The same kinds of lessons you learn becoming a winning blackjack player apply equally to becoming a winning video poker player.
In this post, I offer seven tips about blackjack that apply equally well to video poker. Learn about how these tips transcend just one casino game and onto the next. You might just learn a thing or two!
If You’re Serious About Blackjack or Video Poker, Move to Vegas
You shouldn’t just read this post and decide to move to Las Vegas. You should visit Vegas multiple times before deciding. And regardless of whether you want to become a serious blackjack player or video poker player, you should play your game of choice in Vegas while you’re there.
If you’re good at blackjack or video poker, you’ll see profitable results after a few visits. If you’re serious about getting good at either game, you should have enough of a bankroll to play at least a couple times a year—maybe more if you’re well-to-do or live nearby.
You should also realize that success at games where you have a small edge over the casino involves taking advantage of as many casino promotions as possible. Casinos usually offer promotions, but no destination has the variety and number of promotions available in Las Vegas. They just don’t.
For most low- to mid-rollers, the casino promotions make up a significant percentage of your profits.
You Should Learn How to Scrape by on Your Gambling Income
Until you’re sure that you’re playing real money video poker or blackjack with a big edge over the casino, you should only count on gambling for a small percentage of your income. You’ll also want to get a job that isn’t too taxing, which means it won’t pay much either.
I used to mentor some teenagers in one of my professional roles. I always advised them to NOT take a gap year between high school and college. As a college freshman, you’ll normally live in a dorm room with a minimal amount of money to spend. You won’t have much space of your own, your freedom will be limited, and you’ll be dealing with a roommate.
This is all easier to do if you’re moving from a home with a family than it is for someone who’s gone out and gotten a job making real money.
This all holds true for gambling, too. If you’re going to get started gambling, you’re going to need to live on a budget that’s so low you’ll wish you were a college student.
It won’t be like that forever, but for most people, it will be like that for a year or more.
You Must ONLY Play When You Have an Advantage
Overcoming the casino house edge at blackjack or video poker isn’t just doable, it’s relatively easy.
What’s hard is refraining from playing some kind of game where you don’t have an edge. If you play a game where the house has an edge, you will lose money in the long run.
A real professional at blackjack or video poker NEVER places a bet where he doesn’t have a mathematical edge.
Stay away from the craps table. Don’t play roulette just for fun. Don’t get involved in the Texas Hold’em game unless you’re sure you’re the best player at the table.
Stick with the games and situations where you have a mathematical edge, and you’ll eventually be a net long-term winner.
Practice Matters No Matter How Long You’ve Been Playing
I started learning how to play the guitar a few years ago. I’ve gotten better at it than I ever expected to. But if I lay off the practicing for long, my skills start to deteriorate.
Meanwhile, I have a friend who used to be a working professional in the music business for 30+ years. He quit playing when he lost his voice. He told me that he can barely play the guitar anymore because he stopped practicing so long ago.
Heck, there are enough subtleties in blackjack’s basic strategy that you’ll need to review it periodically. Counting cards just adds layers of complexity on top of that.
Your only hope of success is constant and never-ending practice.
Some Days, You Eat the Bear
And some days, the bear eats you.
Regardless of whether you play blackjack or video poker, you’ll have days where you win a lot of money. You’ll also have days when you lose a lot of money.
Usually, how well or how poorly you played that day will have little to do with whether you won or lost. That’s because blackjack and video poker are both games of chance. Even though, you’re likely to win money when you have an edge over the casino in the long run, anything can happen in the short run.
Think about it. If this weren’t true, no one would ever play at the casino because they’d never win any money.
But 20% of the people who walk into a casino on any given day walk out with a profit. That doesn’t mean they were playing skillfully, it just means they got lucky that day.
This acceptance of the random nature of these games can be hard to achieve. Most people think that if they play well, they’re going to win consistently… You won’t.
You’ll win inconsistently. But if you play long enough, you’ll show a net profit. That’s the best deal any blackjack or video poker guru can offer you.
A Casino Is Just a Business
You’ll be constantly frustrated and unhappy if you don’t remember the casino is a business. It has a single purpose—to make money for its shareholders. One of the main ways casinos make money is by offering games where the house has a mathematical edge over the player.
It’s useless to be angry with the casino about this. The casino is just acting according to its nature.
You’re going to run into two different situations.
A casino that was offering a top payout video poker pay table will eliminate that game in favor of a game or games that have inferior pay tables.
You can spend your time complaining about these situations, but a better use of your time and energy is to accept the casinos for what they are and move on to the next profitable situation.
Blackjack and Video Poker Players Give Lousy Strategy Advice
You should ignore the occasional well-meaning blackjack and video poker players who want to explain how you should play your hand. Most of them are wrong. Sometimes, the people who are wrong might be otherwise successful and intelligent.
I worked with a vice-president of marketing at an internet travel company who fancied himself a blackjack player. He was convinced that if other players at the table made strategy mistakes, it would affect your outcomes.
This isn’t true. The house edge for blackjack stays the same regardless of what the other players at the table do.
You might find some well-meaning guy telling you that you should always take insurance, which is exactly the opposite of good advice. (You should never take insurance unless you’re counting cards, and even then, it might be a mistake even when it’s the mathematically correct move.)
And you’ll find plenty of well-meaning video poker players giving you bad advice about how to play your hand at the Jacks or Better machine.
The best way to handle these guys is to smile and thank them for the advice and proceed with the correct decisions anyway.
Gain an Edge With Blackjack and Video Poker
Blackjack and video poker are both important gambling games because they’re some of the only games in the casino where you can get a mathematical edge.
A lot of the tips and advice you’ll get for blackjack apply equally well to video poker and vice versa. The most important of these is to learn the right way to play mathematically and stick with that no matter what.