Curing winner-itis

Apr 30, 2006 11:56 PM

It just keeps getting funnier and funnier. There’s more and more chatter about how the video poker machines must be tightened up because of the seemingly increasing number of players complaining about losing so much money.

But something must be topsy-turvy. This trend hasn’t affected the famous names in the slightest — they just keep on wining and winning.

And did I mention that people just keep on trusting and trusting the mathematical approach proffered by these winners?

Unfortunately, many of these "expert" writers talk the talk without ever walking the walk from their lofty perch because they know better than to take on the casinos at their own game.

What got me to thinking about writing video poker’s most straightforward book in 2000 — The Undeniable Truth About Video Poker —was indeed the aura of invincibility that seemed to surround the famous names and math gurus, yet when I talked to hundreds of regular everyday players who said they only play optimal strategy, they constantly lost.

So along with my own pitiful results of over six years of being an advantage player (AP), I began to put two and two together. It took, however, an inordinate amount of time for those numbers to finally equal 2.

How do the math gurus continue to defy reality for the most part today? I believe the answer lies within how the normal player reports his results.

We have no alternative motives or hidden agendas to worry about. No one’s out there checking our ratings. We are simple gamblers trying to win money every time we play in casinos, and when we win we go to the bank and make our deposits. When we lose we go to the bank and withdraw more. Nothing could be easier than that, right?

Well, it turns out to be even easier than that. This is how 2+2 really comes out to equaling 4. Pure math, simple common sense, and alas”¦..truth in reporting! It really isn’t all that difficult saying that you lost this year or last year, etc., even though you played as perfectly as possible on only positive EV machines! Why be embarrassed? After all, the casino managers at all those lucrative promotions you played at during the year understood you’d lose more than you’d win at them — expert player or NOT!

OK, so that explains what we already knew about ourselves. We played a lot, if we won we had more cash, and if we lost we didn’t. But what about the few gurus out there who seemed to have that chronic magic of always winning when we don’t, firmly on their side? Is there any explanation other than they were the chosen few who were always out there taking their rightful places as our video poker heroes?

Thank goodness for the passing of time. Please fast forward to today — the era of the undeniable truth about what’s really going on in the world of video poker. No, folks, you and I weren’t crazy back then, nor are there any crazies among us today. We understood what losing was, and more importantly, we understood what winning was — and we still do. The math hasn’t changed, and the casinos are thriving more than ever before.

But how can the casinos be prospering when the gurus keep on winning? I mean, if they came along years ago with information on how they were winning all the time using long-term math as their chief ally — and obviously there are millions of Americans alone at least as savvy in mathematics than all or most of them — then how in the world can casino towns be continually doing so well with so many video poker games on their floors?

Well, let’s look at how these perennial winners do what they say do. Those who say they only play with an edge will usually only play if the theoretical edge is at least 1%. I’ll accept that. Many tell me they regularly seek out and find plays with a 2% or greater advantage. I’ll accept that too, because as we all know, these folks are experts at adding in cash back, coupons, free-play, comp shows/food/rooms, and even tournament play as part of that formula for success.

But how does this method guarantee they can announce their winning prowess to the world? Here’s the trick: Loss is impossible to realize when you’re only playing in positive situations. If you’re playing at a 1.5% advantage during a year in which you’ve run $4,000,000 through the machines, that translates to a theoretical profit of $60,000!

Never mind that the player likely lost a hundred thousand in cash. They won because if all went according to the math, they should have won — and that’s all there is to their story!

Now enter reality. Ever try to deposit some of those phantom bucks at the bank? Can you picture the scenario if it were you who was creating such imaginary situations: You walk into a +1% advantage at the Palm’s because you’ve added in the value of the car they are giving away to the person who likely has played the most in the preceding 24 hours, you lost several hundred dollars with $145,000 put through the machines — yet you’ve earned the right to brag that you won $1,450!

However, this isn’t the kind of currency a bank teller will accept. That’s where the true story gets told. Banks aren’t located across the street from fantasyland, and they don’t take make-believe money either. But they do know how much that recent withdrawal was, sorry to say.

So from now on don’t feel so bad when all you hear is how they win and you don’t. Without extreme good luck, no one wins, and without the ability to take advantage of every time luck shines down upon you, no on can win consistently. They claim it’s some sort of skill; I say it’s luck. Who are you gonna believe?