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by Dan Paymar

Dan Paymar is a video poker expert with a background in computer programming and engineering. Paymar moved to Las Vegas in 1988 and started playing video poker on a regular basis. He developed a directory of the best video poker games and this lead to his 1992 book "Video Poker- Precision Play," which went through 10 editions. His second book is the best-selling "Video Poker-Optimum Play." For 14 years, he edited and published the Video Poker Times Newsletter. His latest product is Optimum Video Poker, an analysis and training program for Macintosh, Windows, and Linux platforms.

Imagine a video poker trainer that actually teaches correct play according to the strategy chart of your choice. Well, you no longer have to imagine it. Optimum Video Poker TM version 3 (OpVP TM3) features an advanced training system never before offered to video poker players. But just how did such a trainer come to be? Here's the story.

I started writing about video poker strategies in 1992, but there was no good analysis program available at the time so I started working on such a program for my own use. The initial work was on a Mac, using a programming language called FutureBasic. That was fine for my own use, but it would build an application only for the Classic Mac platform.

For you techies, I found out about a cross-platform IDE (Integrated Development Environment) called REALbasic (RB). It was object oriented, which made it much easier to create a nice user interface, and it would build applications for Classic Mac, OS X, and Windows from the same source code. I started using RB version 3 "Professional," but it turned out to be far from a professional development system. Finally, RB 4.5 was released, and I was able to create my first release of Optimum Video Poker in October 2004, and version 2 in July 2007, but RB 4.5 was too limited for the latest operating systems.

About that time, I met a professional video poker player and BJI contributing writer, Frank Kneeland, and little did I know how the course of the development would be affected by the fortuitous meeting. The first thing Frank did was introduce me to the Linux operating system and help me upgrade my REALbasic to a current version. However, more importantly, Frank had been manager of the biggest video poker slot team ever in Las Vegas in the 90's, and Frank and his mother had developed highly effective techniques for training prospective team players.

But how could those specialized techniques be used in a computer program? After much discussion, we came up with the concept of displaying a strategy chart next to the game window and checking the player's choice of held cards against the chart. For each play, the program would scan down the chart to find the first chart entry describing a hold that was available in the dealt hand. Then, when the player selected the cards to hold and pressed the Draw button, it would check whether those cards had been held. If so, then play would continue as on a casino video poker machine.

If the player had not made the correct hold, however, it would continue down the chart to find the hand type that had been held. It would beep and highlight the best play in green and the player's hold in red; or, if the player's hold were not found in the chart, it would highlight "Not a valid hold" at the bottom of the chart. The player could then change his hold if desired and press Draw again to actually make the play, but the History would still tally the original error. Other features were added, such as the strategy generator, strategy chart evaluator, and Cost of a Royal calculation. The software was released as a major upgrade to version 3.0 in September 2010. The price was increased to reflect the big additions, but a discount was offered for users of version 2 to upgrade.

However, we didn't stop there. Professional players mostly go after progressive royal games, so they need to know just how high the meter must be to make the play attractive. It's easy to calculate what the meter must be for 100% payback if the strategy is not changed, but it turns out that if the strategy is adjusted for that royal payoff then the break-even point is reduced. If that calculation is repeated several times, we find out the true minimum meter value for break-even. Even more fortuitous, however, it turns out that a strategy generated for that break-even royal gives the lowest Cost of a Royal, and it was such a strategy that was used by the slot teams, regardless of the actual meter value.

Therefore, we added a feature to automatically perform the iteration to find the break-even royal, and Optimum Video Poker version 3.1 was released in January 2011, and sent to all registered users of 3.0 as a free update. There will be more free updates to version 3 as time goes on, and if we can come up with another major improvement there will eventually be a version 4 upgrade.

Although the game can still be played just for fun, OpVP is designed to provide all the tools you need to improve your skills and protect your bankroll. Many of these tools are not currently available on any other such program. For example, OpVP 3.1 can do the following on your home computer:

Video Poker Trainer and Analyser:

• Teach correct play per your preferred strategy chart

• Present strategy charts in your favorite format

• An error is indicated by highlighting both the best play and your play in the chart

• Charts are provided for most popular games

• Generate a new, highly accurate strategy

• Edit a strategy chart, or enter your own

• Calculate the precise payback of any strategy chart

• Include penalty considerations as desired

• A chart can be printed page size or card size

• A chart can be exported for use in a spreadsheet

• Shows the actual cost of a playing error

• Shows the long-term cost of repeating the error

• Calculate break-even meter for a progressive royal

• Generate a strategy for minimum cost of a royal

• Fastest game analysis available

• Large, clean card images for easy play

• Widest variety of bankroll calculations

• Easy hand analysis and penalty card examination

• Easy to enter a hand or to change just one card

• Play from keyboard, mouse, or combination of both

• Keyboard shortcuts for almost all functions

Bankroll considerations:

• Variance and Standard Deviation

• Standard Deviation curves (plus and minus 1, 2 and 3 sd)

• Attractiveness Index for quick game and casino comparison

• Risk of Ruin using the famous jazbo/Sorokin formula

• Risk of Ruin before a royal flush

• Cost of a Royal (for progressive jackpot evaluation)

• Break-even royal analysis (for minimum cost of a royal)

• Bankroll required to go after a progressive

• Poisson Distribution calculates royal flush probabilities

• Probability of achieving a game's Expected Return

• All calculated directly from precision game analysis data

• Do calculations in betting units or in dollars and cents

• Number of hands required to achieve expected return

• Evaluate slot club and promotion values

• Include slot club value in many calculations

The computer system requirements for OpVP 3.1 are:

• Macintosh: Any PPC Mac running OS X 10.2 through 10.6, or any Intel Mac running OS X 10.4 or later, including Lion

• Windows: Any Pentium I or later (or equivalent) running Windows 2000, XP, Vista, Vista 64, Windows 7

• Linux: Most Linux systems

Also, OpVP is the only video poker analysis and trainer program being marketed directly by its principal developer (me). I am also a regular player, so you know that it's designed to be easy to use and to provide the features needed by all players -- beginners, recreational players, skilled advantage players, and professionals. In addition, I provide the following support:

• Detailed User Manual .pdf document on the CD

• Your questions answered by me by e-mail

• All suggestions for improvement appreciated

• Free updates are sent by e-mail to registered users

• Updates are also available on CD for only $5.00

• Major upgrades are offered at discount prices

Editor’s Note: This is a terrific video poker training program and the only one that I know of that works on a Mac (as well as Windows). We have added the OpVP TM3 software in both Windows and Mac platforms to our BJI catalog. You can purchase the programs at a discount in our BJI online store. Click here for more details.

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