Video poker tournaments provide lots of fun and excitement for its participants.
Each video poker tournament can have its own particular set of rules thereby making every single tournament unique. However, the one thing they all have in common is that luck plays a large role in the outcome. Many tournaments allow five or ten minutes for the contestants to ply their strategy and hopefully score enough points to win some money. Five or ten minutes allows very few hands to be played so strategies have precious few hands to work their magic.
A very fast player in a tournament that allows 20 minutes of play to determine a winner will only be able to play about 500 hands. While this may seem like a lot of hands, keep in mind that a royal only appears once every approximately 40,000 hands. On average a player would have to play in 80 tournament sessions of twenty minutes each between royals.
Luck is indeed a huge factor. But does that mean strategies don’t matter?
Not at all – but there is a real difference of opinion as to exactly what is the best strategy.
While video poker tournament rules vary greatly, many tournaments are timed. The faster you play the more hands you complete and the better chance you have to get a royal. Normally each contestant plays two rounds and the higher of the two scores is what is used to determine whether that person is a winner. For the purposes of this article, the above tournament rules are in place.
Some experts say to play the optimum strategy but play faster that others to get more hands and therefore a higher number of credits won. Some say to favor saves that could produce four aces (or 2’s, 3’s and 4’s) as well as royals when given the opportunity and play optimum strategy on other hands. Still others say to strictly favor royals.
Let’s look at the "favor a royal" strategy.
The thought driving this strategy is hitting a royal means you have a great chance of winning at least something in the tournament. By only saving cards that could lead to a royal you improve the chances of hitting a royal to about 1 in 23,000 from the 1 in 40,000 with optimum play. While this is still a lot of hands between royals, it is cut nearly in half. Playing 500 hands in a tournament, you could expect a royal every 46 times.
How do you play a royals only strategy? If the hand doesn’t have any cards that will make a royal, discard the entire hand. Only keep cards that could make a royal. Using the royals only strategy you will discard a three of a kind or even a four of a kind if it is less than tens. For example, if you are dealt 3333T, you will discard the threes and keep the ten because the ten COULD produce a royal flush. If you have video poker software on your computer set the pay table to only pay for the royal. The strategy generated for this game will be the royals-only strategy. You will see it is very simple meaning once you learn it you can play very fast – and fast is good in timed tournament play.
Extreme measures you say? If you are playing all or nothing, you will end up with nothing most of the time – right? Well look at it this way. Even if you don’t get a royal on your holds, you will get some high pairs, three of a kinds, four of a kinds, full houses, flushes, straights, and so forth. If you need 4300 points to finish in the money and you end up with 215 points you do no worse than someone playing a more traditional strategy who ends up with 4295 points. You either win some money or you don’t. The losing score is irrelevant. A loss is a loss. It is better to go down swinging for the fence than trying to bunt your way on base.
Just remember that tournament play is mostly about luck. If you are lucky you will win. If not, you won’t. If it is a timed tournament, play as fast as you can to ensure you play as many hands (and chances for a royal) as possible. If you connect and hit one over the fence you will most likely be in the money.
May all your wins be swift and large and all your losses slow and tiny.
Jerry “Stickman” is an expert in craps, blackjack and video poker and advantage slot machine play. He is a regular contributor to top gaming magazines. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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