Shapiro was a
video poker
good guy

Apr 11, 2006 1:07 AM

Isn’t it curious how we all go about our daily business, whether it’s work or taking care of the kids or going to the casinos or doing our individual chores, and everything else seems to be taken for granted — such as everyone or everything that we know or have had contact with. In such a fast moving world where everyone’s always looking for an edge in life, many things just happen and when they do, we are forced to stop and take a momentary step back and reflect.

One of those events took place recently in Las Vegas and the world touched by video poker. Elliott Shapiro, a long-time resident and highly respected video-poker-playing guru (in terms of his knowledge of the game) passed away at age 79.

His specialty was playing the game when the progressive jackpots brought the theoretical game value to around 101.5% or higher. But he didn’t stop there. As many of the local "advantage players" might do, he didn’t shy away from chasing progressive slot machine jackpots either, as well as play a myriad of video poker games for just as many reasons.

Elliott knew what he was doing and he enjoyed it, that’s for sure. Together with his wife, Joanie, he was regularly spotted around town almost on a daily basis. But what was truly special about him was how he attentively listened to those with something to say, how he approached his advice and comments to them, and his demeanor throughout the process. It can be said that with the passing of every senior citizen a library is torn down. He personified that image.

What intrigued me about Elliott was how he allowed himself to carry on a fairly regular dialog with Rob Singer. When he first heard of me and my starkly different views of the game, rather than simply dissing me or launching baseless attacks as others sometimes do, he preferred to meet me in person and openly discuss our opinions and knowledge of video poker. I even had some questions that he handily answered. Imagine that!

For many, it was confusing why he would talk to someone like me who openly dismissed his style of advantage play as meaningless or, worst yet — an easier method of losing, extremely prone to addiction and playing directly into the hands of casino managers everywhere.

But his interest in what made me tick went beyond most of that. In trying to understand the full philosophy behind my play strategies, he never did stop asking questions and offering comments.

As most of the gurus and math freaks like to do, he was trying to use or was planning on experimenting with a variation of it without really saying so. He just went about it in his own way, and I respected that.

Occasionally, we traded bold comments on how we each perceived the other’s approach. He never held back his opinion that I can be very abrasive and too straightforward in my views at times, and he was of course, right. But he also understood my point that the truth just doesn’t ”˜get out there’ without the right send-off.

Similarly, he listened as I continuously told him how I felt about a lifestyle of going into unhealthy casinos almost on a daily basis, and spending hours inside them on every visit. He heard me when I asked "who needs to sit that long?" He heard me when I asked "who needs to come out hacking and coughing so often from all the smoke?" And he heard me when I said such frequent play just might be going beyond the recreational activity that he claimed it was.

Nonetheless, we understood each other, we listened to each other, and most of all, we respected each other. Too many times, those who disagree with me start with an attack and end with an insult. This man was different. He wasn’t trying to protect or justify an image, bolster the sales of anything, or be concerned with what other people might think. He was a genuine video poker player who cared to learn as well as share his exceptional knowledge and thoughts. That, I will always remember.

While Elliott was very active in chasing so-called lucrative promotions and perceived edges wherever and whenever they presented themselves, he was always involved in a network of sharing his finds with other players and vice-versa. I myself had his number planted in both cell phones, and whenever I ran across what looked like a ”˜positive play’ that he might want to chase, I called him. Never mind that I’d never sit at the thing. He might want to, and that’s what was important.

What was so interesting was that when I gave him the meter amount for the royal along with the pay table, he almost immediately replied with the theoretical percentage figure it was at. I think he carried some kind of progressive Rolodex with him at all times, but all that showed was his total preparedness and committal to doing what he felt was right. I admired that.

One of the finest testimonials anyone can have after they leave this world is in the amount and type of remembrances expressed by his peers after departure. Elliott was a contributing member to vpFREE — the most comprehensive video poker forum on the Net. Recently the vpFREE administrator compiled a listing of all remembrances that were submitted in honor of his memory. While they still come in, Mr. Shapiro’s legacy has been set: He was truly an Ambassador of the game.

Those who knew Elliott came to understand the honorable way in which he lived his life, his dedication to his wife — who seemed to always be by his side — and his love of the game. Those who knew him realize someone very special has passed on. Rest in peace, Elliott. You’ve earned it.