Editor's Note: Jean Scott has recently released a top-notch book on video poker called Frugal Video Poker. ReadyBetGo has been given the opportunity to provide our visitors with excerptsJean Scott is known as the "Queen of Comps" and encourages smarter casino gambling. She appears on network and cable TV, especially on the Travel Channel. Her down-to-earth practical suggestions will save you both time and money in your quest to make your trip to the casino more fun and more profitable. Jean's website is www.queenofcomps.com from the book. Enjoy!
Tournaments can be great opportunities to add value to your casino play. These can be offered in a variety of games, including video poker, and in many formats. Some are short-term events but often many casinos hold 2- or 3- day tournaments that may include a free room and extras like meals, parties, and gifts. These can be invitational events that the casinos give as a comp to their best customers, or you pay an entry fee, which might range from about $200 to $1000, with a corresponding range of total prize packages.
To figure out whether a specific tournament is a good choice for you, you must figure out the “equity,” that is, what it is worth to you. If you know how much money is in the total prize pool and how many people are in the tournament, it is easy to figure the basic cash equity. Let’s say the tournament is limited to 200 participants and the casino is giving out $40,000 in prizes. Divide $40,000 by 200 and you will see that the cash equity is $200 per person. If you have to pay an entry fee of $100, then your net equity is $100. If the entry fee is $300, you are “in the hole” $100 before you start, so there is negative equity.
However, you might want to add the value of tangible benefits that are provided to the participants, i.e., the free room, food, and/or gifts. And some people would even count intangible benefits: the party atmosphere, the thrill of competing for big-money prizes, the camaraderie. So “value” becomes a personal thing
There are two basic types of video poker tournaments – one in which speed is a factor and one in which it is not. If you are given a specific time limit with no cap on the number of hands/credits you can play, obviously the faster you play the more hands you can get in - with more chances to rack up credits. If you are a slow player, you will definitely be at a disadvantage because there are always some speed-demons!
The second kind of video poker tournament format is more common: everyone is given the same number of credits to start and a time limit in which to play those credits. Usually, most players can finish within the time limit without undue rushing.
No matter which kind of format you are playing in, video poker tournaments require special skills. But this does not mean that you use the same strategy skills you use during your regular video poker play. These strategies must be modified in major ways to be successful. However, there are no special strategy charts to help you in this area because there are so many variables, depending on the pay table used, the format for advancing to the next rounds, how you do in the first part of your session, how many people are in the tournament, etc.
It's usually best to start out with the regular video poker basic strategy if it is a game you already know – although you wouldn’t worry about taking time to figure out complex penalty-card situations, particularly if it’s a speed tournament. If it is a game you don’t know, you just have to look at the schedule and guess at your holds, with an emphasis on trying to hit the bigger payoffs.
Then at some point, unless you get lucky and hit a big hand early, it is necessary to play much more aggressively for the big-pay hands (quads, aces, royals). You'll dramatically increase this aggressiveness as you near the end if you are falling behind and have no chance of advancing/winning unless you hit a big score. However, if you hit a big score early, you might want to ride out the rest of the time, reverting to a more basic strategy.
The experienced player who knows when and how to change his strategy always has a long-term edge on the inexperienced player. However, in video poker tournaments, as in all short-term gambling endeavors, luck is a bigger factor than skill.
The Frugal Video Poker software has a tournament mode that will gives you practice in making rapid decisions. By combining a few wise strategy changes with quick play, you can give yourself an edge in video poker tournaments. It takes experience to get the hang of them but practicing with computer software will speed up your move into the skilled ranks and cashing in more tournaments.
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