than you will ever achieve playing the slots. Believe it or not, playing video poker is just as entertaining and exciting as playing the slots, and you have the added benefit that you will be exercising your brain.


I’m too old to learn video poker.

Really. How’s this for a real world example. My late father-in-law Peter was 86 years old when he decided to switch from playing slots to video poker. Four years later, his initial $2,000 playing bankroll (he only played quarter machines) grew to $10,000 (includes cashback he earned from playing). If Pete could do it, no matter how old you are, you can do it.


Video poker is all luck just like slots.

Wrong… big time. Video poker is a game of skill where it’s possible to affect the outcome of the results. With slots, you just pull the handle (or hit the spin button) and pray because there is nothing you can do to affect the results. (Sorry, there is no “system” for beating the slots… it’s all random and you can’t predict the outcome from previous results.)


I don’t know how to play poker.

Good for you because playing video poker is different than playing live poker. For starters, you have no opponent to beat, there is no bluffing, and you can’t lose more than your initial bet. In fact, playing video poker is a whole lot easier than playing live poker.


I think the casinos cheat at video poker.

Let me ask you this then, “How do you know the casinos don’t cheat at slots?” The facts are this. In video poker, the game is dealt from a virtual 52-card deck. As soon as you hit the deal button the shuffling stops and five cards are randomly selected and displayed on your screen. While you are deciding which cards to hold, the 47 remaining virtual cards in the deck are reshuffling. As soon as you hit the draw button, the replacement cards are randomly selected and shown on the screen. Every hand, therefore, begins with a new deck of cards and it’s impossible to discard, say, a four of clubs and have it appear on the subsequent draw. Trust me. Video poker games in major casinos are legit. (Note: The above method of dealing the cards is different in most Indian casinos, where the outcome of a video poker game is based on the results of a bingo game played in the background.)


There are so many different video poker games. How can you tell which one is best?

It’s true that you will find many different video poker games in a casino. But there is information on the Internet that will tell you which video poker games in a specific casino has the highest returns. (Shortly, I’ll give you some tips on how to read the pay table on a video poker game to know if it’s worth playing. Also, keep in mind that you should only learn one primary and a secondary video poker game well and forget the rest.)


I don’t have the time or patience to learn a complicated playing strategy.

The easiest and quickest way to learn the playing strategy for any video poker game is by playing it on your PC using a video poker strategy trainer. These programs are fun to use. You pop the CD containing the software into your PC, pick the video poker game you want to play, and start playing just as you would in a casino, except when you make a playing mistake, the software will alert you, show you the correct play, and keep track of your playing accuracy. You can practice at home for fun while learning the playing strategy. (That’s how my father-in-law learned the strategy for Jacks or Better perfectly in about a week.) Moreover, you can bring a strategy card with you when you play so you’ll always have the correct strategy for any given hand at your fingertips—they are casino legal. (The two video poker software trainers that I recommend are Video Poker for Winners and Optimum Video Poker. For more information, go to my site.) (Note: if you don’t own a PC, don’t fret. I’ll give you tips next month on how to learn the playing strategies without a computer.)


Lastly, let me ask slot players this question, “Can you tell me what the payback is for any slot machine by looking at the pay table?” Of course you can’t. The only person that knows what the payback is for a slot machine is the casino’s slot director and he isn’t telling. With video poker, you can determine the machine’s payback percentage just by perusing the pay table. In fact, I’ll show you how to do this and more next month. Stay tuned slot players because I’m just getting started.


Tamburin Tip of the Month

My friend Steve Bourie (author of the American Casino Guide) has a great video on his website that explains how to play video poker. Go to, scroll down the right side of the page and look for Gambling Menu, click on video poker, then click on the Video Podcast: Video Poker-How to Win and How it Works with Steve Bourie.  Must viewing for all slot players.


Henry Tamburin is a blackjack and video poker expert. He is the host of the website and the editor of the Blackjack Insider newsletter (for a free three-month subscription, visit For a free copy of his Casino Gambling Catalog, which contains books, strategy cards, and software for casino players, call toll free 1-888-353-3234, or visit the web store at


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