Gain a poker edge

Apr 24, 2006 1:44 AM

Recently, a new book on video poker was released by Square One Publishers entitled "The Video Poker Edge," written by former high school math teacher Linda Boyd.

Before I read this new book, I had some contact with the author on the popular Yahoo group vpFREE. I actually took the back-door route by laying out a criticism or two about how this was probably "just another re-hash of the same old stuff" being that her ideas and opinions almost exactly mirror those of the math-based "experts" out there. She replied that this effort was different. Was my premonition correct? Yes, and surprisingly, no! The reasons follow.

The Video Poker Edge is inviting with only 150 pages. And everything from the front cover design to the clarity of the author’s messages on the back were well though out. I kind of liked it right off the bat.

The first thing I did, of course, was to thumb through the thing to determine if I was right or wrong in expecting to see a myriad of numbers, charts, graphs, and other types of what I consider baloney for the reader. That usually turns me off immediately and I never go any further.

But, almost as if the author did this to pique my interest, the charts were easy to read and not overbearing, the information was simple enough, almost to the point of being interesting, it was the most tasteful layout of its type I’ve ever come across in a video poker publication.

Most importantly, what I read during my thumbnail tour did seem to make sense.

She, however, didn’t stop there. Almost every video poker writer who clings to the math seems to have developed their own version of so-called strategy cards — she has cleverly attached her version for various games as pullouts in the back of her book. Kudos for that idea — as well as for her simplification of content.

The honeymoon sort of ends once we get into the nitty-gritty of her message to players. Her effort is clearly directed to players new to the game, and she makes no attempt at what those who’ve come before her have done: Snipe at her fellow writers.

But she also repeats their messages over and over again, about how playing to the math is the only possible way to win. Teach, we’re not in class any longer, this is the real world.

While most of her information is professionally put forth in very easy to understand writing — and although she’s really telling us nothing new — I actually found it pleasant reading for a change.

Early on, the author makes reference to the fact that if you play mathematically correct, you’ll give your bankroll a chance to last throughout your vacation, trip, or whatever. Well, I’m sure glad I didn’t start my video poker career today, because I play to win every time I play! If my bankroll can only be expected to last X-amount of time, I’d expect to be in a whole lot of trouble by now!

One of the key points she touched on was somewhat confusing to a player like me: She tells players to leave their ATM and credit cards at home when going to a casino — obviously because of the temptation, which is a very real concern to many who play video poker.

That’s entirely the wrong message, in my opinion. I teach discipline first, and discipline says to learn not to allow the casinos to tempt you into playing beyond your gaming bankroll, otherwise you do not belong in a casino in the first place. And when the author says the $500 denomination video poker machines are out there (which I didn’t know existed) I’d say proper discipline is just a tad bit important these days.

One of the author’s more interesting observations was to always use a slot club card for the benefits, but not to allow yourself to lose more than the value of that which you are getting "for free." Now, that ought to ruffle a few feathers out there for sure. We regularly see other writers say how they played for these show tickets or that cash bonus, yet we all know most people lose at least 10X the value of the freebies while chasing them. Otherwise, would the casino managers put out such offers? Think about it. I agree with Linda.

I wasn’t 100% sure, but I think this author has the same concerns I have about playing video poker online, which I will never do. But I question why she would ever think of bestowing a gift upon a casino host! Behind the scenes, these people are only after her and our money, and as much and as fast as they can get it.

Throughout the book, Boyd continually harps on the advantages of only playing the best machines with the highest expected return. Not a bad idea, but she also makes it sound like a player will not ever be able to win with regularity on lesser pay tables and/or without taking advantage of all the comps and other creative ideas advantage players tend to lean on for perceived success.

As much as I disagree with many of the author’s positions, I enjoyed reading her effort. And I absolutely recommend this book to all video poker players: especially those new to the game. It’s the best I’ve seen in that regard. Experienced players will also be interested in some of Boyd’s fact-based opinions instead of the usual array of wild assertions we see all the time.

Other writers may look it over, and get a feel for how it was put together. It’s never too late to figure out how to do it right.