Has Video Poker Become Obsolete?

Close up of a Video Poker Screen

Video poker is one of my favorite casino games. Any game that allows me to make a long-term profit will always sit near the top of my list.

However, video poker is one of the more commonly overlooked and wholly ignored games in the casino. It amazes me that they offer many similarities to the massively popular slot machines without the ridiculous house advantage.

Still, new players pay the skill-based game with little to no mind. Instead, opting for the sexier games that will never make you a winner in the end.

Casino gambling is strictly an entertainment proposition for many, so I suppose they see better opportunities elsewhere. I don’t find slot machines all that entertaining for the amount of money I’m blowing but to each their own.

Has video poker become obsolete? Let’s examine some of the fundamental truths about today’s gaming climate and find out.

Video Poker Never Burst onto the Scene

Video poker first started bouncing around casinos in the early 1980s. The game was the brainchild of a developer that worked under Bally Gaming.

Although the game saw some minor success in the real world, Bally didn’t see much of a future in video poker and halted further projects.

That’s when the game’s creator purchased the rights to the game. William Redd believed that there was a market for video poker and decided to gamble on himself.

Redd established his own company and began producing the first draw poker machines. These machines became popular with a large group of former slot players and poker enthusiasts.

Yet, through all of the successes and the cult following enjoyed by video poker, the game never took off like the slot machines. Nor has video poker ever enjoyed the mammoth popularity that came from the poker booms that still have poker rooms across the globe filled on a nightly basis.

Video poker didn’t ever burst onto the casino landscape with a ton of fanfare and instant popularity. Instead, the game has made a long casino career by providing savvy gamblers with an excellent strategy-focused game that will give you a shot at leaving with your money.

The Tremendous Draw of Video Poker

What makes video poker such a phenomenal game for players?

I suppose that will depend on who you ask. For me, the tremendous draw of video poker can’t be pinned down to only one factor.

One of the most elementary draws comes down to how much fun the game is to play. I love strategy-based games, and the angle of positioning the best strategy to the correct game makes things more interesting.

It can also be exciting to let loose and live a little. Traditional poker is purely skill-based; better players will beat lesser-skilled opponents.

Jacks Or Better Video Poker Strategy

Video poker gives you an opportunity to impart skill to gain an edge, but you’re only trying to build the best hand possible. That means you won’t have any opponents to worry about in video poker.

Most importantly, video poker is a game that anybody can win. There are several varieties of video poker that give players a positive expectation.

The caveat being that players must employ the best strategy for the specific game they play. Furthermore, you must play the strategy on every hand to maintain the edge.

The mix of a game that incorporates so much strategy and gives players a legitimate shot at winning is a huge allure for many casino gamblers.

The Game’s Brilliant Simplicity Struggles to Change with the Times

One of the most beautiful aspects of video poker is also one thing that seems to be holding it back. You’d think any game where the casino has a house edge below 1% would be so popular, you’d struggle to find an open machine.

The fact is that video poker is a simple game. Its gameplay is straightforward, and the use of a paytable leaves little room for surprises.

The fact is that video poker leaves little room for improvement because the game is brilliantly designed. Most casino classics are excellent as is; that’s why they’re so popular.

Blackjack, craps, baccarat, roulette all stay the same because there’s no need for changes. The only changes you’ll ever spot to good games are an effort to move the edge further into the casinos’ favor.

Unfortunately, video poker rests in the realm of electronic gaming machines. That makes for some stiff competition because the video slots are constantly evolving.

3D and Other Slot Machine Innovations Have Put Video Poker in a Corner

There’s not a group of games in the world of casino gambling that enjoy more tremendous success while offering less than the slot machines.

Slot machines have enormous advantages for drawing in new players because they come with a wide range of denominations, tons of different themes, and they don’t allow players to play the game wrong.

In other words, you can’t cost yourself wins by pressing spin and seeing how the reels fall. Where in blackjack or video poker, the wrong decision could turn you from winner to loser.

I prefer to play other games, but slot machines are top-rated. On a surface level, it’s easy to see the vast allure of slot machines.

Row of Video Poker Machines

Another advantage the slot machines have over video poker is technology. Slot machines have continued making leaps and bounds in the sheer entertainment potential through 3D graphics, exciting mini-games, and pay lines that seem to never quit expanding.

Video poker is inherently basic, and that has kept a new generation of casino gamblers heading for the bright lights and exciting sounds of video slot machines.

Thus, video poker is reserved for corner bars and out-of-the-way sections of the casino floor.

The Casinos Are making Video Poker Less Profitable

One of the significant advantages of video poker is the games that offer players a positive expectation. That doesn’t mean you’ll win every time you play, but over time you’ll make a profit on these games.

Like many other areas of the casino, casino corporations are becoming more resort-focused and less focused on gamblers. That is the reason you can hardly find a single zero roulette wheel or 3 to 2 blackjack tables in a land-based casino anymore.

Video poker hasn’t escaped the casinos’ shift. Positive EV games were once everywhere you looked in casinos.

Today, it’s like hunting for the Holy Grail. There simply aren’t many games in land-based casinos where players can still make long-term profitability.

So, the advantage gamblers that once kept the video poker scene thriving have moved on to better games. This exodus has left a hole in the number of players leaving and the number of new players trying video poker.

Video Poker Hanging on by a Thread

Don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of video poker games that can be enjoyed. Sadly, an extremely limited number of these games give players a return to player over 99.99%.

While the RTP on these games continues to diminish, they still provide a better alternative to slot machines. For example, a poor video poker game will have a return to player around 98%, and an excellent slot machine will only be 97%.

Still, as the avid video poker players struggle to find games with a positive expectation, the number of players boycotting these games grows.

If something doesn’t shift back to the excellent games becoming more available, video poker will eventually become a thing of the past.

How Video Poker Can Remain Relevant

For video poker to stay relevant in today’s casino climate, one of a few things needs to happen.

The first way video poker can once again become a favorite for educated gamblers is by making a return to the days where players had a legit shot at winning money. Due to volatility and the sheer number of players that play the games wrong, the casino will still make a decent profit.

Casino Video Poker Machine

If advantaged gamblers can make money playing a game, the game will inherently become more popular.

Another way video poker may become a more powerful presence in the casino is by making innovations through technology. Much like slot machines have done to keep up with the times.

An improvement in the pay tables and some effort to keep up with the times are going to be needed for video poker to remain a viable gaming option for the players and the casinos.

Does Video Poker Have a Place in the Future of Casino Gaming?

The short answer is a reluctant yes. Video poker definitely has the opportunity to hold a place in casinos for many years to come.

That can only happen if there are changes made to both the way the game plays and how it plays. Today’s casino gamblers are primarily focused on being entertained.

So, if the gaming industry can make video games entertaining enough, they may not have to move the needle much in regard to RTP. However, I can’t sit here and claim to have any ideas on how to bring that to fruition.

Bringing back more games that give players a positive expectation will also help to keep video poker a casino favorite in the future. Gamblers have never been more informed and equipped to face the casino head-on.

Give them a game where they believe they can win, and you’ll once again have full video poker games.

In Summary

Has video poker become obsolete?

Not at all, but if our grandkids will ever enjoy the same game that many of us do, some changes and entertaining upgrades will need to be made.