VIDEO POKER – AN INTRODUCTION

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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