A couple of weeks ago, I discussed how a blogger lamented how the last good table game invented was blackjack because none of the games invented since gave the player a chance to beat it. I would argue that blackjack is hardly beatable.
It requires an incredible amount of discipline and knowledge of card-counting schemes in order to eke out even the slightest edge. With the continuous shufflers and, regrettably, 6 to 5 payouts on blackjack, even with the most sophisticated counting scheme, beating the game is almost impossible.
There is only one game on the casino floor (barring the occasional game that accidentally makes it to the floor) that is readily beatable. That is video poker.
There are games all over Las Vegas with paybacks of over 100%. If you learn the proper strategy you can earn these paybacks. I will not, however, promise you will become filthy rich off them.
Unlike card-counting schemes that would allow you to bet $5 when the count is against you and perhaps $5,000 or more when it is in your favor, video poker machines essentially have a constant wager and there are no known counts for you to track.
Each hand is completely random and no matter how many you have won or lost in a row, the next one is still random.
Over the years the casinos have caught on to this idea and this is why many are still willing to put machines on their floor with paybacks over 100%. They simply don’t put them on the floor with high denominations.
If you are willing to play video poker 40 hours per week (like a job), are able to play 700 hands per hour, you would play 1,456,000 hands per year (approximately). Played at quarter machine, you would wager the staggering sum of $1.82 million per year. If you can play the entire time on a full-pay Deuces Wild machine paying 100.76%, you’ll earn about $13,800 per year.
This doesn’t account for any taxes, cash back or comps.
Of course, some of you will just suggest playing a higher denomination. Even playing dollars, the annual salary will get to only $55,000 or so. This is certainly not a bad income. Of course, tthis most certainly doesn’t mean you can count on any sort of regular paycheck.
There are going to be weeks you lose and there are going to be weeks you win far more than average. And, as I said earlier – the casinos have caught on to this. According to my research, there are no $1 machines playing full-pay Deuces Wild in the Las Vegas area.
So, the casinos are willing to let the resourceful player make some money, but not enough to really entice large numbers of customers to do them harm.
This is also further proof video poker machines are not slot machines. Casinos would never allow banks of 100 percent-plus slot machines to exist. Slot machines require no strategy. Thus, as long as the slot machine were to be played for 40 hours per week the casino would be paying out the $13,800.
To the casino it doesn’t matter if this is one person, 10, 100 or 1,000 who wind up winning this money.
Video poker requires the player learn the proper strategy to earn this money. So, if 52 people took turns playing for one week and played using Expert Strategy, then the casino would still be paying out the $13,800.
But the casinos know this is highly unlikely.
Despite strategies for virtually every imaginable game being available for 10-20 years, the overwhelming percent of players simply choose to ignore the proper strategy. The reality is that 50% of the players probably know of no real strategy and just muddle along – playing a Deuces Wild game at no better than a 95% payback.
Perhaps another 25% use some rudimentary strategy they learned somewhere and play at 97%. Another 15-20% have made real attempts to learn strategy but haven’t really mastered it and can play at 99%. The final 5-10% have learned the proper strategy and make a significant attempt to play properly.
Perhaps half of this group truly attains a payback of 100.5% or better. The result for the casino is their machine probably pays out at no more than 96.5% – a number they can definitely live with.
However, just as the casino doesn’t care if it is 1 or 1,000 players who win the $13,800, you do not have to be concerned with how any others do. The casino is very happy with a machine that pays back 96.5% and will net them more than $65,000 per year – even if it means one of the players made a few hundred or thousand dollars over the course of the year.
But, if you want to be this player, you have to learn how to play video poker using the proper strategy.
FINDING the EDGE
Poker players who want to stand the test of time need to find an edge. This ability to find and exploit an edge is the main factor in who makes it and who doesn’t. The following story illustrates how you can have both earning power and an edge at the same time. I was heads-up with a player named Mike Harthcock in the last satellite for the World Series of Poker Main Event.
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