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by Henry Tamburin

Henry Tamburin is an advantage video poker player. He is a feature video poker writer for Strictly Slots magazine, and has given seminars and taught classes on video poker for over 20 years. He will be teaching a video poker class in Las Vegas on August 18. For details on the class, click here.

Listen up all you blackjack playing brethren's.  There is another casino game .you can . play that gives you virtually the same advantages you get when you play blackjack skillfully. The name of this game is video poker. 

You are probably wondering what got me, an experienced, successful blackjack player, started on video poker. It was actually my friend Jean Scott, who gave me the lowdown about video poker about 20 years ago. Jean is a converted blackjack player who predominately plays video poker. "I asked Jean, "why did you switch from blackjack to video poker." Jean smiled and answered, "Cashback and comps." To whit I learned a lot about cash and comps from Jean. This isn't bad I thought, especially since my wife and I were about ready to purchase a second home in nearby Henderson, NV and, therefore, we'd have  a lot more time to play the good video poker games plus take advantage  of the cashback and comps that the casinos were giving away.

Once I became proficient in video poker, I taught my wife, Linda, how to play. Up till this point, blackjack was her game and she was dammed good at it. But she was willing to try video poker. I used a video poker software training program on our home computer to teach her the correct playing strategy and she practiced until she played with 99%+ accuracy. We first learned Deuces Wild because there were plenty of casinos offering this game in Las Vegas on full pay machines which meant if we played skillfully we would achieve a return of 101.7%. That means we would have about a 0.7% edge over the house, not quite as much as we had card counting in blackjack but we still hadn't including the cash back and comps.

When we launched our video poker playing career in Las Vegas, to be absolutely sure we played every hand correctly, we always had our video poker strategy cards with us so if we weren't quite sure about how to play a hand we could refer to the cards. We also played together on the same machine when we first started. My wife would play and I'd stand behind her making sure she didn't make any playing mistakes and then we'd switch. It didn't take us long before we played perfectly and could play on separate machines.

If you hadn't thought about playing video poker, let me give you some analogies to blackjack that might convince you to give it a try.

You can reduce the house edge in blackjack by playing skillfully.

You can do the same thing with video poker. Each game has an optimum playing strategy and if you learn it, just like blackjack, you can also reduce the house edge in video poker. In many video poker games you can, in fact, reduce the house edge to way under 1%.

The house edge in blackjack can change depending upon the number of decks of cards used and the mix of playing rules

The analogy in video poker is what the machine pays for winning hands. Some video poker machines pay off slightly more for a specific video poker game than other machines. So it behooves video poker players to learn how to spot the so called full pay machines (i.e. the machines that offer the highest return for skillful play). Learning how to find these full pay machines is not that difficult since all the information you need is displayed right on the front of each machine (i.e. the machines payoff schedule).

You can use a strategy card when you play blackjack to help you play perfectly.

Ditto for video poker. The ones I use are by Bob Dancer and Liam Daily. They contains four levels of strategy on each tri-fold card. Even today you will never see my wife or I play video poker without our handy strategy cards with us just in case.

You can gain the edge in blackjack by card counting.

You can also gain the edge at video poker by either playing a full pay machine that return over 100% skillfully or more likely nowadays, playing a machine that returns slightly below 100% and getting enough cashback and bounceback so your overall monetary return will exceed 100%.

You can get rated and get comps when you play blackjack

To get comps when you play blackjack you've got to get rated by a casino floor supervisor while you play. And most of the time the supervisor is so busy that the ratings you often get are at best estimates of how much money you bet during your session (and this is often reflected in the kind and amount of comps you receive). With video poker, the process is all automated. Once you put your player's card in the card reader of the machine, the computer will accurately track all the money you bet when you play. In general video poker players will get more in comps than blackjack players because casinos nowadays spend more comps dollars on slot and video poker players than table players. (Although nowadays, the type of video poker games you play will affect how much you can expect in cashback and bounceback.)

It's rare when you can get cashback playing blackjack

It's very rare indeed when a casino offers their blackjack players cash just for playing. Not so with video poker. .Depending upon your betting levels , how much you play, and the "theo" of the game you are playing, this can be substantial especially when you take advantage of casino promotions that offer double, triple and sometimes even higher multiples of points on your player's card when you play.

You can get barred from playing blackjack.

Unfortunately, some casinos will bar skillful blackjack players who they believe are playing with an advantage (e.g. card counters). With video poker, it's rare when they bar a skillful player: however, what has occurred in Las Vegas is that a small number of skilled video poker players have been denied cashback and or comps (or their player's card has been deactivated). (Note: Just like there are some strategies that you can do to stay under the casino radar if you are a card counter, the same holds true if you are advantage video poker player.)

If you are blackjack player, think about learning how to play video poker skillfully. Or if you play blackjack and your spouse plays slots, consider getting her or him to learn video poker. With proper training you can learn how to play video poker like a pro in no time and play with an edge. Plus you'll be able to garner a lot of comps and cashback in the process. From my experience, the time I spent learning video poker was worth it and I'm sure it will be for you.

Note: I will be teaching a video poker class on August 18 in Las Vegas. For details about the class, click here

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