There was a debate recently over the Internet concerning the accuracy of video poker strategy
cards. Without going into the details of the debate, someone posted the observation that it's reallyBob Dancer is one of the world's foremost video poker experts. He is a regular columnist for Casino Player, Strictly Slots, and the Las Vegas Review-Journa land has written an autobiography and a novel about gambling. He provides advice for tens of thousands of casino enthusiasts looking to play video poker. Bob's website is www.bobdancer.com
just beginner and intermediate players who use strategy cards. "Pros never use them," observed "George." I find this is an overgeneralization..
Although I know dozens of professional players, the only pro I can speak about authoritatively is myself. The games I play frequently (NSU Deuces Wild
, 9/6 Jacks or Better
), and 10/7 Double Bonus to collect free play) I know cold. (Actually, nobody knows NSU completely cold, but I know it far better than most players and still review the oddball hands about once a month.)
But a few years ago, you'd also have to include 9/5 Super Double Bonus and Two Pair Joker Wild to my repertoire, because I played those games a lot then. At the time I knew those games extremely well and didn't carry a strategy card with me. Today those games aren't available for interesting stakes at the casinos where I play. If they came back, I'd need to study them again. And I might carry around a strategy card until I got them down to the professional level again. The same goes for Kings or Better Joker Wild and several other games.
In the past two months found opportunities so I've had to learn two new games. One is 10/6/40 Double Double Bonus, which I spoke about in last week's column, and one is a version of Deuces Bonus that I played for a while. Each game took me a couple of hours until I was comfortable with its idiosyncrasies, but that's not the same as having them memorized. For the first twenty-or-so hours of play in a casino on each game, I definitely carry a strategy card with me. (I only got to play the DDB game about 20 hours total, so I had the card with me for the entire time. I got to play the Deuces Bonus game longer than that, and after a while I no longer carried a card.)
Another game where I carry a strategy card is 8/5 Bonus Progressive. Sam's Town has a $5 game and I play it on 6x point days when it gets high enough. If the progressive gets high enough, I'll play it on days with lesser or no multipliers as well. But it is sometimes months between times I play it so I'm not able to memorize it through regular play. I have created strategies for royals of $24,000, $26,000, $28,000, $30,000, and $32,000. It doesn't move up very quickly, so if it looks like I'll need another strategy for $34,000 or $36,000, I'll create them when needed. These strategies are similar, of course, but each one is a little different. I use these strategy sheets for about a half hour of practice before I leave home, and then have the sheet with me in case I forget a hand. If there were other $5 or higher progressives that I played regularly, I'd likely use a similar methodology. There was a 9/6/239 Jack's progressive at Fiesta Rancho for a long time, so I have strategies for this game, but that game is gone.
My use of strategies is likely much different than most players. Many non-pros are happy if they can play at 98% accuracy. To me that's woefully inadequate. Playing at 99.9% is the minimum acceptable, and I try very hard to get it higher if I can, including all penalty cards and exceptions. Often I spend so much time concentrating on the really close plays that I forget something basic like 'KQ9' AJ. I "know" that usually you hold 'KQ9' if the flush pays 6-for-1 and AKQJ if the flush pays 5-for-1. But that's when the straight flush returns 250. On games where the straight flush returns 400 or 500, 'KQ9' might still be the correct play even when the flush returns 5-for-1.
My personal belief is that strategy cards are of more use during study time than they are at the casino. When you're practicing on a computer with a strategy card at hand, there isn't really any pressure to play promptly. If you're in a casino, pulling out a card and studying it may well take 30 seconds --- causing you to miss five hands if you're a 600-hands-per-hour player. Assuming you're playing a game where you have the advantage (why would any intelligent player be playing otherwise?), missing out on five hands costs you money. If the play is a close one, it costs more in the casino to pull out the card and use it than merely guessing at the time. This is true if you consider looking at the card to be a one-time isolated event. If you acknowledge that it's helping you to memorize this hand for all the future times it comes up, spending 30 seconds looking up the proper play can be cost effective.
Using the strategy card during study time, however, doesn't have this drawback. Spending 30 seconds at home on a hand seems costless. Spending that same 30 seconds in a casino is costing you "several potentially profitable hands." I believe this is a false distinction. Assuming it takes you two hours (or twenty or fifty or . . .) of study to finally master a game, I don't believe it much matters where you spend them --- at home or at the casino.
Being too busy to check out a hand in the casino is actually a rationalization. It could be you don't enjoy looking up close hands, or you aren't good at it, or you're too lazy to do it. Calling it "too expensive" is a reason to justify not getting better at the game than you currently are.
It takes a lot of experience to be able to go between different games seamlessly. Relatively few players can play Deuces Wild in the morning and Double Bonus in the afternoon and play them both well. Players who find they go back and forth between games should strongly consider having strategies with them. It is easy to go into "brain freeze" (even young people can have senior moments!) at these moments. A strategy card in your pocket is a good safety net. If you always play the same game, you're less likely to have this problem.