Good, bad mark online experience

Jun 6, 2005 12:54 AM

To those of us who play the game of video poker, either for profit or simply because of an acute dedication to the most compelling casino game ever invented, we know we’re involved in activity that includes no one other than ourselves. It is a very private and sometimes isolating game.

But playing the game can extend beyond the casino. It’s called the Internet, and while I don’t condone gambling online, the Internet affords the ability to chat with others about the game, join in various video poker forums and otherwise get your daily dosage of video poker in the comfort of your den.

As a serious player who has a website designed to help others understand the truths about the game, I also send out a sometimes weekly e-newsletter, for free, to the many who have joined. In it they get my personal experiences, my insights to recent issues within the world of gaming, and even more truths about what’s behind my and other "expert" approaches to video poker.

But there are other, more detailed sources of information. One of the most significant of the others is "vpFREE," which can be found on Yahoo. It has been and continues to be the Cadillac of video poker chat groups. Yet, it is not perfect, and as you’ll see, even the best can have a not-so-attractive side to it.

First, The Good: The group’s administrator has chosen, to the delight of his nearly 5,000 members, to offer everything at no charge. It also has the Web’s most detailed and complete bank of video poker information available anywhere, and if that were not enough, there are links to virtually anything that has to do with the game.

Not only does the site keep the forum’s considerable data banks current, members can access any video poker columnist’s history of articles, including yours truly.

Want to know what the pay tables at Mandalay Bay look like? Ever wonder when triple-point days occur at Ellis Island? Do you find yourself wishing you knew when double royals days were being held at Terrible’s Casino? Just log on to vpFREE!

Next, The Bad: The main purpose of vpFREE is for video poker players to be able, through information transfer and chat, to get the most bang. Far too much time is spent, however, publicizing slot club "benefits," coupons and other so-called freebies designed to attract players.

But those in my camp — one that is driven by common sense — see players who chase these promotions as mere dupes of the casinos. Obviously, casino managers know how to press players’ buttons in order to get them to willingly file into the fleecing pens. While the freebies and comps and points sound attractive, the advantage is always with the casino and they win 99 times out of 100.

Although trivial in nature to me, this stuff is what hundreds of members live to wake up and read. The reason why escapes me. Stimulating discussion is more my style.

Finally, The Ugly: All forums have those who like to cause trouble with a dose of irrational behavior. About six months ago on a spin-off vpFREE forum where members are allowed to express their minds openly, I encountered a poster named "Dick." His goal was to continually tell everyone I was a "liar and a fraud" simply because he and his slide rule weren’t able to figure out how I was able to win so consistently playing what to him are negative expectation games.

Throughout the exchange, his true meaning became clearer with every post. We tried to organize a bet, but every time the parameters were set he backpedaled. He liked to believe tribal casino games were fair because he spent so many hours playing at them, and what better reason to feel a need to justify an association with such places?

And my favorite — he claimed to be a recreational player only who doesn’t have to play — one of his last posts told of hitting 26 royal flushes in the past six months! I don’t know that I’ve hit 70 royals since I began playing in 1990, and I play more than most players.

This type of contradictory behavior is typical among those who cannot and will not recognize a serious addiction to the game. Video poker forums could be an excellent medium for getting this word out, but such discussion is considered taboo on vpFREE. That’s why I’m here, folks, and that’s why I go to great lengths to get my words of wisdom out to the playing public. They may not be able to get it on the forums, but those who read this column and receive my newsletter will better understand the game of video poker from someone who’s seen it from every side imaginable.