The number of friends I have here in Las Vegas who have been asked which casino they live in is astounding. I live in the suburbs of Las Vegas and not particularly close to a casino.
There are a couple of “locals” casinos about 3-4 miles from my house. I don’t go to the casinos very often to actually play. To me, playing is a form of entertainment. When I used to vacation in Las Vegas, I would play far more often than I do now.
As a working guy raising a child, the time doesn’t exist to go out on a regular basis to go gamble. One of the advantages of my approach is that when I do go, I usually get a good idea for a column.
I decided to head over to Red Rock Casino. They had sent me an offer that if I earned 400 points in one day, I would earn $20 in free play. The amount of play that it takes to earn 400 can sometimes be a bit cryptic. It would likely take about $133 in play with the 3x points. If the points were not including the 3x, then it’s $400.
Assuming I play a 98% game even, it would only cost me $8 to earn that $20 in free play. I would then earn back about $19.60 of that $20 for a net gain of about $12.
This was a good chance to build up some points to keep my status level at Station Casinos. I showed up with $23 and had to hope the bankroll would last long enough to get the 400 points. My expected loss might have been $8, but that doesn’t mean it would be my low point. As I would discover over the hour or so, this would certainly be the case.
Because I was likely short bankrolled, I played Bonus Poker. I would give up any chance of hitting a mini-jackpot of Quads with a kicker to increase my changes of having the bankroll last.
What good would it do if my money ran out at 392 points? I’d be out $23 and would not get my $20 in free play. That’s a lose-lose situation. I played nickels given my limited bankroll.
For the first 10 minutes or so, I was staying near break even. Then the machine went cold and about 30% of my bankroll was gone before I had even earned 100 points. To help show how video poker is more volatile than say blackjack, I hit four of a kind and came back to about even.
This pattern repeated itself again. I played with a little bit of casino money for a few minutes, then the machine went cold and then I hit quads again.
I had accumulated about 150 points and was up a couple of dollars. But, now I realized I had a new problem. I had been playing for about 40 minutes and it would take another hour or so to get to 400 and I didn’t have that much time.
So, I moved up to dimes to double the rate at which I earned my points. The risk here was I could go “bankrupt” before I got to 400. I had about $16 in the machine. It did not go very well from this point.
Before I got to even 300, I had nearly run out of money a couple of times. Each time I got near $0, I managed to hit a few hands and keep it going a bit longer. But, at about 350 points, my $20 was gone.
I still had $3 in my wallet. My wife had $10 on her and that was it. We don’t tend to carry a lot of cash. With my $3 in the machine and the $10 I would get in 5 minutes, I had to earn the final 50 points.
This should not be much of a challenge, but it would also mean, even after I got my $20 back, I’d probably be at worse than break even. Not the way I planned it.
Then video poker did what video poker does. Without hitting a Four of a Kind, my machine caught fire! I was dealt two Straights and hit a couple of Full Houses from Two Pairs. I was dealt multiple Trips and High Pairs. I turned Low Pairs into Two Pairs. I was supposed to meet my wife in 5 minutes to get that extra $10. I never needed it.
In fact, I got my bankroll back to just under $16 when I hit my target. I only did okay on my free play and earned back $19 of my $20. I cashed out for $35 after buying in for $23 – a net win of $12. Right about what I expected before I began the entire thing.
My point is the importance of the size of your bankroll. I knew I was short bankrolled for my mission. If I didn’t have that extra $3, I would’ve reached 0 before getting to 400 points. If my wife was not coming to pick me up and I had driven myself, I would’ve been done (short of going to a casino ATM and paying a $5 fee to withdraw money!).
At the end of my session, I had gotten just about the payback I should expect for the machine I was playing. But, my real payback would’ve been 0% if I had to stop when I lost the $20. My expected loss might have been $4-8, but video poker is an up and down game and doesn’t mean a slow and steady slide to my final loss.
Being short bankrolled, I also didn’t opt to play my normal game of Double Double Bonus. This game is far more volatile than Bonus Poker and takes an even bigger bankroll to survive the ups and downs of the game.
Make sure you have a big enough bankroll when you head into the casino. If not, you might want to think about altering your plans for which game to play and at what denomination.
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Elliot Frome is a second generation gaming analyst and author. His math credits include Ultimate Texas Hold’em, Mississippi Stud, House Money and many other games. His website is www.gambatria.com. Contact Elliot at [email protected].