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Eliminate these common errors from your play

By Henry Tamburin


Below is a list of ten mistakes most frequently made by video poker players. The more of these mistakes you make, the more money you will lose. Make it a goal to eliminate these mistakes from your play. You’ll be glad you did.

1.       Not Using a Player’s Card

Joining a casino’s players club is free. Remembering to insert your card into the reader before you begin to play is effortless. The casino will give you a rebate based on your play (i.e., cash back or free play)but only if you use your players card. In addition, they will send you monthly mailers that usually contain bounce-back cash or free play, free meals, free rooms, and other perks. Smart video poker players always (I do mean always) take advantage of the perks from the players club to boost their over-all return on a good video poker game to near, or slightly over, a 100 percent return

2.       Not Examining the Pay Table

Not doing this results in playing the wrong game. Each video poker game usually has a different pay table. It’s important to know which pay table has the highest return (for perfect play). The information you need to determine the theoretical return for a game is staring at you on the face of the machine (i.e., the pay table).  If you want to play Jacks or Better, you should know that a pay table that pays nine coins for a full house(per coin played) and six coins for a flush has a higher theoretical return than a Jacks or Better game that pays only eight and five coins respectively for the full house and flush. In fact, you’ll often find different pay tables for the same game in a casino and the casino bosses aren’t going to take you by the hand and show you the machines with the better pay tables. That’s your responsibility to figure out.  At the minimum, you should use the data-base on to determine what the highest return video poker games are at your favorite casino and then play only those games, with correct playing strategy.

3.       Using Incorrect Playing Strategies

For many hands dealt to players, which cards to hold is a no brainer. But there other hands where the correct hold is not so obvious, and guessing and ending up making the wrong hold can be a costly mistake. Where many players err is they use the same playing strategy regardless of the game they are playing. That’s a big mistake. With few exceptions, every video poker game has an optimum playing strategy associated with it (depending on the pay table). So think twice about switching games to “change your luck,” because unless you know the correct playing strategy for the new game, you will do more harm than good.

4.       Not Practicing the Strategy

The easiest way to master a playing strategy is to practice at home on your computer using a video poker strategy trainer. You can play any number of video poker games with them.  As you play, the software will alert you when you make a playing mistake and then show you the correct play. The software will also keep track of your playing ac-curacy. You shouldn’t even think of playing video poker in a casino until you can confidently play with over 95 percent accuracy (ideally 99 percent, which is not difficult to achieve using the software). (The two video poker software trainers that I recommend are Optimum Video Poker and Video Poker for Winners.)

5.       Playing High Variance Games

Variance is a fancy mathematical term that describes the swings in your bankroll that occur when you play. Most players unknowingly play video poker games with a high variance, which results in a high risk of going broke because they don’t have enough bankroll to play these games. Until you build up your bankroll, I strongly suggest you play low variance games (like Jacks or Better or Bonus Poker) rather than the higher variance games (like many of the bonus games that pay more for certain four-of-a-kind hands).

6.       Not Concentrating When You Play

Most video poker players play quickly—usually 500-700 hands per hour—and they don’t always concentrate on every one (because of talking to another player or eyeing the attractive cocktail servers.). By not staying focused on every hand to determine what are the best hold options, players often misplay their hands. Drinking too many of the “free” alcoholic beverages when you play can also impair your concentration.  So watch the drinks!

7.       Not Playing Maximum Coins

For most recreational players who do not have the edge when they play, betting less than max coins is a mistake. You always get the maximum return from any video poker game when you bet the maximum number of coins (usually five coins) to take advantage of the bonus pay out for a royal flush. (See my detailed article on this topic in the January 2012 issue of Strictly Slots.)

8.       Not Having a Strategy Card

Have you ever seen a player playing video poker with a strategy card at his fingertip?  Neither have I—and why is that? Why would anyone risk making a costly playing mistake when they could have the correct answer right in front of them at all times? Investing in a durable, easy-to-carry, casino-legal, and inexpensive strategy card is a no brainer if you want to eliminate costly playing mistakes.

9.       Not Considering Progressive Games

I’m not saying it’s a mistake if you don’t play a progressive game. Rather, I often see players playing a non-progressive game when nearby is the same game offered with a progressive royal flush jackpot. If you are not sure if your local casinos offer a particular game as a progressive, use the search function on and click on progressive on the “Find Best Video Poker Games” page. (Of course, a big mistake is to play a progressive with less than max coins wagered. When you play a progressive game, always wager max coins.)

10.   Playing a Machine with “Sticky” Buttons

Don’t laugh at this one because I experience “sticky buttons” most of the time I play. If one of the hold buttons on your machine doesn’t work correctly (like you have to bang on it several times before the card will “hold”), stop playing, hit the service button, and wait for a technician to fix the button (or just cash out and play on another machine). If you continue to play with a “sticky” button, I guarantee that you will make mistakes because the card you thought you held when you hit the hold button will be replaced by a new card, resulting in costly mistakes

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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