15 Video Poker Skills and Personality Traits (to Master)

While the title of this post is video poker skills, it would be equally useful to include both qualities and personality traits. Each of these elements is vital to the long-term success of the player, and devoted gamblers should resolve to develop or master as many of these as possible. Once this occurs, you’ll find the house edge dropping and your overall success rate rising.

1- Memorization of Strategy

In order to reduce the video poker house edge as low as possible, you’ll need to employ what’s known as “perfect strategy” or “optimal play.” Someone who’s able to consistently do this is giving themselves the best long-term chance to win, regardless of the initial deal.

Fortunately, the best strategy for every machine has already been developed and written down, and all you have to do is find it online and commit it to memory. The latter is easier said than done, however, as memorizing the best play for every hand can be a painstaking process.

One tip involves starting with a simplified version of the strategy. Once this has been mastered, you can then expand upon your knowledge to complete the task.

Just remember, though, that the effort is bound to pay off in the end. With optimal play and the right promotional opportunities, it’s not unheard of for a player to actually enjoy a mathematical advantage over the machine.

2- Focus

Whether you play video poker online or at a brick-and-mortar casino, you’ll be subjected to numerous elements that are beyond your control. This might take the form of a chain-smoking senior citizen sitting next to you, or it could be the neighbor who enjoys blaring Metallica at midnight. Whatever the case, expect your concentration to be tested early and often while gaming.

Between the carcinogens and a second helping of “Master of Puppets,” it’s easy to lose your focus. This should be guarded against at all costs, though, as not keeping your eye on the prize often results in mental errors and unnecessary losses.

One of the best ways to combat distraction is to purchase a set of headphones capable of blocking as much outside noise as possible. When your session begins, plug them into your iPod and let your favorite tunes do the rest.

3- Comparison Shopping

Not all video poker machines are created equal. In fact, two seemingly identical games sitting together on the casino floor can be wildly different based on the pay tables. Choose the wrong one, and you could be leaving behind thousands of dollars in long-term profit.

It pays to shop around before settling on a video poker game, so don’t be afraid to comb through multiple gaming establishments. The Internet can be a big help in this area, as numerous resources exist to inform players on the most lucrative games and where they can be found. The best of these is probably vpFREE2.

Grocery shoppers are well-known for their tendency to search multiple stores in search of the best deal.

As a gambler, shouldn’t you be willing to do the same?

4- Discerning Tastes

Don’t waste your time (and money) playing every video poker machine that you come across. Instead, only gamble on those that deliver the biggest jackpots or provide the best long-term expected returns. By being picky—which the casino doesn’t expect most patrons to do—you’ll cull out the lesser games and make room for more time with the superior options. Think of it like dating, just with better graphics and payouts.

5- Endurance

Novice players often think it’s simple to sit in one place for hours, but many veterans would disagree. Between the tendency towards bad posture and the immense concentration required, VP players are put in a difficult position that challenges both the mind and body.

In order to prepare yourself for the rigors of the game, I suggest starting with 30-minute sessions and then slowly increasing the volume as you become more comfortable. It’s also important to stand up and take a 10-minute break every hour for the sake of circulation.

If you find yourself getting sleepy during play, don’t try to fight your body. Instead of carrying on and committing a string of costly mental errors, walk away from the game and get some rest. Once your mind and body are refreshed, you can restart the session with renewed vigor.

6- Clipping Coupons

Brick-and-mortar casinos are fond of issuing coupons to draw in customers, and these can be found in an assortment of flyers and magazines. In the case of valued players, they may also be mailed directly to your home address.

The importance of coupons and other promotional offers cannot be underestimated, as they further reduce the house edge. In some cases, they may eliminate it completely in the hands of an experienced advantage player.

VP legends such as Jean Scott and Bob Dancer frequently sing the praises of coupons, and that should be reason enough to give them a try. Don’t be afraid to hoard as many as possible, and always look for opportunities to combine multiple offers on the same game. Even if a coupon has expired, the casino may sometimes extend the deadline for any player with the guts to make such a request.

7- Manual Dexterity

The world can get a bit fuzzy when you’ve been pressing buttons for several consecutive hours. Combine this with a desire to get in as many hands as possible, and it creates a scenario where any player’s reflexes and hand-eye coordination can be put to the test.

In order to reduce the chances of hitting the wrong button after hours of intense play, practice to improve your manual dexterity. I’ve found that playing marathon video game sessions are a great way to hone my skills, and video poker seems like child’s play after enduring repeated matches of Mortal Kombat or Overwatch.

8- Networking and People Skills

One of the best ways to improve your success rate as a video poker player is to interact with other members of the human race. The most obvious candidates are fellow gamblers, as they can provide tips such as machines with the best pay tables, dishonest online establishments, and the best place to get comps and coupons.

If you’re a frequent land-based player, it’s also in your best interest to get to know a few folks at the casino. Most establishments have a person on staff who sees to comps and overall player satisfaction, so this is a good place to start. Anyone working in areas with a high concentration of video poker machines is also a good candidate, from management to waitresses. At the very least, you might wind up with a few new friends.

A large number of online gambling forums exist for just this reason, allowing players to trade tips and secrets while bonding over a mutual love of video poker. You’ll have to weather a few small-minded trolls in order to do so, but that’s not uncommon on the Internet.

In fact, if you’re interested in playing online, the forums at Casinomeister.com are essential reading if you want to avoid crooked online casinos.

9- Using a Computer or Mobile Device

Those who’ve grown up around computers and mobile devices should feel right at home when navigating a virtual casino. There are, however, several generations on the planet that actually remember a time before the Internet became such an all-encompassing force.

For these individuals, even turning on a laptop can sometimes be an exercise in frustration. If you fall into this category, I suggest buying a beginner’s guide to using computers or taking a class at a local community college.

In addition to playing online video poker, being able to use a PC or mobile device grants you access to all manner of free tips and strategies. For those who want to achieve long-term success, you’ll need every advantage that you can get.

10- Reading the Fine Print

This might not seem much different than reading in general, but I believe that it’s a skill unto itself. This comes into play when gaming at an Internet casino, where terms and conditions are spelled out in small and frequently cramped print.

These sections of gambling sites are often written in a legalistic fashion, which has a tendency to bore most customers out of their minds. Then there’s the print itself, which can leave even those with perfect vision looking bleary-eyed.

With practice, though, you’ll be able to decipher the meaning of the text, as well as look for predatory terms that might be hidden along the way. Not only should this skill enable you to locate the most reputable casinos, but you might even be able to spot weak points that can be taken advantage of.

11- Just a Little Patience

Playing successful video poker is a marathon, not a sprint. While the average slots novice might crave a jackpot on every spin, the seasoned VP player knows that big payouts only come to those with the patience and persistence to weather the underlying math of the game.

As mentioned earlier, a royal flush hits an average of every 40,000 hands. In order to endure the financial ups and down between these jackpots, you’ll need to be able to keep moving forward when lesser players would throw up their hands and start playing another game.

Just like in the previous section on endurance, I suggest beginners limit their play to no more than a couple of hours. From there, you can slowly begin to increase the volume of play as you grow more accustomed. Before long, you’ll be engaging in marathon sessions and jumping from one royal flush to the next with relative ease.

12- Doing Your Taxes

Most people dread tax time, and this is especially true for successful gamblers. After a year spent accumulating wealth at the video poker machines, it’s time to turn around and give a big chunk of it back to the government (politicians don’t work for free, after all).

In addition to actually paying your taxes, you have to make sure that everything is correctly figured and documented. You never know when an audit might be in your future, and even a simple mistake can have major financial implications thanks to cumulative penalties.

If you just can’t get the hang of this skill, don’t pull your hair out. You can always pay an accountant to perform the task for you, which is what most profitable players do in order to retain their sanity.

13- Spinning a Good Yarn

The ability to tell a good story is definitely a valuable skill, and it’s something that’ll serve you well once the wins start coming in. Sure, you can also weave narratives that focus on big losses and near misses, but the most captivating tales are always going to involve major payouts (usually with a royal flush).

Such stories can be told face-to-face or over the Internet, with the former requiring more facial expressions and hand gestures than the latter. For those who are especially skilled at the art of storytelling, there’s also the possibility of writing a book about your experiences and making some extra money.

14- Knowing When to Quit

There’s an old saying that goes, “He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day,” which is paraphrased from the Roman senator and historian, Tacitus. It was originally meant to relate to warfare, but the wisdom also holds true for the world of gambling.

Knowing when to walk away from a VP machine can make a major difference in the overall success and mental health of a player. Stay too long, and you risk a case of serious burnout (and perhaps even financial ruin).

The best way to cultivate this talent is to determine an acceptable loss prior to each session. Once the limit is reached, stop play immediately and retreat to lick your wounds. This requires a lot of discipline, but its importance can’t be underestimated.

15- A Sense of Perspective

While making money at video poker is always an added bonus, passing the time and having a bit of fun in the process should always be the primary objective. This requires a unique sense of perspective, and it’s something that often comes easier to older players.

Whether you’re a senior citizen or barely out of your teenage years, always ask yourself the same questions before inserting coins into the machine: “Am I enjoying playing video poker?” and “What do I hope to gain from this experience?” If you have trouble coming up with a suitable answer, then maybe you’re involved in the wrong hobby.


Video poker skills aren’t easy to master, but they’re essential if you want to enjoy long-term success at the game. While some of the items on this list involve raw brainpower or physical attributes, others relate more to character traits and modes of thinking. No matter which category they fall under, though, the items listed above should help you navigate the frequently choppy waters of both land-based and online video poker.

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