It is not uncommon to hear of a traditional poker player sampling video poker games with confidence—only to be confounded by them. While video poker does take some essential points from classic poker, after all, there are a lot of differences between the two. It is telling, for instance, that when most gambling game enthusiasts try to explain video poker to a greenhorn, they most likely refer to slot games instead of “real” poker.
This is because video poker games really are very like slot games. However, most casino game experts actually peg them as “better than slots”. This is because the house edge—the casino’s average profit on wagers made on games—is typically dramatically lower in video poker games than in slots.
With the mean house edge for video poker games sitting at a measly 3%, you know that you typically get about 97% of your bets back on these machines. Keep in mind that this is just the average for these games, by the way. A lot of them actually have much lower house edges and thus even better odds for the player. Some even peg the house edge at under 1%! This means the amount of money you stand to regain from your bets is over 99% of the sum, on average. Those are very attractive rates for the smart gambler.
This brings us to what is perhaps the first difference between regular poker and video poker. Simply put, your odds are generally better in video poker games than in real-life poker matches. This is because how well you do at the latter depends on far more factors than with the former. With video poker games, you do still need to have a strategic mind, yes, but do not really need some of the other things you would in regular poker to have a good showing.
- The Differences Between Video Poker Games and Real-life Poker
As we just noted, video poker games do not share the many requirements for winning that regular ones have—and one of those requirements is notable enough to merit elucidation here. Specifically, it is a social skill.
In a regular poker game, social abilities play a big part in the winning player’s toolbox. They help him formulate crucial strategic decisions, evaluate his chances of winning, and more. Without social skills, you cannot appreciate your opponents’ tells, you cannot decide when to bluff, and you cannot perform calls or raises with the sort of efficiency that defines a winning poker player.
Without social skills in a regular poker game, in short, you are playing a blind man’s guessing game.
But these skills, which are so very important to a real-life poker player, become irrelevant in video poker games. There is no opponent to read, after all, and no way to bluff a machine. In the same way, there is no point in calling or raising in a video poker game. You need opponents for moves like this to be relevant.
The lack of an opponent tells you another way that playing video poker games differs from playing real-life poker. Basically, you know that you cannot lose to another player—at least, generally speaking. As long as you get a hand that counts in the video poker game’s paytable, you win something from the game.
Without another player, there is no need to factor in the chances of someone else having a better hand than yours. There is no need to second-guess the worth of your hand (which is always relative in a traditional poker game, as in you might have a straight flush but it would still be worth nothing if someone in the game has a royal flush in hand). You get a hand that is listed in the paytable and you get a payout based on that table’s prescriptions. Simple and straightforward.
In fact, the paytable represents yet another difference between video poker games and traditional poker games. Even if you do end up holding the winning hand in traditional poker, the money it wins you varies. It depends on how the game has been played up to that point, how many raises were made, how many people were playing, how big the pot has gotten, etc. With video poker games, you have a fixed set of payout possibilities that you can check at a glance if you get a hand (every hand on a paytable is a winning one, as we mentioned, so there is no need to say “the winning hand” here).
There is no pot in a video poker game. There are progressive prize varieties to be found every now and then, yes, but in the main, you do not get a pot. What you do get is a payout equivalent that is calculated based on the number of coins you bet and the hand you drew.
In a typical Jacks or Better video poker game, for example, you get your wager back if your hand is Jacks or better. So if you wager a coin and you get Jacks, you get a payout of 1 coin. If you wager 2 coins, you get a payout of 2 coins. That is 3 coins for a 3-coin wager, 4 coins for a 4-coin wager, and 5 coins for a 5-coin wager—you break even.
If you move up in the hand hierarchy, though, and get 2 pairs, you get your wager doubled. So if you wager a coin and get a 2-pair hand, you get 2 coins as a payout. If you wager 5 coins instead with the same hand, you get 10 coins as the payout.
Basically, you always know what your hand “wins” on video poker games. In a real-life poker game, it is usually anybody’s guess how much the final pot will be.
- So What Do These Differences Mean?
The differences between the two games are far from meaning that traditional poker players should steer clear of the video poker machines. It just means that they need to be aware that what they are about to try is not a straight-up twin of the game they already know and love. It shares some components with it—the use of hand hierarchies, for example—but it has its differences.
It need not be difficult for real life poker players to get into video poker. In fact, some people will tell you that the latter is actually easier, given that the strategies for it are easier to figure out and require no factoring-in of unique opponents. As long as the poker player takes video poker games on their own merits, he should be able to come out with a satisfying experience for his first time.