Players must exert pressure on casino

Aug 22, 2005 2:27 AM

All our lives we’ve been reminded not to reward anyone for doing what you don’t want them to do. If you want your child to eat his vegetables, you don’t take them to the toy store for NOT eating their vegetables.

It also works for businesses. If you get rude service at a supermarket, you’re not going to change their attitude by coming back every day to buy more groceries.

Casinos are no different. Many years ago, Atlantic City was an awful place for video poker. "Full pay" jacks or better in Atlantic City meant a 6-5 game paying a paltry 95.5%.

At first, people flocked to Atlantic City casinos and played anything that the they dished out. After the allure ran out, people began to realize that the payouts were bad, and in some cases, it could actually be cheaper to fly to Las Vegas and play there.

Little by little, Atlantic City casinos caught on and began to improve their paytables. Today, finding 98.5% machines in Atlantic City is not a challenge.

In the meantime, Las Vegas has been going in the opposite direction. "Video Poker Heaven," as my dad Lenny referred to Las Vegas, has slowly been lowering its paytables.

Once upon a time you could find numerous 100% and better games and 99.5% full-pay jacks or better machines almost everywhere. Now, Las Vegas has turned into the land of 98.5% games. That’s not to say that some of the better ones don’t exist, but they have gotten harder to find.

Some people have blamed this downward trend on the "experts" who have taught the masses how to play video poker properly. I certainly won’t rule this out as a factor. However, if not for pioneers such as my father, Lenny Frome, I’m not sure that video poker would even EXIST in casinos today.

Early players relied on gut instinct and probably never came close to hitting the machine’s highest payback rate. However, there is little doubt that the more players play expertly, the less the casinos will win over time, which in turn may force the casinos to lower their paytables.

So, what can the players do to stop the erosion of the payouts? Simply, stop playing the lousy paying machines.

Of course, "lousy" is a relative term. There are many professional players who refuse to play anything that is below 100% payback. I don’t expect the recreational player to draw the line there.

But you can make sure that the game you pick is at least 98.5%. If it isn’t, go find a different machine or different casino. Make sure you tell the casino that you’re leaving to go find better paying machines elsewhere.

For the casino that has a handful of better paying machines as a tease, just watch and wait for an empty seat. There is nothing worse for the casino than people just standing around and NOT gambling.

Last week, Wynn Las Vegas added several top paying machines to their floor. Many serious video poker players are very excited about this. They’re hoping that the other casinos will catch on and also put in better paying machines.

The problem is, if a handful of machines attract hundreds of players, many of whom wind up playing the lousy machines because they can’t get on the good paying ones, the casinos will NOT learn the lesson we hope they learn.

They will learn that they can put in a small handful of good paying machines, bring in large crowds, and most of the players will end up hunched over the lesser playing machines.

If, however, everybody who CAN’T get on one of the good paying machines just forms a line and waits, or expresses his displeasure at not being able to get on one of these machines, the casinos will learn a different lesson altogether.

That lesson will be that the video poker players are demanding better paying machines. Not just a few to tease us, but enough for everyone who wants one.