Video Poker Books
The world’s first slot machine was essentially a video poker game without the video component.
Designed in 1891 by Sittman and Pitt of Brooklyn, New York, the slot machine prototype featured five reels containing 10 card faces each. This 50-card deck spun randomly, before forming a five-card poker hand from the reel symbols. Strong hands earned the player a free beer or shot of whiskey in exchange for their nickel while the elusive royal flush was good enough for a cigar on the house.
Slot machines eventually moved past the poker game model, transforming into the three-reel, random symbol games still played today. When a jukebox and pinball game distributor by the name of William “Si” Redd arrived in Nevada in 1967, this was still the case, with the only poker games around played by gruff men circling a smoky table in a far corner of the casino.
While working for Bally Manufacturing, Redd launched the similarly named Bally Distributing Company, hoping to capture his own share of the thriving casino game marketplace. During his attempts to update and upgrade slot machine models, Redd began tinkering with an idea for video-powered casino games. Keno, blackjack, and poker were among Redd’s first video game designs, but Bally Manufacturing rejected Redd’s idea after multiple pitches, deeming it too unusual to be accepted by mainstream gamblers.
By the mid-1970s, Bally Manufacturing acquired his interests in Bally Distributing Company. Before agreeing to the sale, however, Redd was able to negotiate what would prove to be a momentous stipulation in the contract, allowing him to retain all future development rights associated with video-based casino games. At the time, Bally Manufacturing failed to recognize the potential for video versions of classic casino games, and they readily accepted Redd’s terms.
Birth of the First Video Poker Machine
Redd went on to found his own casino equipment company, A-1 Supply, in 1975, where he continued to improve his video casino game designs. The name was eventually changed to Si Redd Coin Machines, which was better known by the acronym SIRCOMA.
In 1979, the first video poker game, known as “Draw Poker,” was released by SIRCOMA. By taking advantage of video graphics and animations, Redd was able to replicate the game of five card draw perfectly within a standard slot machine cabinet equipped with a television screen. Players deposited coins and received a five-card hand before tapping buttons to either hold or discard various cards. After the drawing round was completed, the strength of the player’s new five-card hand was assessed, and payouts were awarded based on an escalating pay table.
The revolutionary “Draw Poker” game was so novel that it failed to catch on immediately, but by 1981 casino gamblers discovered the fast-paced, skill-based game to be highly entertaining. By providing players with an element of control over the outcome, video poker immediately supplanted slot machines as the casual gambler’s game of choice. For people who remained intimidated by the idea of sidling up to a live poker table or those who had trouble remembering the rules and strategy for table games like blackjack, video poker offered a comfortable experience which wasn’t dependent on fellow players.
The first version of “Draw Poker” began with a minimum hand requirement of two pairs to earn a payout, but when Redd and SIRCOMA adjusted that pay table to a minimum of a pair of jacks or better, the genesis of modern video poker took place. The Jacks or Better model proved to be an instant classic, making video poker machines one of the most sought after destinations on every casino floor.
A public offering of SIRCOMA shares in 1981 made Redd a wealthy man, and the company’s name was changed to International Gaming Technology (IGT) that year. Over the next few years, Redd played a vital role in developing video poker variations such as Deuces Wild, Bonus Poker, and Double-Double Bonus, the success of which catapulted IGT into the upper echelons of the casino game manufacturing and design industries.
Redd went on to sell his controlling interest in IGT in 1986, before being named to the Gaming Hall of Fame and the Nevada Business Hall of Fame. He eventually built Si Redd’s Oasis casino in Mesquite, Nevada, and the property’s sale for $31 million in 2001 cemented Redd’s legacy as one of the casino industry’s true pioneers. When the “King of Video Poker” passed away in 2003 at the age of 91, his video poker concept had evolved into one of the most popular casino offerings in history, generating billions of dollars in revenue for establishments while thrilling millions of players across the planet.
Current Video Poker Games
Today, online video poker are a staple on casinos all over the world and on the internet. Nevada is home to video poker bars or establishments that contain no other games except video poker. Even the slot machine, the game which first incorporated poker elements in a one-person design, has been improved by video poker’s ascendance. Whereas players once “pulled the lever” on a slot machine to activate the game, today they simply tap a video touchscreen, one which perfectly replicates Redd’s original “Draw Poker” design.
Throughout the years, a number of instructional manuals, strategy guides, nonfiction accounts, and even works of fiction have been written on the subject of video poker. Below, you’ll find a list of widely read video poker books, in chronological order, along with biographical information for the author and an objective review of the content:
Winning Strategies for Video Poker
Lenny Frome (1993)
Known today as “The Godfather of Video Poker,” legendary author Lenny Frome began his professional career as an aerospace engineer, applying his natural talent for mathematics and analysis for four decades before beginning his retirement in the late-1980s.
Soon enough, Frome’s restless mind prompted him to explore the idea of opening a laser printing T-shirt company, based out of a mall kiosk. Frome christened the enterprise Compu-Flyers, purchasing an Atari 520ST computer capable of powering the project. But before he could begin printing clothes, a trip to the local casino led Frome to check out the pay tables for a video poker machine. When Frome found himself in another casino a short time later, he observed that the video poker machines there offered players a slightly different pay table.
Always interested in the math behind blackjack strategy and other game theory, Frome soon began running an analysis on video poker probabilities. By examining every possible outcome given a particular scenario, he assigned expected values for every available player decision. As he worked out the bugs, Frome arrived at an optimal strategy for various video poker games.
After submitting freelance articles to casino gambling industry publications, Frome was asked by readers to compose “tip sheets” to help them master video poker strategy, much like the basic strategy charts blackjack players use to memorize optimal play. Frome’s first tip sheets were titled “50+ Tips on Video Poker” and “Expert Video Poker for Las Vegas,” released under the Compu-Flyers company name, and the success of these self-published guides motivated Frome to compile his knowledge into a full-fledged book in 1993.
The result was Winning Strategies for Video Poker, a simply constructed yet expansive insight into the inner workings of video poker strategy. Frome begins by providing readers with a useful index, comprised of a list of pay tables for each game covered, expected returns when applying proper strategy, and the page number for that game. Next, readers will find a full glossary of relevant video poker terminology, which makes interpreting Frome’s charts much easier.
Based on his computer analysis, Frome then constructs basic strategy charts for popular games like Jacks or Better, Double Bonus, and Deuces Wild, along with other versions such as All American Poker, Tens or Better, and Double Joker Wild. In all, Frome develops proper strategies for more than 50 video poker titles, providing the foundation for further study of the game’s odds.
Lenny Frome passed away in 1998, but before that he applied his game theory analysis to several casino games, publishing nine books on the subject of strategy and proper play. Today, his son Elliot Frome continues to operate the family company, and Compu-Flyers changed its name to Gambatria in 2011.
Video Poker: Optimum Play
Dan Paymar (1998)
As a computer programmer, engineer, and technical manual writer between 1957 and 1988, Dan Paymar developed an affinity for analytics early in his life.
After relocating to Las Vegas in 1988, Paymar took a job as a poker dealer in a local casino, where he spent much of his free time studying video poker. By compiling a personal directory of the video poker games throughout Las Vegas, Paymar identified the most lucrative pay tables in the city. The result of his research was eventually compiled to form the 1992 book Video Poker: Precision Play, which was subsequently printed in 10 editions.
Rather than pursue advantage video poker play as a profession, Paymar devoted his energy to creating instructional material, including his analysis and training software “Optimum Video Poker.” In 1998, Paymar published Video Poker: Optimum Play, a title which has gone one to become one of the foundational works in all of the video poker theory.
A third edition of the book was released in 2010, providing updated information on the latest video poker variations. By sticking to a simplified approach to strategy instruction, Paymar begins by exposing readers to his concept of “Precision Play,” or a scaled down set of drawing guidelines which will bring novice players close to optimal strategy without bogging them down in lengthy guidelines.
Because Paymar focused primarily on three games in the original version, full pay Jacks-or-Better, full pay Deuces Wild, and full pay kings-or-better Joker Wild, these are the styles which receive the most attention in the updated edition. Paymar has added sections on other games, though, including All American Poker, full pay Double Bonus, 9/6 Double Double Bonus, and Pick’em Poker.
Along with his “Precision Play” advice and full basic strategy guides for each game, Paymar also devotes a few sections to bankroll considerations, risk assessment, and other skills needed to supplement sound strategic play. He also spends time dispelling various myths about the role of luck, streaks, “hot” or “cold” machines, and “being due” for a big win, helping to ground the reader’s knowledge in fact rather than wishful thinking.
The result is a comprehensive tour of proper video poker play, one suitable for both beginners and advanced players.
The Video Poker Answer Book
John Grochowski (2000)
Writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, John Grochowski was the first columnist to devote precious page space in a major American newspaper to casino gambling. His column is now nationally syndicated, with millions of readers around the country learning the ropes of casino games like video poker, online slots, and blackjack through Grochowski’s conversational question and answer style.
By building a personal brand as a steady source of gambling knowledge and insight, Grochowski now appears regularly on the radio for his “Casino Answer Man” talk show in Chicago. He also appears in casino gambling documentaries aired by the Travel Channel and writes articles for magazines and journals such as Slot Manager, Strictly Slots, and Midwest Gaming & Travel.
Like the other entries in his answer book series, Grochowski structured The Video Poker Answer Book in a unique, interactive way, one which challenges the reader through a series of tests. With multiple choice and true / false questions, along with matching games, definition lists, and other quizzes, Grochowski’s rhetorical strategy is quite unique, first forcing the reader to recognize what they do and don’t know, before offering comprehensive lessons to help them fill in the gaps.
The book is divided into 16 chapters, which Grochowski calls “Shuffles,” over more than 250 pages. The first four Shuffles cover the Basics, Match Game Part I, Match Game Part II, and Definitions, respectively. In the Basics, readers learn about pay tables, multi-hand machines, and other essentials of video poker play. In the Match Game and Definitions sections, readers must match a phrase, such as “the classic video poker game from which most others are based,” with its proper video poker term (in this case, Jacks or Better).
Shuffles 5 through 14 cover basic strategy, hand strength charts, and pay table analysis for several video poker variations, including Jacks or Better, Bonus Poker, Bonus Poker Deluxe, All-American Poker, Double Bonus Poker, Double Bonus Variations, Double Double Bonus Poker, Triple Bonus Poker, Deuces Wild, Joker’s Wild. Even better, Grochowski covers strategy for the different pay tables found in each game, such as 9/6, 8/5, and 7/6 Jacks or Better.
All told, The Video Poker Answer Book lives up to its title, providing readers with hundreds of answers to actual questions encountered by rookies and even experienced players. By presenting his analysis in an accessible format, Grochowski enables readers to learn at their own pace, while also providing a firm foundation of video poker expertise.
The Undeniable Truth About Video Poker
Rob Singer (2000)
One of the most controversial video poker writers in the industry, Rob Singer made waves in 2000 with the publication of The Undeniable Truth about Video Poker.
The book challenges the mathematical orthodoxy of video poker analysis, claiming that optimal strategy guidelines aren’t necessary because random number generators (RNGs) don’t really govern the game. Instead, Singer advocates a “system” based on instinct and feel, blending basic strategy dictums with his own gut feelings, while basing much of his approach to video poker success on quitting while you’re ahead. In fact, the name “Rob Singer” is actually a pseudonym, one chosen specifically to offer divergence from video poker’s recognized authority on mathematical analysis and optimal strategy, Bob Dancer.
In a passage which perfectly describes his view of proper video poker play, Singer writes:
“The trick here is to quit when you have reached your goal – when luck has come your way. There is absolutely no mathematical skill required to be successful.”
For a player who believes so earnestly in concepts like luck and “being due,” Singer actually comes from a well-grounded educational and professional background. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Northeastern, and added an MBA from Boston College, before embarking on a successful career in government consulting. Following his retirement, Singer pursued advantage play video poker in his spare time, losing upwards of $250,000 between 1990 and 1996. According to Singer, the losses forced him to abandon the traditional strategy charts used by most advantage players in favor of his own money management system.
In The Undeniable Truth about Video Poker Singer essentially advises readers to employ a modified Martingale system with their betting. According to Singer, the path to consistent profits begins by simply establishing a goal for the day. After that, players are advised to begin with small denomination wagers, before moving up to bigger and bigger and bets. When the goal is finally hit, Singer says to walk away from the machines immediately and chalk up the modest gains as a victory.
Overall, The Undeniable Truth about Video Poker is more of a curiosity than a legitimate strategy guide for serious video poker players. Some readers swear by Singer’s system while the majority of the video poker analytics community has assailed his work as disingenuous and counterproductive. In any event, if relying on your gut is a big part of your video poker game, and you still don’t trust that the machines are playing fairly, Singer’s work should appeal to you. But for logical players who prefer to rely on reason, the only undeniable truth about this book is that little to none will be found within.
Million Dollar Video Poker
Bob Dancer (2003)
As a writer for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Bob Dancer co-authored a weekly column called “Player’s Edge,” which reviewed local casino promotions and games with the objective of informing readers how to increase their expected value.
Dancer also teaches video poker classes at the South Point Casino, hosts an annual video poker tournament in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and his weekly hour-long radio segment “Gambling With An Edge” appears on KLAV 1230 AM in Las Vegas.
Dancer rose to prominence in 2003 with the publication of Million Dollar Video Poker, which told the improbable tale of his and his wife’s journey to the elusive seven-figure casino score. The book describes the life of Singer and his wife Shirley, who have since divorced, over a period of seven years, beginning with their first furtive efforts at advantage play video poker, and culminating with the run of a lifetime.
Beginning with just a $6,000 bankroll, the Dancers scraped by and earned a modest living through video poker, until enjoying their fruits of their labor over a six-month period between September of 2000 and March of 2001. During that span, the Dancers made significant gains, the largest of which is memorialized on the cover of Million Dollar Video Poker.
While playing on a $100 denomination machine and max-betting, Shirley was dealt the 10 of hearts, the Jack of hearts, and the Queen of hearts. Holding her royal flush draw, she discarded the other two cards and drew, before watching the King of hearts and the Ace of hearts materialize on her screen. The massive hand was good for a $400,000 payout, launching the Dancers’ career as video poker gurus, and forming the basis for the story told in Million Dollar Video Poker as the pair went on to win $1 million in just six months total.
In just under 260 pages, Dancer recounts his rise through the ranks of the video poker elite, providing colorful anecdotes which offer a glimpse back through time to the “glory days” of Las Vegas. Combining sound basic strategy guidelines with a sensible approach to earning an edge over the casino – one which incorporates video poker real money management, taking advantage of comps, and searching the city for the most favorable pay tables – Dancer provides a comprehensive education for novice video poker players and a blow-by-blow account of his exploits which is sure to inspire even the most grizzled veteran of the game.
A Winner’s Guide to…
Bob Dancer & Liam W. Daily (2003)
Co-authored by video poker authority Bob Dancer and Liam W. Daily, who assisted Dancer during his theoretical research for a number of years, each entry in the “A Winner’s Guide to…” series of video poker instruction books are widely considered to be the bible for their respective games.
Designed to guide completely new players to the “promised land,” each “A Winner’s Guide to…” book begins with simple walk-through’s, primers, and explanations. Beginning with Volume 1, “A Winner’s Guide to Jacks or Better,” Dancer and Daily describe the basic structure of commonly used pay tables, including 8/5, 9/5, 8/5/35 and 8/5 bonus, discussing similarities and difference between the variants in great detail.
Dancer’s renowned approach to sound video poker strategy is explored in depth, but the authors always ground their instruction in relatable language and easily grasped concepts. Along with guidelines for optimal strategy, Dancer and Daily also teach readers about the importance of taking advantage of slot clubs and other comps, as well as bankroll management, game selection, and selecting coin denominations.
Each of the six Volumes offers a short read of under 150 pages, but the combined knowledge contained in the complete “A Winner’s Guide to…” series should be considered the gold standard for aspiring video poker players. By beginning with “A Winner’s Guide to Jacks or Better,” readers establish the necessary knowledge base needed to excel, which forms a foundation for further education as the subsequent books in the series are absorbed. The six titles included in the series are listed below:
|A Winner’s Guide to Jacks or Better (Volume 1)|
|A Winner’s Guide to Double Bonus Poker (Volume 2)|
|A Winner’s Guide to Full Pay Deuces Wild (Volume 3)|
|A Winner’s Guide to NSU Deuces Wild (Volume 4)|
|A Winner’s Guide to Pick’em Poker (Volume 5)|
|A Winner’s Guide to Double Double Bonus Poker (Volume 6)|
Sex, Lies, and Video Poker: An Erotic Novel About Gambling
Bob Dancer (2004)
Bob Dancer’s first foray into the world of fiction, Sex, Lies, and Video Poker: An Erotic Novel About Gambling is a curious creation to the say the least.
Coming in at 340 pages in length, this book is an adults-only erotic novel with a little video poker thrown in for good measure. Perhaps a fictionalized account of his own courting of former wife Shirley, Sex, Lies, and Video Poker tells the story of Chris, a California businessman who uses his video poker prowess to impress his love interest Annie.
Reader-generated reviews of the book haven’t been all too kind, and for the most part Dancer’s fiction pales in comparison to his nonfiction storytelling ability. For video poker players looking to sharpen their skills or brush up on new concepts, this book will be a disappointment. But if you enjoy the occasional erotic novel and video poker happens to be your game of choice, Dancer’s reputation makes Sex, Lies, and Video Poker a decent read.
More Sex, Lies, and Video Poker: Another Erotic Novel About Gambling to Win
Bob Dancer (2006)
The sequel to Dancer’s first work of fiction, More Sex, Lies, and Video Poker: Another Erotic Novel About Gambling to Win simply follows up on the stormy romance between Chris and Annie.
If you enjoyed the first book in Dancer’s video poker themed erotic novel series, the second entry is likely right up your alley. For the majority of video poker players seeking instructional content, however, this book teaches more about managing extramarital affairs than it does about proper drawing strategy.
Video Poker Edge: How to Play Smart and Bet Right
Linda Boyd (2005)
As a former math teacher, casino gambling expert Linda Boyd brings an analytical approach to her study of video poker strategy.
Her book Video Poker Edge: How to Play Smart and Bet Right is intended to introduce first-time players to the game, and rookies will definitely benefit from absorbing the material. On the other hand, passages such as the one below are written from the perspective of a natural math whiz, and they may leave the common reader feeling a bit out of their depth:
“The mathematically correct way to play any dealt hand is based on the stated payout table in conjunction with statistical probabilities.”
While Boyd does tend to lapse into this scholarly writing style from time to time, the majority of the book’s 150 pages are spent explaining central concepts on their most basic level. This means Boyd takes the time to explain the difference between expected return (ER) and expected value (EV), while also briefly covering the role that Risk of Ruin (ROR) can play for serious players.
One of the most interesting aspects of Video Poker Edge: How to Play Smart and Bet Right is the inclusion of tear-out strategy cards, which readers can bring with them to the casino and use to guide their play as they learn the ropes. Features like this make Boyd’s book the perfect jumping off point for new players to begin with, before moving on to more advanced theoretical concepts.
Frugal Video Poker
Jean Scott (2006)
Billing herself as the “Queen of Comps,” author and casino gambling specialist Jean Scott debuted on the scene in 1998 with her first book, The Frugal Gambler.
As one of the first writers to expose the tried and true methods of leveling the playing field, Scott paved the way for others to do the same. But it was legendary video poker author Lenny Frome who motivated Scott to play the game at its highest level.
After a series of fun-filled but unprofitable trips to Las Vegas with her husband, Scott discovered Frome’s 1989 book Expert Video Poker for Las Vegas that year. Throughout the 1990s, Scott and her husband became avid recreational casino gamblers, spending every free weekend and vacation day in Las Vegas while honing their video poker craft.
Scott followed up on The Frugal Gambler with a sequel in 2003, before turning her attention to her favorite game. The result was Frugal Video Poker, a book built for both beginners and experienced players. The first group will benefit from Scott’s casual tone and patient instruction as she breaks down basic concepts like pay tables, game selection, and coin denominations. For the latter group, Scott’s emphasis on extracting every penny of additional value from casinos –through slot clubs, promotions, comps, tournaments, and new games – can combine with proper strategic play to push good players into the realm of consistent profits.
For players who appreciate the “hidden” values offered by casinos to those in the know, Scott’s Frugal Video Poker can help bring it all together, turning a negative expectation into a slight positive simply by scooping in the free funds available to regulars.
Your Winning Strategy to Video Poker: The Alternative to Slots
Raymond Clarke (2006)
Raymond Clarke graduated from the University of Texas at El Paso with a Bachelor’s degree in metallurgical engineering, before earning his Master’s degree in environmental engineering from the University of Maryland at College Park.
After retiring from the engineering industry, Clarke discovered video poker on a cruise with his wife. He soon began exploring the literature and seeking out ways to improve his game. Clarke’s first book, Your Winning Strategy to Video Poker: The Alternative to Slots clocks in at a quite slim 48 pages, and unfortunately, many of those are devoted to the most basic advice imaginable.
Perhaps recognizing that his own skills and strategies aren’t exactly elite, Clarke spends much of the book advising readers on ways to limit their losses, or even worse, accept their losses as an entertainment cost. Passages such as this encapsulate Clarke’s acceptance of loss strategy:
“As you learn of my strategy in playing video poker, it is very important that you realize that personalizing the strategy is needed to help you have a great time. If you can walk into a casino feeling happy and refreshed, and after a couple of hours, have the same feeling, even though you are losing money, this helps you prepare for the next day or time that you go into the casino.”
While advice like this certainly does have a place within the casino gambling industry, the majority of video poker players looking to become profitable will balk at the idea of becoming comfortable with losing. After all, with a beatable game and sound strategy, skilled video poker players should be winning slightly more often than they lose.
Clarke goes on to recommend that readers use a “pregame warmup” period to psyche themselves up, set time limits to govern the length of their sessions, and even purchase stock in casino companies so that even when you lose, you’re contributing to your own bottom line in an abstract sense.
If casino gambling is nothing to be taken seriously for you, and you don’t mind dropping a few hundred dollars for the pursuit of a good time, Clarke’s book was written with you in mind. But for the sophisticated, informed video poker players trying to improve their game, this is most definitely a title to skip over.
Video Poker for the Intelligent Beginner
Bob Dancer (2008)
The polar opposite of Clarke’s attempt at video poker instruction, Bob Dancer’s Video Poker for the Intelligent Beginner incorporates much of the acclaimed expert’s most reliable advice.
Based on Dancer’s popular “Video Poker for Winners!” software, which creates hand scenarios for a variety of rules, pay tables, and games, before crunching the numbers and determining the optimal play, this book is designed to translate that data into a usable system. Readers are given a blueprint for each game and paytable, one based on both mathematically sound strategy and mental conditioning.
As Dancer notes, video poker players will experience the agony of defeat more often than the thrill of victory, so he takes care to prepare readers for that inevitability. But as the author himself has proven time and time again, patient play and correct choices will always triumph in the long run, delivering consistent profits to those capable of staying the course.
Along with his long line of additional literature, Dancer’s Video Poker for the Intelligent Beginner is the perfect addition to every serious video poker player’s personal library.