When is ‘long’ term?

Apr 4, 2006 2:16 AM

Whenever groups of video poker players get together, you’d think from all the Internet chatter, arguing, and made-up definitions of what the long-term actually refers to, there’d be a continuation of this discussion for hours on end.

Not so. While these mostly self-proclaimed advantage players (AP’s) portray an unending desire to fill the forums and chat rooms with this intriguing subject matter while at home, once inside casinos it’s a whole other story. They simply cannot wait to sit at the machines and give it a go, and whenever there’s a break in the action, all they can do is moan and groan over how the machines seem continue to mock their play in one way or another.

Yet the argument rages on and on. It’s actually very entertaining watching their thoughts unfold from the comfort of my home, and seeing how even the famous names in the ”˜business’ have never been able to agree on what to tell their subjects. Although there’s on-going trouble in guru-land on a number of seemingly unimportant issues, I can only imagine the virtual fisticuffs if they ever got together for a weekend retreat to discuss ”˜the long-term’.

But even before they get into what the long-term really might be, those who sell advantage play strategy are always good for a laugh or two when they attempt to tell us their ”˜tips’ on playing for a profit. One of those ways is to have the proper bankroll — although it’s not surprising we’re rarely told what they think that is. I chock that up to the usual array of smoke and mirrors.

Another is — and this is my absolute favorite — NOT to play at 100.1% expected value (EV) and really expect to win, but to play at 100.1% and you will be a winner! So let’s see, I go into Casino A and play a 100.1% (or less) machine, hit four Aces, but I LOSE? And if I go into casino B and play their version of a ”˜sure thing’ — a 100.1% — I will WIN even if I lose?! God bless America.

OK, so why is it that the famous long-term is really non-existent for players? Well, let’s take a look at several of the more famous definitions of the long-term I’ve seen put forth by the sales people over the years.

First, one said it was "a million hands." Yup, that’s what I read all right! Hmm, at 600 hands per hour (the recognized guru-standard) that means I’d have to play 1666 hours, and at two trips to Las Vegas per month where a player would put in 24 hours of play on each visit, it would take 70 trips — or three years to attain that elite status!

Another has said the long-term calculates out to six or seven royal flush cycles, which is geek-language translates out to about 285,000 hands. Not quite in sync with the other guy now, is it! Still, a few others tell us the long-term is attained as soon as the player crosses the theoretical EV line. Could be one hand, ten hands, ten thousand hands, or millions upon millions of hands. Yikes!

Still others will tell you they absolutely have it all figured out. The long-term is the amount of time that passes from the moment you play your first video poker hand until you play your last. Presumably, these folks are talking about death, because video poker is so addictive that no one ever just quits! Naturally, that’s the easy-way-out explanation, and is typically given by someone who’s looked foolish trying to explain it one of the other ways in the past. Can these people possibly be any more confusing?

But the reason you all came to my column once again today is for another dose of the truth — and that’s exactly what I’m going to tell you about the famous ”˜long-term’ right now. People, there is no such thing as the long-term for players and we all know that. To deny this simple fact would be akin to disregarding that the casinos were put in Nevada and elsewhere as major FOR-PROFIT operations.

While there is no such event for players as long-term, when talking about the casinos it’s a whole other story. These businesses DEPEND on what the long-term has to offer and they play the game well — better, in fact, than only the luckiest of players. When you go into a casino to play video poker, just what are you facing? Yes, that’s right. You’re going up against a very tough computer — one that was programmed to win your and everyone else’s money over time, i.e., the long-term.

That’s right folks. While advantage players make believe they’re playing to a theoretical advantage on promotion day, every machine has your and their number already dialed in. To it, you are nothing more than a cog in its long-term wheel of profit.

The lesson today? Every player who chooses to go into a casino and play video poker - reel ’em in promos and special deals or not - does so at a standing disadvantage to that casino. Why? Because it is simple common sense knowledge that each time a player plays he or she is only doing so in short-term bursts, with each session having absolutely nothing to do with tomorrow’s or those of yesterday. Anyone who likes to "add all the sessions up to approach the ”˜long-term’" is doing nothing but fighting the basic principles of mathematics. It cannot be said any more clearly than that.

Yes, it is true that each of the machines and/or casino games you and I play are all traveling on the road towards the long-term, and they are the only entities in a casino that can make that claim. People cannot. Although it makes for intriguing video poker sales pitches and paraphernalia as well as interesting marketing ideas, you’d be smart to just run away from anything that touts such nonsense for the player. I finally did — nearly 10 years ago — and it remains one of the best days of my life.