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by Frank Kneeland

Frank Kneeland was the manager of the largest progressive video poker team in Las Vegas, and has authored a book about his adventures entitled, "The Secret World of Video Poker Progressives". You can get the book as well as some extra info about Kneeland on his website In addition, there you'll find the show archive for his radio show on pro-gambling, "Gambling with an Edge" that he co-hosted with Bob Dancer for six months.

"I recently survived almost certain death on Mt. Everest from a dreadful storm that claimed several lives, by not trying to climb it and staying home. I have great respect for people that survive unavoidable adversity. I have less respect for people that survive things that didn't need surviving. I'm just saying. ~FK 2012

Welcome to part III of my article series on the origin and evolution of video poker trainer software. We left off last month with a cliffhanger as to what the latest quantum leap in VP trainer software is. I set up the fact that to understand the solution it offers, one must first understand the problem it addresses. I'll start out with a far from unique story.

Practice Makes Permanent (Not Perfect)

Several years ago, I was sitting on a bank of 5/9 deuces playing next to my partner and got a light tap on my right shoulder. He directed my attention to the person sitting on my left and said, "I'll bet you five bucks he makes the wrong draw." It took me a moment to realize that the player to my left had stopped playing and was intently looking at a VP strategy card, obviously pondering a choice of what to hold. I took the bet. I figured if he was intelligent enough to know he had a decision hand and take the time to look it up, he'd get it right. A full 45 seconds later, after laboriously checking his strategy repeatedly and looking at the screen, the gentleman did indeed hold his cards and draw... resulting in me being out five bucks. How was this possible? How could a person spend that much time consulting a strategy and still make the wrong draw? And then it dawned on me; he looked up the correct draw but choose not to make it due to personal preference. The pros I knew never made hunch draws and always followed correct mathematical strategy (clearly, he wasn't what I considered a true pro).

Well, it was a good thing I didn't bet on my epiphany or I would have been out another fiver. Still curious, I asked the gentleman why he had held 5-6 suited with a deuce, instead of just the deuce, and he replied, "Oh, I'm playing this strategy and that's what it says to do". I was dead wrong. He hadn't done what I thought he did, namely, look up the correct draw and then make a mental choice to ignore it. He had spent over a minute cogitating with the intent to play correctly, but still erred. Now this was news, at least to me. I have always assumed that if someone played extremely slowly with a strategy card in hand and careful attention to detail, they would be almost error-free. In my mind, the only issue had been the trade-off between speed and accuracy, with total accuracy easily attainable at the cost of a sufficient number of hands per hour. It was clear that for this would-be player to my left that slow play was not the issue.

One person, who wasn't surprised at all, by what to me was a revelation, was my partner. To my further shock and bewilderment, he informed me just how bad my bet had been. He'd been keeping informal track of non-pros he'd seen looking up holds on strategy cards and, according to his current tally, their error rate was around 65%...and keep in mind this error rate was among people with strategy cards who were trying to play correctly. Clearly there were one or more huge problems, but what were they? I would find out several years later when I trained some players for my video poker teams.

The Two Disconnects

As it turns out, there are two fundamentally different reasons why someone can make a strategy error even when trying their best not to. I've classified these into two main types...

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