When negative can be positive

Jun 19, 2006 3:39 AM

You see the rationale for it every day almost in magazines, on Internet forums, and in the paper. In fact, in video poker circles it’s one of the main products for sale on the gurus’ shelves. It’s called Positive Expectation Play, and it’s as strong an elixir to video poker players as being invited in for a free stay at their favorite hotel/casino.

But is positive play really all it’s cranked up to be? Well, that’s exactly why I’m here and why I’ve been here over the years. Agree or not, I will give you the truth about the game in a way no one ever has.

First, let’s look at what positive play is. In blackjack, for instance, it’s when someone knows his or her basic mathematical strategy AND knows some form of card counting that theoretically puts the overall game slightly into positive territory if it were to be played flawlessly and into infinity. Not on any given day or during any given session mind you, but over an indefinable large amount of time. Does that sound easy?

When we’re talking positive play in video poker we’re talking a whole different animal. Here, the player has no need to become involved with other players, and he has no need to get entangled with the time constraints that so often monkey wrench the plan in blackjack.

Instead, he need only to locate a machine that, combined with all the promotions, points, and other slot club benefits, theoretically calculates the game to greater than 100% into infinity.

Of course, the advantage video poker player must also know whatever game he’s playing mathematically perfect, but he’s allowed as much time as required and he can use his cheat sheets (strategy cards) whenever he gets stuck on a hold. But does this equate out to a truly positive play?

Well, not exactly. The commercialized answer here of course is yes, it is a positive play simply because "the numbers" add up to greater than 100%. Upon a closer, more common sense based examination, however, the picture becomes ever so clear: 102% does not mean you will attain that level today or ever.

The problem is — and I’m sure you’re somewhat familiar with this even though you may not like it — if a game is created to be at 102.4% or whatever, that has almost nothing to do with what will actually occur. And since nobody wants to win just 2.4% on a visit — which is a waste of time to someone like me — every player including the so-called experts wants their creation to be wrong anyway!

Simply saying a game is "a 102.4% game" has no meaning whatsoever to the intelligent gambler. He can win less than, equal to, or more than that on ANY machine. Yes, even on 95% games!

Think about it, people. Who in their right mind really believes playing any game over 100% is any different than playing a game in the 90s on any given day? Sure, it may make a whole lot of players FEEL better, but the results will almost always be the same — and most of the time that means losing.

Feeling good about positive play is all part of the game. It is also a game that the casinos love to see video poker players play, because it helps keep the advantage players’ money in their bonus checks. I’ve overcome all that nonsense over the years and I’ve learned my lesson: the only positive play is realized if and when you leave the casino with more money than you walked in with.

End of story, and end of education for today.