Frugal Video Poker
Jean Scott & Viktor Nacht
Video Poker doesn't appear high up on the list of options for a punt in the UK. In actual fact it's probably buried at the bottom somewhere, along with snail racing and which raindrop will run to the bottom of the window pane first. I can recall some years ago visiting three casinos in or around Leicester Square in London in seach of a VP game to spend some time on - something that turned out to be a fruitless endeavour. However, since I've been under the Covid cosh (six weeks now) I've found a 9/6 Jacks or Better game at my usual online poker provider's site, where it's possible to play twenty hands at a time at just 1p per hand - so just 20p a pop. At present I've chalked up 14,980 hands from 749 rounds of which 193 rounds returned more than the 20p outlay. There's no doubt that spreadsheets can be a major benefit to degenerate gamblers (if they make use of them of course). And why only play for the very minimum? Why not? It's a cheap punt and it exercises the grey matter a tad in getting the basic strategy right. Just a great shame that I don't have someone bringing me a free beer every half an hour - something else that you won't find in any UK casino.
As Frugal Video Poker seemed to have a fairy good rep, I had the opportunity to pick up a copy for the price of a pint and in view of my recent endeavours with 9/6 JoB I thought I'd see what this one had to offer.
What I found is a book that is a solid introduction into the whys and wherefores of video poker - the benefits of playing VP as an alternative to mindlessly pumping money into normal slot games, the differences between the different VP games available and the different paytables for each, why this matters, seeking out the best games, playing optimally by applying mathematically tested strategies, the everyday playing errors that can put a dent in a game's RTP (ie never holding small pairs when playing JoB) and getting the most out of your gambling $/£s - through building up comps and players points, taking advantage of the free drinks and ensuring you're on the mailing lists for promos with as many houses of chance that are within reasonable travelling distance as possible. For residents of Las Vegas, Reno or Atlantic City this is all good stuff, but for those of us in the UK this sound advice is of little practical value. For us comps and free drinks are something only to dream about and all of the players points programmes with the main chain casinos that I've seen have all been pretty naff - many years ago I eventually received a BLT in return for putting several hundred pounds across the felt over a few months (and I had to argue for that too!). In the end I stopped bothering
I was disappointed that the book only contains one strategy table - for the ubiquitous 9/6 JoB game (delivering a 99.54% RTP with perfect play) - which I thought was remiss to be honest. Dropping in the strategies for the top ten most common VP variants, and the most common paytables, would have added, possibly, another two dozen pages (forty eight sides) to the length of the book - something that I doubt would have increased the unit production cost by very much at all? Ms S does however point the reader in the direction of a piece of software that was developed alongside Frugal Video Poker, "Frugal VP", that would generate the correct strategy options for a wide range of VP variants based upon the paytable details entered into it. She devotes several chapters of her book to using it as a training medium and for analysing games' RTPs and so on. Hmmm . . . one just can't help wondering whether the inclusion of just a single strategy table within her work, which her publisher describes as ". . . the most comprehensive book ever written on practicing, playing and winning at this popular casino game.", was done for a reason? Unfortunately since the publication of Frugal Video Poker "Frugal VP" has been abandoned by its developer (the most recent version, 1.2, was released in June 2010), and so Ms S's recommendation, and all of the book's pointers around using this software, are now defunct. The good news is that there are many similar products currently available which include apps that can be installed on your mobile 'phone - I have WinPoker from Zamzow Software and an excellent training and paytable analysis aid it is too.
Chapter 11, "Session Bankroll Charts", discusses the risks of tapping out at the terminal mid-way through your visit to the house of chance, and provides advice around how much to take with you to avoid this. Pages 112-115 contain a series of tables that provide an indication of your "risk of ruin" (ROR) for playing eight of the most common VP games when utilising different coin values and over different periods of time. Very useful information, and something that is all too regularly absent from so many books aimed at your common-or-garden recreational gambler. Credit is given to Michael Shackleford (the Wizard of Odds) for his work in producing these tables for inclusion within the book.
To sum things up, Frugal Video Poker contains sound advice for those recreational gamblers on a budget looking to make the switch from being slot junkies to more discerning VP aficionados. But fourteen years after publication, despite video poker as a punt not fundimentally changing, this title is now looking a tad aged - even for those in the States who can take advantage of them, comps are not nearly as generous as they were in the past for "low-rollers" and the software supporting the title is no more. Even back in 2006 the internet was well established and everything included within Frugal Video Poker, barring Mr Shackleford's tables, was freely available to be found on it. If you're interested in taking up playing VP and, like me, you can pick up a copy for a couple of quid then do so. I'm not so sure though that I'd recommend parting company with the eleven quid that Amazon are currently asking for it. Frankly I reckon that your money could be spent more beneficially on a piece of software that'll aid you in your VP endeavours and which you'll need to generate the relevant strategy tables if you intend to play anything other than 9/6 JoB.
Jean Scott, "The Queen of Comps", is a former high school English teacher who published the first of her five "Frugal" gambling titles in the run up to her sixtieth birthday in 1998. The most recent, The Frugal Gambler Casino Guide was published in 2017. She and her husband have recently left Las Vegas behind (after residing there for twenty years) and have relocated to Columbus, Georgia to be closer to other family members. At eighty one she continues to write about her thirty five year exploits as a frugal gambler, and other gambling topics, and her column Frugal Vegas can be found at www.lasvegasadvisor.com.
At the time of publication of Frugal Video Poker, Viktor Nacht was the proprietor of RGE Publishing, a specialist publisher of gambling related titles based in Las Vegas that he acquired in 2002. He also owned and managed three gambling-centric web sites that receive a mention in the book; trackjack.com, vpinsider.com and advantageplayer.com. These have all now vanished into the ether and RGE Publishing ceased trading and was wound up in 2015. Little is known of his fortunes since then.