For those not in the know, poker is a broad term. If you’ve heard of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) or players such as Phil Ivey, you’ll be aware of poker as a game of bluffs, big bets and pocket aces. However, away from the likes of Texas Hold’em, poker has a place in the casino world.
In fact, what’s interesting about casino poker is that it exists in two main forms: video poker and table poker. In this guide, we’re going to give you a crash course on both and point out the main differences between the two.
In simple terms, video poker is a digital casino game where you’re aiming to make the best five card hand. At the start of a betting round, you’ll receive five cards. At this point, you’ll have the option to hold or swap any number of cards you like. Once you’ve made your decision, you hit the deal button and any cards you haven’t held are exchanged for new ones.
If your five cards make a ranked poker hand, from ace-high to a royal flush, you’ll win a prize. The only caveat here is that video poker variants often have minimum hand requirements. For example, Jacks or Better means you need to have a pair of jacks or better to win a prize.
Live Dealer Poker
Unlike video poker, live dealer table poker is a played on a real table. Despite this obvious difference, the underlying aim is the same as video poker. In other words, you’ll have to make a winning five-card hand. Additionally, there may also be minimum hand requirements when you play live dealer poker.
However, the main difference is that you’ll need to beat the dealer in order to win the pot. This dynamic introduces an element of hand reading and timing that’s actually quite similar to Texas Hold’em. For example, at the start of a betting round, you’ll be dealt two cards and asked if you want to continue.
If your starting cards are strong, you can place an extra bet and see the flop (three community cards). From there, you can bet or check your way through the turn (fourth community card) and the river (the fifth community card) if you believe you can beat the dealer. Eventually, if you stay to the river, the dealer’s two cards are revealed and the strength of your hands are compared. If you win, you receive a return on your investment.
Video Poker vs. Live Dealer Poker
Now we’ve defined the parameters of each game, let’s pick out some differences you need to know before you ante up:
- Setting: As we’ve said, video poker is digital and live poker is, unsurprisingly, live. Because of this, there will be time constraints on the latter simply because there are other people involved.
- Speed: Because video poker is digital and a solo pursuit, betting rounds take less time. In fact, video poker games are almost as quick as online slots.
- Strategy: Perhaps the most important difference between the two games is tactics. Video poker is a game of mathematics. If you can learn the hand rankings and the odds of making hands when you hold/exchange cards, you can get an edge in video poker.
Live dealer poker still has an element of mathematics but timing also comes into play. By being able to read the game, the cards in play and remembering what’s been dealt, you can refine your moves. For example, if the previous three hands had all contained aces, the chances of another one appearing have clearly decreased. Therefore, you wouldn't continue to play if your only chance of winning was hitting an ace.
That, in reality, is the biggest difference between the two games. Video poker is all about isolated hands in a vacuum. In contrast, live dealer poker is much more about history, game flow and table dynamics. Therefore, in our opinion, you should base your decision on which to plan this above all else.