VIDEO POKER – AN INTRODUCTION

January 30th, 2008

General Gaming
VIDEO POKER – AN INTRODUCTION
By Charles Jay

In the poker game you may be familiar with, you find yourself sitting at a table, either in a physical setting or a virtual environment, and competing against the other players. You make decisions most of the time according to what the other players do, what you anticipate they’re going to do, or what they might have in their hand.

This brand of poker has a psychological element to it. While it is true that the successful player must have a strong mathematical command at his/her disposal to calculate the odds involved in the play of poker hands, the player’s instinct really has to take over, because the goal is not necessarily to compile the best hand at the table, but to beat the people around you, by whatever means is available. Indeed, there is very little you can do to improve your hand. In Texas Hold’em, for example, you get two hole cards, and then share three of the cards that are in the “flop” because they are community cards. What players do from there is up to them.

The house has no financial interest in this game other than to take a percentage, or rake, out of the pot. Of course the house is really not at any risk here, and so this is where the income is derived.

The player, then, is not competing one-on-one against the house. And so it follows that player’s skill level, relative to the skill level of the other players, is the major determinant of success or failure.

This makes the so-called “regular” poker game a different paradigm than most gambling games that are played online.

Video poker is not to be confused with that kind of game. It is a whole different animal, in fact. When you play at a video poker terminal, you are competing against the house and the house only; not against other opponents. So instead of the odds being with you or against you on a changing basis, this creates a set of static odds that you will have to overcome on any given hand. The payouts for various winning hands laid out by the house is obviously relative to the probability of those hands coming out.

You might be able to win a pot with a pair of fives at the poker table by bluffing, provided you can sell it to the other players. That’s obviously not going to work in video poker. Conversely, if you’ve got three of a kind in video poker, you are going to be a winner, according to the pay table paid out by the casino and nothing else. It’s not a matter of getting beaten by someone else holding four of a kind, as you would at a traditional poker table.

Also – and maybe this comes as a surprise to some people – the video poker player can actually do more to improve his or her hand than the player in a Texas Hold’em game can, because while players are stuck with the cards they’re dealt in Hold’em, the video poker player can change the cards. This is an important consideration, since it gives the player a greater degree of control and is a key factor in the implementation of strategy.

There is actually not a whole lot of difference between the video poker game you’ll find in a land-based casino and what you’ll find online, because both are based on a computer program. If there’s any subtle difference, it’s that one of them (that which you’d find at the brick and mortar establishment) utilizes a touch screen, while the game you will play via your computer is of the point-and-click variety. But the outcomes in both are based on an RNG (Random Number Generator), and both are games where you are basically in control of your own decisions and the speed at which the game is played.

There are a number of different decisions you can make in the game, some of which are represented by buttons you will see on the interface:

BET ONE — This will determine the amount of money you will bet on any particular round of play. If you click it once, you will be betting one unit. Every subsequent time you click, it will add one more unit to your bet.

BET MAX — This is what you press when you want to bet the maximum number of units allowable for a game.

DEAL — You will click this button to initiate the deal, at which point you will receive five cards, displayed right in front of you, from left to right, on the interface. You will not be able to activate the “deal” until you have made your bet.

HOLD — After you have been dealt your initial five-card hand you are going to be making your decision as to whether to hold certain cards and discard others. If, for example, you have been dealt a pair of Jacks, while none of the other three cards did you any good, you will probably want to discard the other three. What you will do here is not designate the cards you want to get rid of, but rather, select the cards you want to keep, or “hold.” You click on a “Hold” button below the card to do this. Just click below the cards you want to keep – in this case the Queens – this tells the software that you want to hold those cards. The others will then be eliminated. At this point you move on to the “draw.”

DRAW — When you click this button, you are going to “draw” cards, meaning you will be getting new cards to replace the ones you discarded. The resultant hand will either be a winner or a loser. The degree to which you win on a hand will depend on what the payout chart indicates, as well as how much you bet.

Also, although this is not a “button,” per se, there is also a………

PAY TABLE — There is a “pay table” available on the machine or the interface that will tell what the payout is for the various winning hands you can get. all players are well-advised to examine the pay tables at the game they intend. No one should ever play video poker with the intention of making money and not have some sort of strategy laid out – that’s something we will get into eventually – but even the casual player should always know how much he or she is supposed to be paid.

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BAD BEATS

January 23rd, 2008

General Gaming
BAD BEATS
By Charles Jay

Some years ago, there was a basketball bettor I knew who had made a wager on a Sunday televised game, taking the home team and giving up (laying) six points. The home club was ahead by five points when one of its players was fouled in the act of shooting, literally at the final buzzer. The road team was in the “penalty” situation, which meant that the opponent was going to have extra foul shots. Thus, and as it was in those days in the NBA, the player who was fouled had three chances to make two foul shots.

It was actually a pretty bizarre scene. Since time had run out, and the winner had been decided, the player was all alone on the court, with everyone else having departed for the locker room.

Nonetheless, my friend was feeling pretty good at that point, because the player going to the free throw line was shooting close to 90%. He needed to make one of the three shots to force a “push” (or tie) and if he hit two shots in his three chances, my friend would win the game. Well, by now, you must know what happened.

The guy missed all three free throws.

That is the perfect illustration of what we call a BAD BEAT.

I guess the most simple definition of a “bad beat” is one that happens to YOU. But the more clinical definition is that it is a situation where you have a very high expectation of winning, and something comes out of nowhere to take that win away from you. It sometimes happens in dramatic fashion. And you are left feeling helpless.

Maybe some of this has happened to you several times. If it has, I feel your pain. And how’s THIS for pain – you’re at the Hold’em table, with a pair of aces in the hole. You FLOP an ace, so you figure you’re in excellent shape. Somebody else at the table has drawn a two and a four. A five comes out on the flop alongside your ace, then it’s the three and the six on the river and Fifth Street respectively, and all of a sudden you’re losing to the straight.

There goes your money.

It can get worse after that.

Suffering a “bad beat” can have devastating residual effects. You know that there is no way in the world you should have lost, for one thing. So you are angry beyond measure. You feel as if you are at the mercy of the gambling gods, who are undoubtedly against you. To top it off, if it’s at a poker table, for example, the player who beat you is probably ecstatic, and showing it. That would piss anybody off.

It’s like having the air sucked out of you, and beyond that, it represents a significant swing in your bankroll. If you had $200 invested in a pot, for example, and there is five times that in the middle, you have a negative swing of $1200. There is no underestimating the potential psychological effects of something like this. Experiencing a bad beat can rattle you to an extent that you are still thinking about it many hands, or many hours, down the road. That invariably affects your play.

You’re not a freak. It’s human nature. So what can you do about it, to prevent the after-effects from happening in the future?

Well, one of the things you can do is to RATIONALIZE what has just happened to you. You know you didn’t get beat because you weren’t good enough, or because you did something wrong, but because you were beaten by horrible, awful luck. It is very important that you take the pressure off yourself this way.

INTELLECTUALIZE your situation. In games like blackjack, poker, even sports betting, where you have the chance to overcome house odds with skill, you must understand and believe that your skill can win out in the long run. An example – often the best player at the poker table can win out over the others over the course of time. Are you confident you’re the best? Then don’t worry about bad beats in the long run.

If you are a Basic Strategy blackjack player or a card counter – in other words, if you are very skilled – you know that things operate as a long-term proposition and that things work themselves out in the direction of the skill player over the long haul.

UNDERSTAND the pattern of events. You are going to win by way of someone else’s bad beat as much as you’ll lose by your own. No, the forces aren’t against you. Maybe it will even have the effect where in future pots, those other players will “give” you more money when they think they have a winning hand, but don’t.

If all else fails, maybe a good idea would be to TAKE A BREAK and get your head together while you take stock of the above methods for dealing with bad beats.

Then go back out there and go get ’em.

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WHY DO YOU PLAY DIFFERENTLY WHEN THE DEALER HAS A TWO SHOWING?

January 16th, 2008

Blackjack
WHY DO YOU PLAY DIFFERENTLY WHEN THE DEALER HAS A TWO SHOWING?
By Charles Jay

When the dealer has a 5 or 6 showing, the player has, basically, a very easy decision to make. If, let’s say, you’re the player, and you’ve got a bad hand, you stand, banking on the hope that the dealer will bust. If you’ve got a good hand, depending on the nature of the hand, you will stand (if you are pat), double, or split. The 5 and 6 are the worst upcards the dealer can have, and if the opportunity presents itself, you have to get as much money on the table as possible to take advantage of your position.

But how do you approach the situation if the dealer has a two showing? Standard rules of the Basic Strategy (i.e., the set of playing rules that outline what to do in every player vs. dealer situation) dictate that there are two sides to the hitting/standing decision chart – the “low” cards (2 through 6) and the “high” cards (7 through Ace). An imaginary line is drawn between these two groups; for example, with those hands commonly known as “stiff” hands (12 through 16) you would usually hit against the high cards, and stand against the low cards. There is also no soft doubling against the high upcards.

There is one notable exception, however, and that is when the dealer is holding a two on top. The two is indeed in the “low card” group, but because it is the lowest of the low, it is the hardest to play against. A dealer with a five showing will bust 43% of the time, and with a six it will happen only 42% of the time. When a dealer has a two as his upcard, he will bust only 35% of his hands. Now the difference may not seem like a lot, but it really is when taken in this context – when we conceive theory in the game we speak in terms of how much each strategy decision will work out in the LONG run, since, of course, anything can happen in the SHORT run. Looking at it this way, the seven or eight less breaks per hundred hands add up big time over the course of a great many hands. It is a plain fact (and a pain fact too, as we allow for the validity of that typo) that the dealer with a two on top will usually have to draw two ten-value cards to bust out; anything less and the chances are considerable that his hand will be pat.

The strongest dealer upcards, in order, are the Ace, ten-value cards, nine, eight, and seven. Next in line is the two, and it is in fact such a respected and feared upcard that many count systems do not even include the two as a low card for the purposes of determining the plus-minus value of cards, preferring to leave it neutral instead, along with the 7,8, and often times, the 9 (“neutral” meaning, of course, that it is of equal value to both player and dealer).

To deal with the relative strength of the two, some subtle exceptions in the Basic Strategy are, of course, in order. For instance, when presented with a 12 against the dealer’s two, the player will always take one hit. This play is also appropriate when the player has a three, by the way. Remember to take ONLY ONE HIT in this situation, though. Any denomination, even the lowest value (an Ace) would add up to at least 13, and, when this three-card is plugged into the Basic Strategy, the correct move is to stand against stiff upcards.

Also, the player’s nine is doubled on the 3 through 6 upcards, but not against the two, however, because the nine is simply not a strong enough hand to make it mathematically feasible. And please – never, EVER double any soft hand against the dealer’s two. Let a signal go off in your head when this situation arises.

Practice and learn how to deal with a dealer’s upcard of two. It may be a small card, but can figure BIG in some important decisions if not played correctly.

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New Payment Method

January 4th, 2008

eWalletXpress is now available!

eWalletXpress is an online money transfer service that provides a fast and secure method of transferring cash to your Casino account. Simply deposit your money using a variety of convenient funding methods such as your checking account or even your phone line via 900pay and then make your deposit into your casino account!

For more information please contact our support agents at support@superiorcasino.com.

Best regards,

Matt Pearce
Casino Manager

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