Get back to basics
and stay there!

Jan 1, 2007 4:05 AM

Probably one of the most misunderstood parts of learning to play video poker successfully is in first understanding the basics.

Many people like to define the basics as simply how the game is played and what the pay tables mean when choosing a machine or game. They also toss in how a keen understanding of the mathematical aspects of a deck of cards and the willingness to devote yourself to the misleading "long-term" will pull you through the very real tough times ahead. But it is at this point that the train starts to run off the tracks — taking the once simple basics with it.

So just what are the basics and why are they so important? First, a player has to come to terms as to why he or she is playing so often. This is a basic because one must initially realize what’s putting him or her at the machines all the time. Is it to win money? Is it to pile up the points? Is it for slot club status? Or is it because you simply are compelled to keep playing a game that by definition was meant to rope players in as well as make them think about playing it, for a good part of their lives?

Once you’ve gotten your rationale for playing in the first place understood, it’s time to look at some of the more mainstream basics of the game. Do you know how to play poker? Great, but it doesn’t do much if you depend on the actions/reactions of others to help you make choices.

Live poker played successfully depends in large part on how you go about being read and how well you can read others. With a machine you can eliminate that distraction in a big way.

As you sit at a machine, are you playing on your own terms or did you choose the game because you were brainwashed into thinking 100% theoretical payout equates to easy money? Are you sitting at the progressive that’s at 103.4% because a snake oil salesman told you you’ll win whether you win or lose — or because you just so happened upon it and the big jackpot payout looked exciting?

Here’s where you need another reality check. A player could play every day on negative expectation machines and win far more than the "expert" banging away endlessly on the positive ones.

But what strategy should one use for the best chances at success? First, if you don’t know the basic holds of playing poker, stay away from the game. So many times I watch as a player holds two 9’s and a King or other similar aberrations, I guess hoping for a high pair or two Kings. Then there’s those who go for inside straights when it’s a total waste of time. You must be able to use your head when playing video poker.

Do you play because this is where you want to play and when — or are you sitting at the machines because you were reeled in like a dead fish by some lucrative sounding, slick slot club promotion?

That’s why I developed my five winning play strategies. Back when I wrote The Undeniable Truth About Video Poker which was very controversial because of the truths it contained and continues to be today, my publisher told me a very interesting point about one of the reasons they chose to get involved.

A true pioneer of the game — Lenny Frome — once said to them that even though he had calculated the theoretical success of long-term strategy on positive expectation machines, he himself could not beat the game so he quit trying — and neither could anyone else. Very telling indeed, although prior to hearing that I took the rough road of trying to dispute that type of position by playing losing optimal-play video poker myself for over 6 years. It just doesn’t work folks. Don’t believe anyone who claims it does.

Eventually, common sense stepped in and took over my playing life, and year after year I continue to enjoy the game and the profits more than ever before. Of course the critics like to keep the complaints coming, yet they whisk right on by the fact that I am the only player ever to publicly offer a challenge to the doubters that I can prove my success exactly as I’ve stated it many times. Who you gonna believe when it comes to the basics of the game and what the road to consistent success is: Me, or those who want you to buy game theory and believe in math models?