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You’ve probably all noticed signs around a casino or casino advertising that talk about what to do when it is not fun anymore.

These notices are required to help those with problem gambling. I am certainly not mocking those notices when I ask what do you do when you are winning, and it is not really fun? I was sort of facing this situation this past week while playing some video poker.

We’ve all had sessions which just did not go our way. That’s the nature of gambling. But, not all casino games are built the same way. You can sit down and play Pai Gow Poker where more than 40% of the hands will end in a push. There is only a roughly 17% chance that you will lose five hands in a row. You are almost as likely to win five hands in a row. The rest of the time it will be a combination of wins, losses and pushes. It’s a slow game in which at the end of the night, you are likely to be just a few wagers away from even. Of course, the sidebet livens things up a bit.

I have never been able to sit and play Pai Gow for very long. Quite frankly, I get bored. But there are a lot of Pai Gow tables out there, so clearly there are a lot of people who not only do not get bored, but truly enjoy playing this relatively slow game.

It is interesting that I do like to play Blackjack even though it profiles a lot like Pai Gow. There are far less pushes, but the player is only slightly more likely to lose a hand than to win it. The vast majority of hands pay even money, with the exceptions being a Blackjack, splits and double downs.

I think this is because I like the strategy aspect of Blackjack vs. Pai Gow. There really is no strategy with Pai Gow. You make a wager, you are dealt your cards and you split the hand. Most of the time, the way you play your hand is obvious. Occasionally, you have some choice, but it won’t make that much of a difference.

To give you some idea of how little strategy matters, the casino will happily help you split your hand according to the House Way which is as good as you can get more than 99% of the time. They are not as generous in Blackjack. Sometimes a dealer will give you some advice, but I have also seen dealers give horrible advice.

In the end, in both Blackjack and Pai Gow, you’re likely to wind up very close to even after playing for an hour or two. If you enjoy the game itself, you are likely to have fun whether you win $20 or lose $20. Sure, you might have more fun if you’re up, but $20 for an hour or two of entertainment isn’t bad.

The other day, I was playing video poker, a game I most definitely enjoy playing. I was playing Multi Strike Deuces Wild. To say the least, it’s a pretty high volatility game. But even with this game, many times, my bankroll will go up and down, staying something close to even. After a couple of hours, I’ve had my fun and my fill and off I go.

On this one day, I could not seem to hit a single hand. I was dealt three Deuces a bunch of times and could not draw more than Quads. I even had a natural 4-Card Royal but came up completely empty. I was not doing well, to say the least. It’s not like I was at least hitting more than my share of Quads or Straight Flushes to keep me close.

Then, on the top line, I was dealt a pair of Deuces and Drew to a Wild Royal. Just like that, I was up a bit. I kept playing but wound up back in the same pattern of drawing nothing much. Kind of rare for me, but I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

I played overall for almost two hours, but came away with a profit, but without much feeling of satisfaction. I’m sure it would’ve been worse if I had lost $40 or more, but the fun was missing. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy playing the game, but on this particular day, the volatility was just sucking the air out of the room. It’s the way it goes sometimes. 

About the Author

Elliot Frome

Elliot Frome’s roots run deep into gaming theory and analysis. His father, Lenny, was a pioneer in developing video poker strategy in the 1980s and is credited with raising its popularity to dizzying heights. Elliot is a second generation gaming author and analyst with nearly 20 years of programming experience.

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