Gambling smart takes discipline

Aug 7, 2006 5:03 AM

It has been said that unless a player is exceedingly lucky with a life-changing jackpot, he or she must play intelligently or will lose it all.

That’s true, but just how smart does one need to be in order to stay in the black playing video poker against the casinos? Let’s take a look.

Advantage video poker players pride themselves on supposedly being the smartest of the smart when it comes to creating positive plays out of whatever’s offered up by the casinos. Certainly, their tactics can be identified as GAMBLING SMART, but why is it not SMART GAMBLING when they approach the game in this manner?

First and foremost, these players never play on their own terms. They’re always chasing slot club promotions — thereby corralled by the casinos at their every beck and call. Not only that, most of the time if they bring enough cash, they’re playing for as long as the casino wants them to. Being a puppet in the game is not smart at all — it is not smart gambling.

Let’s examine one of the most recent and more glaring examples of what’s really not the best way to approach playing regardless of the outcome. At a Caesar’s Palace tournament (Fortunes of Rome) that is held every few months in which the "Frugal Gambler" Jean Scott, her partner Brad, and two other friends of theirs, took part and shared equally in, a large jackpot of $500,000. They were all lucky — congratulations are certainly in order, and obviously Caesars made their usual bundle from this. But just how smart a play was it?

The tournament ground rules required a $10,000 entry fee — which we were told was shared 50-50. The main requirement was the compiling of 135,000 Harrah’s Rewards Credits, which meant $1,350,000 in play had to be put through the video poker machines in just three days.

This guaranteed both the return of the $10k entry fee as well as an entry into the slot tournament for the million dollars in prize money. Clearly, this is the stuff of extreme high limit play for many hours. In an article on the subject, she wrote that the four of them played 30 hours on five-play $5 Jacks or Better in order to attain that point level.

She also said they could have "gone it alone" with bankroll but for some reason didn’t. After all, it only takes a quarter million dollars’ bankroll in guru-terms to play the thing. But just how "frugal" an effort was playing at those limits and for that long anyway?

And is 30 hours play out of a 72-hour period really the stuff of self-composed, disciplined, "recreational" gamblers?

What does Caesars go after with these type tournaments anyway? They’re obviously BIG TIME moneymakers for them, so don’t ever expect to see anyone write about all the beatings that take place.

At the end of the day the team was fortunate that Brad accumulated the highest score in the slot tournament portion of the event. I’ve met him, and I believe he said he was retired navy. I couldn’t think of a more deserving type of person I’d like to see win one of these high-limit tournaments.

The bottom line is that I don’t consider playing in such events smart gambling at all. Sure, a play of over 100% was created out of the 99.54% Jacks or Better game that was chosen for play, but that guarantees nothing over a three-day period.

The more important question would be: is playing so much in so little time, i.e., playing for the points instead of the money, worth going against everything you say you stand for? In other words, is "taking a shot" ever the right thing to do in video poker? Smart money says it isn’t.

My own version of smart gambling is quite a bit different than the advantage play crowd, and it’s the reason why I’m able to win so consistently and do not need to chase such promotions. My gambling bankroll is not huge — I started out with the required (for my strategy) $171,600 in 1997 and it remains exactly that.

I trained myself to have extreme discipline as well as the iron clad determination required to always do what I say I am going to do in terms of sticking to my play plan. I play strictly according to my play strategies, and I never deviate from them as I try to attain my goals. Progressions in both denomination and game volatility are equally as important as anything else, and I know that the lack of even one aspect of my overall strategy means I will lose.

But this alone is not at all the entire story of why I am a smart gambler. I do not believe any video poker player who was addicted to expert-play and long-term strategy as I was for six years, can be successful living amongst the machines.

Any advantage player who tells you differently without hitting extremely lucky jackpots is flat out lying. That’s why I live in Arizona and only play for profit in Nevada. When I win my goal I leave, immediately. And there are no machines around that I will play until my next pre-determined trip.

More so than anything else, a professional player must have the proper support structure. I am lucky to have that in the form of a wonderful wife who continues to work. We all need health insurance, and what she earns at the major aerospace firm she’s worked at for years along with her pension, 401k and all other benefits is worth FAR more than any one lucky hit that I or anyone else has experienced.

A total package of the proper circumstances — that’s what SMART GAMBLING is all about. You can listen to and read about how players who think what they’re doing by creating so-called positive plays out of thin air is gambling smart, but all they’re really doing is manufacturing justification for playing over their heads and far more than they should. Casinos seek out those type people. Don’t let them find you.