With right strategy, name your score!

Oct 31, 2005 1:53 AM

I hear it all the time: "Rob, you say you fly only on very rare occasions to Nevada from Arizona to play your strategies. So, unless you’ve been able to walk that distance since gasoline prices have been on the rise, how in the world can you keep up the driving when it’s costing more and more to do so?"

That’s always a good question for someone like me who, after spending a working career basically in the air and all over the globe, now refuses to fly except only when absolutely necessary or whenever free flights are a part of the deal.

The truth is gasoline is an escalating concern for me with all the trips I take throughout Nevada from the Phoenix area just like it would be for anybody else, and because it’s at least 200 miles one-way every time I go to Laughlin, around 300 to Las Vegas, and 800 to the Reno/Lake Tahoe area, at $3 a gallon that’s a hefty expense. I also believe we’ll see even higher prices sometime down the road.

But when I say it’s a concern that’s only to the point of being flexible enough to handle it properly. I almost always rent a car on all my trips that get somewhere on the average of about 25 miles per gallon. A typical romp to Laughlin and back costs about $48; Las Vegas (and all the in-city driving from casino to casino) is about $80; and the drive to and from the Reno area averages about $120.

Being that those costs are approximately 60% higher than recent prior years, one would think I might be taking a fairly large hit. Not so. In the world of the so-called "video poker advantage player" (AP) who needs to keep the cost down on every single aspect of their play — such as when they tip or in deciding how far to drive to chase a promotion — this hike in expense can be devastating. But I am in no way one of these type players, and it is a prime reason for my being able to be handle any change that may come along that may affect my profitability.

I’ve seen recent articles from several AP’s wincing at the thought of driving 20 miles across town to take a crack at a promotion meant just for them. Reasons aren’t given, but it’s obvious that the cost of the trip would cut into their theoretical percentage in some uninviting way.

I, however, do not live under such strict regulation and am not neurotic in how much my profession costs in terms of expenses. I can understand where the others are coming from because they all work and must control what they spend in such areas. My budget is vastly different, and is nothing more than a function of how I set my win goal.

A typical goal for when I play my single-play strategy is $2,500. As such, a $50 hike in gasoline expense for that particular trip is nothing but noise. But when I play any of my other pomp-thru-town play strategies where the win goal can be as little as $200 to $500, I simply adjust my goal upward $30, $40, $50 or more — whatever is needed to cover the additional cost. And when you play an intelligent game of short-term strategy, it really isn’t all that difficult to attain. I have not yet lost after being ahead enough to quit, in order to win the small extra amount to cover the gasoline surcharge.

But what does all this really say about the game of video poker and those who come to their favorite town to play it? Well, for one thing, if the player is inexperienced and believes he or she can easily beat the game for a profit after driving all over town in three days or more, reality just hasn’t hit home yet. It’s one thing to read books and articles and the Internet to see how simple playing the most marketed strategy in the world can make you a profit. It’s another to be at home the night you return licking your wounds. And then, there’s the gasoline cost that just wasn’t supposed to be so much on top of it all!

What this all boils down to is being successful at the game most people have fits with on a daily basis. If I were still stuck inside the commerciality of long-term strategy, money would just be flying out of my pockets in all directions for how-to books, strategy cards, guru-videos, optimal play seminars, fee-based video poker sites that tout how you can win like me, and, of course — the losing that inevitably goes along with all that stuff.

Yet, more people keep getting drawn into this magical potion environment every day as new players emerge. Luckily, a portion of them find me first. But many don’t, and as they say, it’s a hard journey to perdition. So why rub salt into their wounds of losing by piling up the expenses in the form of gasoline for the trip — just to have had the privilege of losing?

Yes, video poker can be demonic to some who play it. But to those of us who play it intelligently, it can be a most rewarding experience. I’m into the final part of my ninth year of that experience, and when the gasoline prices rise, I’m simply ready.