In the 1980s video poker exploded on to the gambling scene. In a matter of just a decade, the game of video “Draw Poker” went from being a curiosity to the dominant game in Las Vegas locals casinos as well as in many other gambling jurisdictions. The high rate of play, large payouts, and relatively low house edge all combined to make video poker one of the most seductive games in the casino. What’s less well known is that certain games under certain circumstances can be beaten by a skilled player. In Professional Video Poker, noted blackjack expert Stanford Wong provides information on how to detect and exploit these situations for certain VP machines.
The book begins with some background, providing information on how to read payoff tables, some estimates of how many hands a skilled player can play per hour, an estimate of one’s rate loss while waiting for the royal flush, etc.. This information is familiar to the serious VP player and is widely available now, but Professional Video Poker was the first book that described a serious analysis of this game, so it’s responsible for defining a lot of the language that is now taken for granted.
Next, Wong describes correct strategy for playing “8-5 Jacks or Better Progressive” machines. These machines pay 8-1 for a full house, 5-1 for a flush, and have a meter that increases the payout for a royal flush until it is hit. He details how high the meter must be before these machines become positive expectation plays for the player, the strategy for these games, and the rationale behind each specific strategy instance. In general, this is provided in much more detail than is common in more recent books on video poker. In my opinion, it’s not really necessary, except maybe for those people who find it useful to understand the “whys” of VP strategy in order to convince themselves that that they really do need to follow it. Wong follows this section with some finer points of strategy, especially strategic changes as the progressive jackpots get higher and higher.
At the end of the book, Wong provides some auxiliary information, such as a strategy for 6-5 progressives, 10s or better progressives, and playing in video ligaz11 poker tournaments. This information is good, and was written here for the first time. Most of it is still relevant, although it’s been a while since I’ve seen a 6-5 jacks or 10s or better progressive machine, much less one where the progressive meter is in positive territory. On the last page Wong provides miniature strategy guides suitable for photocopying and keeping in a wallet-sized format.
This book was groundbreaking in its day, and it covers 8-5 jacks progressive like no other book. Unfortunately, it is no longer so relevant. These 8-5 progressive machines are not nearly as popular as they once were, and serious VP players have turned their attention to other games, such as full-pay Deuces Wild, and Double Bonus Poker. Further, as the literature has become more familiar with VP issues, the same information is now covered both generally and in greater depth in more recent books, such as Dan Paymar’s excellent Video Poker: Optimum Play. So, while this is a breakthrough book, I can no longer recommend that one should pick it up and read it, unless one is interested in the minutia of 8-5 jacks progressive machines.
Wong’s Professional Video Poker is an example of a one-time classic that has been superseded by recent works on the same topic. This was the first serious book on Video Poker, and it remains the most detailed source of information on playing 8-5 jacks progessive video poker games. So, if this particular game is of interest to the reader, then definitely acquire this book. Unfortunately, it contains little information on other games, and other books cover the same information and much more. So, please tip your cap to Stanford Wong for this pioneering effort, but go read Video Poker: Optimum Play by Dan Paymar instead.