If you didn’t know anything about poker, you might assume that video poker and Texas Hold’em poker amount to the same thing. After all, both involve receiving up to five cards from which you need to make the best poker hand.
But are there really any similarities between a poker player and someone who tries their luck at video poker, either in a casino or the online poker sites found on sites like safecasinos.org.uk? Read on, and you’ll find there’s more to the real game than the video poker player might think.
Skill, luck, and pure gamble
Anyone who plays poker will tell you it’s a game of skill. Like golf, it takes very little time to learn the rules, but years to master. Sure, the turn of a card is random, pure luck, but when you play the game, you understand the probabilities of what that card might be, the probability that it will help you win the pot.
Mastering the odds is one thing, but another key skill is bet sizing. You need to understand how to get away from a losing hand as cheaply as possible, and how to extract the maximum number of chips from your opponent with a winning hand.
Throw in the art of bluffing, being able to force a player with a better hand to fold when you hold cards with little or no value, as a weapon that every Texas hold’em player needs in their arsenal. And you also need reading abilities, so you can pick up tells at the table from the way your opponent is acting, or even their bet sizing.
The intricacies of poker strategies are legendary. Look around this site, for example, and you’ll find heaps of poker strategy tips. The best players in the world peel away so many layers of the game that it can be mind-blowing to the novice.
Compare all this to playing video poker. Is there any skill involved? You sit down at the machine, perhaps at a bar in a live casino environment, and spin the reels. You have the option to ‘hold’ any number of them for a second spin to improve to a winning poker hand, most often jacks or better and higher-ranked poker hands (three of a kind, straight, flush, etc.).
While the rankings are the same, you’re at the complete mercy of a random number generator spitting out the cards, as well as the paytable. While probabilities of your second spin revealing your desired cards are the same as real life poker, that’s where the similarity ends, for the most part. There is a strategy component to correct video poker play, but at the end of the day it’s a casino game.
Both Texas Hold’em and video poker require an element of gamble. In real poker, you have to know the time to put your chips on the line. You need that double-up late in a tournament, or you know you’re likely coin-flipping in a big pot. It’s time to roll the dice. In video poker, most players are in it purely for the gamble. It’s like any other casino game – a fun distraction that involves trying your luck.
Man versus machine
Real Texas Hold’em poker is a people game. You’re playing other human beings, either live around the table or in an online poker room. That immediately puts the better player at an advantage as he or she can identify and then take advantage of weaker players.
But in video poker, you’re playing against the house. You might sit next to a friend at another video poker machine and have a little side bet about who can win (or lose) most, but other than that it’s you against the machine. A solitary experience, like playing slots. At least when you’re playing blackjack, roulette, or craps, you’ve got other people at the table with you!
Got time on your hands?
Video poker is perfect if you have a few minutes to kill. You can sit down and play a few hands and then leave. It’s particularly fun in a Las Vegas casino where you can sit at the bar, play the video poker machine embedded in the bar top and enjoy comped booze!
But while the video variant has that flexibility, real poker players need to invest a lot of time for their skill to manifest itself. You wouldn’t be likely to sit down at a cash game knowing you’d probably leave after just a few minutes (unless disaster struck and you lost all your money right off the bat). A tournament can last for hours or even days. And even a sit and go can take an hour or longer.
You also have to factor in travel. Many professional live poker players travel around the world to play in the best games and most lucrative tournaments, perhaps flying abroad for weeks at a time.
It’s all about the money
Of course the idea behind both real Texas Hold’em and video poker is to win money. Mostly, you won’t invest much money in your video poker session; perhaps a few dollars. And, in most cases, you won’t win much back. Even hitting a Royal Flush on video poker, which happens statistically every 40,000 hands, will pay back at most $1,000 credits if you’re betting one buck (unless it’s a progressive jackpot machine).
Compare that to some of the riches available in tournament poker. While the entry fee varies wildly, from the low tournament buy-ins online to the large live gigs like the $10,000 needed to play the World Series of Poker Main Event, the chances of making money back are good. If you won the WSOP, you’d get many millions back!
Fun is the only real common factor at play
We could add a whole load more reasons why playing Texas hold’em and video poker are different. In summary, we’d say that while the core objective (making a winning poker hand) is the same, everything else is different.
Apart, that is, from one key thing: they’re both a great deal of FUN.