The Pitfalls of Being a Video Poker Professional

Question: I play video poker every single day and get a Royal Flush at least once a month, can I go pro and make a career of this?

Answer: Firstly, how often you get a Royal Flush doesn't really have anything to do with how good a player you are, so it's hard to say from just that sliver of information.

That being said, it's probably a good time to get into the realities of being a 'professional' video poker player. In order to even dream about being successful, you need to know the game inside and out, play skillfully, stay disciplined and calm, and most importantly, have a gigantic bankroll. No matter how good you are, video poker is enormously volatile and you would need to be able to handle stretches lasting weeks, even months, where all you do is lose money.

The opportunities to do this are getting smaller and smaller every day as casinos wise up and try to squeeze as much as possible out of their players. Professional players only every play 10-7-5 Double Bonus Poker and Full-Pay Deuces, those couple of games that have an expected win rate above 100%. Good luck finding those anywhere other than Nevada, and now they are even a rarity in Vegas itself.

If you are lucky enough to find one of these games, you won't find one where the stakes are higher than $0.25, and they certainly don't offer multiple hands. With max betting and a high hand rate, about 800 per hour, you'll bet $1,000 each hour. If you play near perfectly you're looking at a return of 100.76%. A little elementary math shows that your winnings clock in at $7.60 an hour. Sure, you get free drinks and some other casino rewards, but many casinos restrict the comps given to video poker players for precisely this reason. Most likely, you would be better off delivering pizzas.

Of course, as mentioned earlier, there is no way of knowing how good at video poker you actually are. How often you get a Royal Flush is pretty meaningless. Being a professional is all about making the right moves to maximize your overall returns, and that often means abandoning Royal opportunities for lesser hands. Some people play a Royal-only strategy, and while that leads to more Royals, it actually lowers your overall winnings.

The long and the short of it is that going pro is probably not a good idea. Not only do you need to practice constantly to get to the right skill level, work at finding only those rare machines with the best pay tables, keep calm in the face of big losses, and have a bankroll stretching into the tens of thousands of dollars, you also have to understand that you will probably make less money than a kid working at McDonald's. Doesn't sound so attractive, does it?

Question: I've recently fallen in love with baccarat, now I want to find a way to beat it. How can I win at baccarat?

Answer: The good news is that baccarat has one of the lowest house edges of any game in the casino – 1.24% edge for bets on the player and a mere 1.06% for betting on the banker. The bad news is that, since there are no actions for you to take, there is no skill involved and no way to improve your odds.

A player who only cares about winning would always bet on the banker, but that gets boring quick. It might be better to chase streaks, such as betting with the banker when it wins 3 in a row or more, and then switching when the player goes on a streak, and so on. And while that can make the game interesting and lead to some nice little short-term wins, over the long term you'll still lose.

With the house edge so low, baccarat is a great way to spend some time in a casino and give yourself a decent chance to come away a winner, or at least not lose too much. But, as with every other game, there is no way to beat the house over the long term.

About The Author

Journalist and author John Grochowski is one of the foremost experts on casinos in America. He writes a syndicated weekly gambling newspaper column and he is a frequent contributor to gambling magazines, websites, and radio programs. His books include the best-sellers The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Casino Answer Book.

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