Theory vs. practice

Oct 3, 2005 4:46 AM

Recently there have been several Point-Counterpoint discussions on various casino games, and of course the columns on video poker always seem to generate the most interest and e-mails.

I get many messages from readers that go both ways — even when I don’t write either of the columns. So this week I’ve decided to look at the other side of a Expert Strategy column that appeared in last week’s publication.

One of the first points made was that expert strategy was never advertised as the strategy that would guarantee one would actually win at video poker. While this is true of any strategy, most if not all of these expert approaches are sold to anxious and wide-eyed gamblers looking to beat the casinos. The wrong message is sent, and people lose in more ways than one. A true winning play strategy would only be disseminated to an interested public for FREE, because no winning player would have the need to take other people’s money while being able to claim gambling success.

Does learning expert video poker strategy really allow the gambler the best chance of winning by stretching his gambling dollar, as the article suggests?

Not at all. In fact, once one picks up on how the authors claim to win by using this strategy, the player will find that many, many hours of flawless, sustained play are required just to approach the limits of the math models that tout such success.

In gambling — and especially video poker — that can easily lead to an addiction, although those who have taken this route are quick to snap back by saying "I’m a recreational player who ONLY plays 15-25 hours a week!" See my point?

Who can argue that one should seek out and play the best pay tables? But to say professional players must only play games with positive expectations is shortsighted at best. Again, that’s putting classroom theory before common sense and real life scenarios.

I play mostly negative games because that’s what’s available, yet I win on a consistent basis — much more so than what others say is reasonable for their expert strategy — and I make my living from doing this.

All the others either work multiple jobs, have fee-based sites, ask for your credit card before supplying any advice, and sell a myriad of products.

It’s also interesting when someone says trying to win on negative expectation games is like "trying to defy gravity ”¦ it doesn’t happen."

This must mean that I am not to be believed. Yet, I recently offered in the form of a very large bet right here in GamingToday to produce absolute, indisputable and financial institution/casino/IRS audit documented proof of an 8-yr. period of consistent winning (approx. 87%) to the tune of over $640,000 profit.

Is it by "sheer accident" that some casinos put in over-100% video poker games? I think not, in fact, one need only to review the history of the Suncoast, The Reserve, Station Casinos, Sam’s Town, etc. and most recently Wynn Las Vegas to see that it is no accident. And whenever the machines have their pay tables lowered it is simply a business decision to pull games that bring in fewer profit dollars than others. These games continue to flourish, however, and they generate the most play of any video poker machines on the casino floors.

Another mistake by the so-called math experts is in proclaiming any deviations from perfect or expert strategy as sacrificing a fraction of the payback. Once again, while that may be true on a piece of paper with probability theories and math models, when a real player goes into a real casino anything can happen at any time. Deviating from optimal strategy is the only way to make that happen. Ignore that and you might as well just save your time, hand your money over to the casino, and leave.

Whenever I read where someone says they’re making X-amount of dollars per hour playing a positive machine whether they win or lose, it automatically sends up the BS red flag. I don’t know about you, but if I play for three hours and lose $300, I’ve just lost a hundred dollars an hour! No amount of nonsensical, self-confidence-building phantom bucks earnings will ever change that. It’s statements like these that cheapen the already suspect messages put out by those who claim to know why expert strategy is the only way to approach video poker.

At the end of the day are you going to believe the words of someone who writes about math theory as the means to win, or someone who actually plays the game with a much more sensible play strategy AND WINS by doing so?

You make the call. I already have long ago, but I chose the hard way to get there. You don’t have to take that route.