Blackjack and video poker are two games on the very short list of casino games where players can have a long-term advantage. Because of how much I have to say on this, I am spreading out theBob 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 information over two separate articles. I'll finish it up next week.
The personality skills of successful blackjack players and successful video poker players are quite similar. Good players in both games are bright, have excellent memories, and can sit and play for hours. The best players are playing a winning game (and KNOW it), although certainly not every session.
Memorizing the strategy for 9/6 Jacks or Better is approximately as easy (as difficult?) as learning basic strategy in blackjack. Memorizing how to play 10-7 Double Bonus Poker is as difficult (as easy?) as all the matrix numbers in a 3-level blackjack count system. In each case, the game that is more difficult is more lucrative. This rule of thumb about easiness doesn't always work. Joker Wild is much more difficult to play than is Deuces Wild, although the returns for the best games are very similar.
In blackjack, the strategy changes as you go through the deck. In video poker this is generally not true. Each hand is independent of the last one. Getting four aces in a video poker hand does not affect your chances of getting them again the following hand.
Video poker is played off the top of a single deck. "Penalty cards" in video poker have similarities to top-of-deck plays made in blackjack. For example, a good blackjack player, at the start of single deck, would hit a 16 against a K if the 16 consisted of a 9 and a 7, but not if it consisted of 3,3,5,5. (This assumes that the surrender option is not available.) In Jacks or Better, with Kh Jd Td 5s 3c a good player plays JT. But with Kh Jd Td 5s 3d, that same player would play KJ. The blackjack player varied his play because there were fewer low cards remaining in the deck. The video poker player varied his play because there were fewer diamonds left in the deck.
Break points for video poker progressives are analogous to matrix numbers in blackjack. That is, you play more aggressively for a royal flush as the progressive increases just as you double more frequently in blackjack as the true count rises.
You can stop and talk to someone while playing video poker without losing your place. Whenever you get back to the game, it will be ready. In blackjack, this distraction could possibly cause you to lose the count. In both games, however, players who run a running commentary while playing tend to make more mistakes than players who are concentrating on the game.
In winning blackjack, the bet size varies with the count. That is, as the player¹s advantage increases, so does the amount of the bet. In video poker, the bet- size is constant at "Max Coins" every time. The only way to increase your bet is to change to a higher-denominated machine.
In blackjack, expert players are watched a lot more closely than they are in video poker. As Stanford Wong points out in his Professional Video Poker, this is because blackjack players can vary their bets a lot more and cheat a lot easier.
Skilled, or lucky, blackjack players are frequently barred from playing. This rarely happens at video poker, even when players consistently win. Why? I think the reason is that the general public thinks that card counting at blackjack is a form of cheating, so a counter being barred is just what he deserves. The general public does not, I believe, differentiate between slot machines and video poker, and they believe that winning is largely a matter of luck, not skill. A casino barring people who are lucky is not considered sporting. Unfortunately, in recent months, barrings of successful video poker players in Las Vegas is becoming more frequent.
The Griffin Detective Agency publishes records of blackjack players who count or cheat --- which are not at all the same thing. Once a player is "in the book," rightly or wrongly, his playing days are limited at many, many casinos. Although Griffin does publish a list of various kinds of slot cheats, it doesn¹t usually list players merely because they hit royal flushes. Therefore, successful players often play unimpeded for years.
The danger of being barred at blackjack is very real. To avoid being barred, many players resort to a variety of disguises and other special moves in order to increase their longevity. So in addition to being good at the mechanics of the game, successful blackjack players need to be competent actors as well. Video poker players, for the most part, do not have to consider these factors, although few intelligent players think it wise to go around bragging about how good they is.
I seem to have taken this "bragging" to a new level, at least in video poker. Although "Bob Dancer" is not the name on my driver's license, my picture is widely published (two different pictures on this website, among other places) and every casino where I play knows me under both names. And I present myself as an expert and invite casino employees and executives to come to my classes. Currently I am welcome to play everywhere. When that changes, I'll let you know.
You can use "cheat sheets" at video poker. We call them "strategy cards". The best ones of these accurately tell you how to play every possible hand --- including the special cases. If you want to study your sheet for ten minutes before you play a particular hand, nobody will come around and tell you to speed things up. At blackjack, you can get "basic strategy" cards, which tell you how to play every hand, but not taking card counting into consideration. At most casinos you may use these cards if you do so quickly. But if you take more than a second or two to consult the card, the pit boss will come by and tell you to put it away.
Using a computer is very useful at both games. The big advantage to a computer is it tells you when you are making a mistake --- which gives you the power to improve. Players who attempt to master either game without using computerized help are bucking very long odds.
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