Don’t let your ‘edge’ force your hand

Jan 11, 2005 1:07 AM

Let’s face it: all of us who play the game of video poker and who do so on a regular basis always want to win, we never want to lose, and we know it usually will be a rough ride at the machines. In my own case, even though I win around nine out of every 10 visits to Nevada, I expect to win, but I also expect a struggle that will test my wits every single time. Progressing in denomination, waiting for that special quad or better to come, sometimes several times per session, does take a certain amount of nerve.

It’s also true that if players are serious about winning, they need to understand everything there is to know about the games they intend to play. And just like every effort put forth by anyone with an interest in anything, unless you constantly work at it you will not be very proficient. I am serious about playing video poker, and my three main games are Bonus Poker, Double Double Bonus Poker, and Triple Bonus Poker Plus. How well do I know these games? I am an expert at each. Do I make mistakes when playing? Whether I see them or not, absolutely I do. How often? Well, one rarely plays at even a 95 percent perfection rate, and the longer one’s session lasts past a single hour, the worse it gets.

I know, I know, you’ve heard a few of the self-proclaimed gurus tell you how perfectly they play. But they’re selling you mathematical tools of the trade and I am not. I have the luxury of being able to utilize common sense in all this. I am aware and do not hide from the very real fact that NO ONE ALIVE plays like the robotic perfectionists those who sell their paraphernalia to the public give us the perception that they do. They may KNOW how to do it properly 100 percent of the time, but flawless performers they are not.

Because of this, my opinion that there is no such animal as the "advantage player" continues to be understood by more and more players every day. If there were, two very important phenomena would be taking place: Casinos would not survive; and these famous names who tout this self-confidence-building fantasy would NOT be allowed to play.

Think about it, and then ask yourself why you buy all that stuff that’s purported to make you "win like Mike." What do casinos do with those who have made a name for themselves (and those who haven’t) by counting cards — a questionable system of winning at best. Are they welcomed in with open arms, or do casinos simply not want them in their house? Now compare that to those in video poker who not only publicly and constantly advertise their


alignment with casinos in one way or another — they continually speak and write about how they win tons of cash, get endless comps, take in more gift-giveaways than anyone can comprehend, and are the most beloved patrons of the casinos as well as the best known slot-club members on the planet.

Yet the glaring anomaly remains: This type of advantage player’s constant claim is that they never play in any venue where they do not have "the edge." Now think about THAT. This scenario clearly says that certain players who tout strict use of slot club cards (where every hand played is tracked) year after year are for some reason allowed to rape casinos for cash, gifts, comps, and all the freebies one can imagine while blabbing about it in the media time after time. Does that make sense to you?

Here’s the definition of the so-called system of "playing with an edge": Choosing a casino and a machine/game where the theoretical pay back percentage of that game, together with any comps, cash back, gifts, tournament invites, drawing entries, and/or the VALUATION of multiple point promos, double royals, four-of-a-kind logo yoyo freebies, "free" gasoline, car washes or airline miles, casino host smiles, VIP attention, along with that great feeling one gets from it being a sunny day, all add up to a greater-than-100 percent experience. And of course, there’s always the occasional "Although the game wasn’t at 100 percent, I played it anyway in order to solidify my standing at this particular casino" scenario in an attempt to save face.

My ongoing disagreement with players who use this verbiage about how they only play with an edge is straightforward. I don’t believe anyone ever walks into any casino and plays with a long-term edge, because their fighting a monster with the same M.O. Advantage players try to argue that, if a player ONLY plays in such situations and often, that "edge" swings the profiting ever-so-slightly in their favor.

Say what? The playing habits, results, and weaknesses of everyone who uses a slot card — including advantage players — are well known to casinos. Promotions are specifically designed to reel these frequent customers in, who by design will risk more money than they normally would. And the confidence such players give each other while going for the bait only puts a wider smile on the casino manager’s face. They’re one step ahead of these folks, and you know their bank accounts reflect that!

So what about me ”¦ do I play with an edge? Mathematically, no, absolutely not. I play games that others scoff at as being below 100 percent regularly, and I do not always remember or want to use a slot club card for the benefits. Benefits are not important to me, but I certainly take whatever they want to give me — whether they offer it or I manipulate the system so they’ll give it to me. I only play for the cash period — something that playing in short-term, goal-setting bursts and plays that deviate from optimal expert-play strategy afford me.

Bottom line: I am not a neurotic about using cards. If I do, fine, and if I do not — or if I look up and see the reader flashing "Please Reinsert Card" — I do not go into a panic attack. I am there for the money and not to see how high a status I can achieve in order to be ogled over by some patronizing host and their bosses.

People who claim they "play only when they have an edge" say so in order to make themselves feel good about what they are doing. For some, it’s also a clever way to sell things. It gives some justification to players who look back at their play and question if they really should be putting that much money into the video poker machines. My ability to win comes not from a so-called edge, but from doing exactly the opposite as the casino expects me to, and by using a play strategy that remains under the radar screen. And that’s what intelligent play is all about.