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Best of Mark Pilarski
Ladders go both up and down28 January 2003
I feel I am decent player at video poker. I also feel I am ready to move up the ladder to the poker room. Are there enough similarities between the two to make me a successful player? Clarence M.
Before you thrust your hand into that beehive, I got to tell ya, Clarence, you might not enjoy the honey. BEE-sides, Clarence, proficiency at table poker takes years of practice — a sort of beekeeper's protection, lacking which you will be stung senseless by the killer drones that swarm over poker tables.
Skill aside, there are subtle differences — far too many for this column's space limits. But for starters, in video poker, you are playing against a machine that doesn't talk back, nor snicker at shabby play, nor give a hoot whether and how much you win or lose. In table poker, you are facing thinking and skill-rich adversaries, some of whom make their living off of "video poker graduates." They who can bluff you into giving up a winning hand and as easily get you to fold what would have been a winning hand, in both cases easing you into Livin' La Vida Broka.
Video poker's other valuable variables include no "ante" with the exception of the coins you initially risk on the game. There are no bets to call or raise to build a pot. The video poker pot is predetermined never changes, except for progressive machines. With video poker, the higher the hand, the more you win, with royal flushes paying sweet and heavy buckaroos, while on the table game, the best you can do is to win the pot — often a starved and measly mess. With video poker, you set your own pace and more importantly, decide how much to invest in each hand and selecting a machine consistent with your plan.
Not so on a table game. In a spread limit game, any wagers between the two limits are allowed. Also, hand totals can be different and discouraging. In video poker, three deuces are just as powerful as three aces.
That constitutes the Preface to the Poker 101 text. Do consider this brief shower of words before they evaporate, Clarence, and learn by heart: "Self-proclaimed aptitude at video poker isn't in a class with expertise at the human poker table."
Initially, Adrian, let's clue in some of the readers as to what you mean
by "setting your hands."
Gambling quote of the week: "In games of pure chance the
tension felt by the player is only feebly communicated to the onlooker."
Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens (1949)
Best of Mark Pilarski