VIDEO POKER HISTORY AND BASICS

Video poker is a relatively new addition to the casino gambling product mix but since it’s introduction in the late 1970’s it has exploded in popularity. Although traditional slot type games have experienced a bit of a renaissance in recent years at one point during the late 20th century it was estimated that video poker machines had taken a 70% share of the casino floor. Players like them because they offer a greater level of strategy and control than traditional slot machines. Casinos like them because few people understand how to play them properly and they require little overhead and labor to operate.

In this section, we’ll teach you everything you need to know to become a successful video poker player. This will include an introduction to video poker past, present and future along with an explanation of the myriad different rule sets available. We’ll then discuss how to select a ‘player friendly’ video poker game and the strategy you’ll need to play it profitably.

HISTORY OF VIDEO POKER

Until the mid-1970’s, there were two kinds of casino games: table games and slot machines. The slot machines found on casino floors were the traditional reel type slots with little to differentiate them other than theming and aesthetics. The game play was pretty much the same from one machine to another and they definitely had one clearly common characteristic—once the player put in his coins there was nothing he could do to influence the outcome.

There were myths and ‘old wives tales’ about pulling the handle a certain way, using ‘hot’ coins or finding machines with the reels in a certain position (usually showing a cherry in one column or another). None of these ‘strategies’ had even a minimal amount of validity. The outcome of the reels have been determined by random number generation since the late 19th century—first built into the reels themselves, then electromagnetic and now computer controlled.

The advent of relatively inexpensive, television like monitors that could be paired with a solid state central processing unit changed things forever in a number of industries including casino gambling. The growth began in the mid 1970’s about the same time that home computers and video games became viable. About the time that you saw video games starting to replace pinball at the local arcade players in Nevada casinos were starting to see video based slot machines—including video poker—take over the gaming floor.

Video poker began its ‘boom years’ in 1979 when a company called SIRCOMA (derived from the name ‘Si Redd’s Coin Machines’) introduced ‘Draw Poker’. The company later rebranded to International Gaming Technology (IGT) and remains a major player in the modern gaming industry. ‘Draw Poker’ became the prototype for every video poker game that has been released since.

Since then, the popularity of video poker has continued to grow both at land based casinos and online. In addition to the original ‘Jacks or Better’ draw poker variation there are now countless different rule variations. The addition of ‘wild cards’ have been among the most popular including ‘Deuces Wild’ and ‘Jokers Wild’. Later in this section we’ll cover the major rule variations in detail including strategy unique to each one.

ONLINE VS. LAND BASED VIDEO POKER

As far as video poker variations and strategy is concerned there’s no difference between playing the game online and playing at a land based casino. In fact, depending on where you live you might have an easier time finding a ‘player friendly’ rule set and pay table online than at nearby land based casinos. Players in the major gambling destinations in Nevada still have it pretty good, however, and while the overall quality of casino play in the Silver State is in decline it remains the mecca for video poker, at least in North America. That being said, the same companies that design the software for the machines found in Nevada casinos also provide technology consulting to online gambling sites. For the most part, the gameplay, strategy and experience of video poker online is indistinguishably from land based play.

THE BASICS OF VIDEO POKER

First things first–‘video poker’ is something of a misnomer. For one thing, it shouldn’t be confused with the many online poker sites that have appeared in the past couple of decades. These sites actually facilitate online poker play and helped the popularity of Texas Hold’em explode worldwide. We’ll talk about this type of poker in a different section.

The game that has become known as ‘video poker’ doesn’t offer the same type of competitive component as does the online poker rooms described above. It’s basically a slot machine that uses the familiar trappings of the game instead of cherries, watermelons, 7’s and ‘bars’. That’s one of the big reasons for it’s popularity—the symbols, hands and rankings are all intuitively familiar to most people. Pretty much everyone knows that a flush beats a three of a kind while the relative strength of ‘three watermelons’ to ‘three bananas’ is anyone’s guess.

That being said, once you get past the cards and hands it’s basically a slot machine. Players are dealt hands based on a random number generator and although they have control over which cards they keep and discard the new cards drawn are also just randomly generated. The common convention of playing cards—52 cards in the deck, four suits, etc.–make it easier for most people to understand the odds and payouts of hands and the probability of drawing certain cards. For that reason, it’s easier to walk up and play a new video poker machine more effectively than it is a new slot machine—there are some basic parameters understood by everyone.