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Best of Jerry Stickman

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Playing Video Poker Tournaments

1 July 2017

Frequently I get questions from readers about the proper strategy for video poker tournaments. In general, tournaments are so short that luck is the major factor in winning one of them. Actually, for the games in which skill is not a factor such as slots, keno or roulette, luck is basically the only factor. However, for games where player skill contributes toward the end result, that is games such as blackjack or video poker, skill can also have an impact – albeit a minor one.

Recently I received a question from a reader who was about to play in a video poker tournament. He asked for my advice about a tournament playing strategy.

There are different schools of thought regarding video poker tournament play. Most video poker tournaments are timed, meaning you play as many hands as possible in the allocated time frame. The more hands you play, the better chance you will hit a royal flush which should guarantee you finish in the money.

In a timed slot tournament, where luck is everything, simply hitting the spin button as quickly as possible is all you can do. However, video poker is different. The cards you choose to hold have an impact in the results.

Some players try to play the normal game’s strategy as quickly as possible hoping that by maximizing the return of each hand they will end up in the money. But playing a full strategy quickly can be a bit of a problem because there are so many things to watch for. Play will probably not be as fast as a simpler strategy and fast play is important when competing in a video poker tournament.

Actually, in a tournament, accuracy is nowhere near as important as it is in non-tournament play. A mistake here and there will very likely have a negligible impact on the final standings. That is why those who advocate playing the standard strategy do not worry very much about making mistakes. They simply play as fast as they can and don’t worry should they miss something.

Other tournament players prefer a “royals only” strategy where the only cards that are held are those that could turn into a royal flush. This strategy is very easy to play so it is also very quick to play. Since there are not many rules to this strategy, there are also very few mistakes made using it in a tournament. The problem with this strategy, however, is if you do not hit a royal flush you will probably end up near the low end of the scores.

But is that really a problem? If you think about it, whether you end up out of the money by 10 points or 10,000 points is irrelevant. Either way you end up out of the money. You might use a rule of thumb to decide whether or not to use this strategy. If the percentage of people ending up in the money is high – say 33 to 50 (or more) percent, the “royals only” strategy may not be the best.

In this case simply getting a decent score may be sufficient to secure a winning position. If, however, only five to 10 percent of the participants end up in the money, the “royals only” strategy can make a lot of sense. Very few contestants will end up winning anything, so the chances of a merely decent score placing in the money are slim.

Here is another thought about the “royals only” strategy. It also depends on the game being played for the tournament. If the game is jacks or better or bonus poker; that is, games that only have one really large paying hand (the royal), the “royals only’ strategy is a decent move. If, however, the game is double-double bonus, triple bonus or similar games with several high paying hands, the “royals only” strategy may not be the best.

Instead, a strategy that strongly favors the high paying hands may be in order. Using a strategy that targets the royal flush, quad aces, quad 2’s 3’s and 4’s, and possibly other four-of-a-kind hands as well as straight flushes is probably more beneficial.

It is really up to you, the tournament player, to determine where you want to draw the line. It is always a balance between correctly playing fast versus getting the most from each hand played. The simpler the strategy, the faster you can play correctly. The more lines in the strategy chart, the longer it may take to determine the proper hold and the better chance for error.

Once you decide which strategy you want to employ, how do you generate the proper playing strategy? The easiest way to accomplish this task is with a video poker program or app that generates playing strategy and allows the user to modify the pay tables. If you decide to play the “royals only” strategy simply set the return for every hand other than the royal flush to zero. The strategy that is generated will be for “royals only.”

If you decide to include other paying hands in your tournament play strategy, you will do the very same thing. Set the return for any paying hand you do not want to include to zero. These hands will no doubt include jacks or better, two pairs, three of a kind, straights, flushes and probably a few more. Where you decide to stop is your call. What you want to accomplish is a nice balance between high paying hands and simple, fast, and accurate playing strategy.

You may not win the tournament, but by picking the proper strategy you are giving yourself the best chance possible.

May all your wins be swift and large and all your losses slow and small.



Jerry “Stickman” is an expert in craps, blackjack and video poker and advantage slot machine play. He authored the video poker section of "Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo, and Pai Gow Poker!" You can contact Jerry “Stickman” at stickmanjerry@aol.com
Recent Articles
Best of Jerry Stickman
Jerry Stickman

Jerry "Stickman" is an expert in dice control at craps, blackjack, advantage slots and video poker. He is a regular contributor to top gaming magazines. The "Stickman" is also a certified instructor for Golden Touch Craps dice control classes and Golden Touch Blackjack's advantage classes. He also teaches a course in advantage-play slots and video poker. For more information visit www.goldentouchcraps.com or www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 1-800-944-0406 for a free brochure. You can contact Jerry "Stickman" at stickmanGTC@aol.com.

Jerry Stickman Websites:

www.goldentouchcraps.com
www.goldentouchblackjack.com
Jerry Stickman
Jerry "Stickman" is an expert in dice control at craps, blackjack, advantage slots and video poker. He is a regular contributor to top gaming magazines. The "Stickman" is also a certified instructor for Golden Touch Craps dice control classes and Golden Touch Blackjack's advantage classes. He also teaches a course in advantage-play slots and video poker. For more information visit www.goldentouchcraps.com or www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 1-800-944-0406 for a free brochure. You can contact Jerry "Stickman" at stickmanGTC@aol.com.

Jerry Stickman Websites:

www.goldentouchcraps.com
www.goldentouchblackjack.com