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Building Better Players in Video Poker is the fun way to learn how to master your favorite games

By Glenn Fine


“The truth is, many of the experts’ math is way over my head; the strategy cards often look like they’re written in a foreign language; and even though I read the articles in this magazine each and every month, I still have a hard time keeping the rules straight. But now I’ve found a website that makes learning a whole lot easier.”

Have you played video poker lately, perhaps last weekend at your favorite casino? How confident were you that every hand you played, every card you held or discarded, was the correct move?

I’ve been playing video poker for almost 20 years, and in all honesty I still can’t claim that I play every hand correctly. If I have a question about a hand (and this happens way too often), I can turn to my wife for advice, ask a gaming buddy, or the guy sitting across from me with 50,000 credits. If a lot of money is riding on the result, as the publisher of this magazine I can even call a video poker expert on my cell phone. But if no one answers, I’m pretty much stuck.

Despite years of video poker play and study, I still have very few ways to know for sure if I’ve made the correct play on any given video poker hand. The truth is, many of the experts’ math is way over my head; the strategy cards often look like they’re written in a foreign language; and even though I read the articles in this magazine each and every month, I still have a hard time keeping the rules straight. But now I’ve found a website that makes learning a whole lot easier—a video poker community, headed by the actual designers of all the top games, where 180,000+ members swap stories and share information and strategies.

Even the name is easy to remember. These guys hit the “domain name jackpot” when they registered it: You couldn’t forget it if you tried. Funnily enough, this website has actually been starring back at me every time I play video poker. is stamped on the machines I play. I just didn’t know what it meant…until now.

As it turns out, is the new name of Action Gaming, the designer of more than 95% of all video poker games played in casinos throughout the U.S. You may remember from past Strictly Slots articles that Action Gaming’s founder and president, Ernie Moody, invented Triple Play in 1996. After some high-level negotiations with IGT, the biggest slot manufacturer in the nation, Triple Play went on to change the face of video poker forever—and encouraged Ernie and his team to design the most innovative video poker games in the world.

When we met recently with Mike Fields, executive vice president of, we wondered why a company that created casino games would also create a website that actually helps gamblers play smarter and win money.

“Why not?” was Mike’s quick reply. “The whole idea behind our games is that people will have fun playing them. You can’t do that if you have to spend $20 to overcome the learning curve on a new game. Now, at, you can play all of our games, right at home on your computer, and learn how to play any of them properly before you get to the casino. We also have tournaments where our members compete for complimentary weekends at different casinos. In addition, members can have direct challenges with other members. They contact each other to have a “face-off” playing any of our games. It’s all in good fun. The casinos have their built-in win percentage; we want people to play as well as possible, so they can enjoy themselves as much as possible.”

The best part? Membership to—including the ability to play casino games, get advice and strategies from experts, and gain access to the video poker forum, where players from all backgrounds log on to discuss all aspects of the game—is free. It’s a wealth of information at your fingertips, and it doesn’t cost a dime.

If you’re a dedicated video poker player, however, you’ll want to look into the website’s “VP Gold” membership. It’s a simple upgrade, costing under $6 a month (you can save more by joining for a year, which only costs $60). With VP Gold status, you can track your credits (as well as those of fellow top-scoring members); compete in one-on-one challenges; and check out new games before they hit casino floors.

At press time, there were 52 different video poker machines offered on Most of the games on the website are already available at casinos around the country, but some have yet to make their debut. This means you can learn how to master the game before it comes out. You can even test-drive the Gold membership for a week at no charge, just to be sure the upgrade is worth it for you.

Once I realized what was all about, I couldn’t wait to check it out for myself. I logged on and decided to play a video poker game that I thought I knew pretty well. Still, I’d questioned some of my decisions while playing this game, so I figured I could use a brush-up on my strategy.

I first went to “Find a Game” and a map of the U.S.A. appeared, showing all of the states that have casinos. Then I scrolled down to “Spin Poker” and clicked on Nevada, where I usually play. 107 Nevada casinos came up. I was informed that these casinos house 569 Spin Poker machines. I scrolled to the Rio (which, I discovered has six Spin Poker machines). I was then able to play the game, but before doing that, I had the option to view a tutorial. So, hoping to learn something new, I watched the three-minute video. Wow! What I didn’t know about this game could fill an article in this magazine.

Next, I clicked “Play Now” and got started. Armed with all of this new info, I was ready to give it a shot. The typical video poker screen popped up, allowing me to choose any Spin Poker game—from Jacks or Better and Double Bonus, to Deuces Wild Bonus and White Hot Aces. In all, I had 12 versions to choose from. My favorite Spin Poker is Deuces Wild, so that’s what I selected.

At the top of the screen I clicked the “Training” button, as I wanted to know how well I was really doing. I was starting with 10,000 credits. On the right side of the screen, it showed me a count of the total number of hands I’d played; the number of hands played correctly; and the percentage of hands I got right.

Below my stats was a “stop light,” which is a training tool. As I’ve never claimed to be a professional VP player—and I’ll never remember if holding one card is .006% better than another—the stop light is perfect for me. If, after being dealt a hand, I chose to keep the correct cards (for optimal play), I’d get a green light. If my strategy was completely wrong, the red light would go on. If, however, my choice was somewhere in the middle—not perfect, but not horrible—the yellow light would appear.

Once the traffic light gave me a signal, I had the chance to change what I was holding. I was learning the best move for each hand as I played—much easier than memorizing a strategy card. After I held what I wanted and finished the hand by clicking the “Deal/Spin” button, the lesson was reinforced: at the bottom right corner of the screen was the “Best Hold” hand, which showed which cards I should have held for optimal play.

After a very educational and entertaining hour, I switched my game to the Double Double Bonus Poker version of Spin Poker Deluxe. Another hour flew by. I was hooked! Before my wife finally pulled me off the laptop, I trained on two more games, including Triple Play Double Bonus. (I sure wish I had been playing in the casino for that session!) has many other features that we’ll be covering in upcoming issues of Strictly Slots and Casino Player magazines. The mission of is right in line with our magazines; we both strive to teach you, the slot and video poker players, how to best play all casino games. And so, we’ve invited to contribute a video poker section to Strictly Slots magazine every month, beginning with the June 2010 issue. We look forward to bringing you a lot of terrific tips and information about playing your favorite games, courtesy of the experts at

Building Better Players in Video Poker.

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