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Top tips for playing positive

By Jerry “Stickman” Stich


With the myriad choices of video poker games available in today’s casinos, many people have a hard time simply figuring out the best game for them to play. But depending on the individual and their gambling goals, the definition of “best” can be as varied as the games that are available.

One of the most appealing aspects of video poker is its low house edge—if you choose a player-friendly game and play it correctly. Here are a few tips to maximize your video poker play.

Play only the best-paying video poker games.

While the golden days of great video poker games are gone, there are still enough high-paying games to make it worthwhile to seek them out. There are still positive games such as 10/7 Double Bonus and full pay Deuces Wild available in certain areas of some casinos. When these games aren’t available, look for games that pay at least 99 percent—games such as 25/16/10 “Not So Ugly Deuces” (99.73 percent), 9/6 Jacks or Better (99.54 percent), or 8/5 Bonus Poker (99.1 percent).

Stay away from games that pay less than 99 percent. Be wary: two seemingly identical games, sitting side-by-side, may not pay the same. Look carefully at the pay tables. Make sure you know what game you are playing as well as its payback. Playing only the high-paying machines will give you the best chances of winning, or making your video poker bankroll last longer.

Learn the playing strategy for one or two of the best games.

In order to maximize wins (or minimize losses), not only must you choose the best games; you must also play those game properly. To do that, learn the playing strategy. Strategies are available in books, software or even online. Pick one or two games and learn the strategy perfectly. Games such as 9/6 Jacks or Better, 8/5 Bonus Poker or Not So Ugly Deuces are good games with a fairly simple playing strategy. These games also have low variance, so your bankroll won’t take as big a hit during a down cycle as it would on a game with multiple high bonus payouts, such as Double Double Bonus, Triple Bonus, and most of the “super” bonus games.

Play only while rested and sharp.

Playing after you become tired—or after having a few too many drinks—can lead you to make mistakes that cost you money. It’s natural to want to continue to play; maybe the next hand will be that elusive royal flush! However, if you become tired, be disciplined. Stop playing. If you find you’re not thinking clearly due to consuming a few drinks, stop. If you catch yourself making more than one mistake every half hour, stop.

Actually, after you catch yourself making your second mistake it may be time to take a break. It makes no sense to work hard to learn the proper strategy, and then hand your hard-earned winnings back to the house by making mistakes. Stay sharp so you can play sharp.

Have an adequate bankroll.

A sufficient bankroll is critical for any casino trip. Even when you only play the best games, play them with perfect playing strategy, and only play while rested and sharp, there is no guarantee that you won’t lose. In any random game, there are fluctuations. You may win more than you lose for a while, and then lose more than you win for a while. Sometimes you lose a lot more than you win, and sometimes you lose more than you win for a very long time. All of these happenings are part of the natural flow of a random game.

Make sure the money you bring is allocated just for gambling. Don’t bring money that is needed for the mortgage payment, or for a heart operation (God forbid!). Also, bring the money with you. Don’t go to the ATM when you run out. Unless you are extremely disciplined, it’s far too easy to lose track of how much you withdraw.

Returning home after a losing trip is not a lot of fun. However, it’s far worse if you return home with an empty back account. Remember, if you can’t afford to lose it, you shouldn’t be risking it in a casino.

Don’t play for comps.

If you’re thinking about how much you have to play to get a free room and free meals, you won’t be paying close enough attention to how much you’re gambling away. You will be focused on how much more you have to play to get the next comp.

Instead, play to have fun. Play within your gambling budget. If the comps come, they come. If not, it’s far better to pay for a meal or room than lose several hundred (or even several thousand) dollars just to get a “free” night and some meals.

Always use your player’s card.

Even if you’re not playing just to get comps, you should get everything to which you are entitled. The only way to do this is to insert your player’s card when you play. While some believe inserting a player’s card changes the outcome of play, there is no truth to that. When you insert your player’s card, your play is tracked for future comps such as food, drink, rooms, free play or even cash. Use your player’s card—it pays.

Have fun!

This is the most important one: Play video poker, first and foremost, for the enjoyment. Of course, playing smart and getting the most bang for your buck is going to allow you to play longer, and have more fun.


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