The state of VP

Jan 30, 2007 1:03 AM

This may not be a State of the Union-like address, but the game of video poker can use some updating.

Based on the emails and phone calls that I get every week, I thought it would be beneficial to many players if I put into words what’s going on in a lot of video poker player’s minds.

1. "Did the casinos ”˜tighten up’ the machines during the month of December just to be better able to pay out huge year-end bonuses to casino management, and are they now loosened back to their normal settings?" It’s amazing how often I see this type of statement. If any casino did anything other than lower pay tables in order to attain a higher hold percentage at any time, then they’d be flirting with being shut down. End of story.

2. "Few people have the bankroll you say you use ($171.6K) to play your single-play strategy. What can "low-rollers" do to be able to have any opportunity to attain a similar success level?"

First, please erase the notion that I’m any sort of "high-roller." My play strategy may enter into high denominations at times, but it is only because of the requirements of the progression — which does not happen often. When asked by other players, I immediately say I’m a $2 player on average because that’s the highest level I’m comfortable playing at.

My strategy begins at dollars and ends at the $100 machines. However, there’s absolutely nothing stopping anyone from beginning even as low as pennies and progressing up through dollars — or anything in between pennies and $100. Just remember that single-play strategy requires a bankroll of 3X 400 credits for each denomination (and you choose how many that may be) being played, and you can figure your own comfort point. One need not be in this for a living or play professionally in order to be successful at it.

3. "I live in Las Vegas, and because I play at many different local casinos I get bombarded with offers and promotions each month. You say chasing promotions is a mistake because the casinos are roping the players in with these offers. How should I approach playing?"

First, try to make some sense out of all the promotions you. Are they being offered at a casino where you usually play and within reasonable driving limits? Would you be forced to take along more cash than you normally would just to have a decent "shot" at whatever they’re giving away for free? And most importantly, are you able to comprehend that promotions are put in place first and foremost to make more money for the casino than without them, and that most people will lose chasing the special deal of the day?

If you’re able to work these things to within reason, you’ll have fun and find that the promos really don’t make that much of a difference to your overall play and results anyway. But if you neurotically go after as many as can be fit into each day, then you’ll eventually be stopped cold one way or another. Think before you chase.

4. "Why has the Rio, among other Harrah’s properties, drastically changed the decent machines they used to have at all bars?" Well, just staying with the Rio for now, I’d say that’s a very valid complaint. I certainly won’t play at their bars any longer, and I know hundreds and have heard of thousands who won’t either. To begin with, they lowered their pay tables from not-so-great to awful. Then, for some unknown reason, they installed machines with the smallest and hardest to read cards and print I’ve ever come across.

Why’d they do it? The pay tables were lowered obviously to increase profit margin — although I question that tactic since many of us refuse to play at their bars now. But I have no reasonable answer as to why they put in the worst machines in the industry at the same bars. Of course people with no care or clue will continue to play them. But I care and I have a clue. I wish there was an answer to all this.

5. "Which games are the best to play?" I always say to stay away from any of the wild card games (Deuces Wild/Joker’s Wild, etc.) because when I developed my play strategies they were found not to have the type winning hands I needed to enjoy consistently positive results. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play them. Many people like to play these games, and at the 25¡ level you can find some of the best pay tables around with them.

Jacks or Better with ANY pay table and with ANY progressive jackpot(s) is an even worse game for players to go after. Capable of becoming a serious bore far faster than any other game, it also has only two hands worth hitting: the straight flush and the royal. And guess how often those occur.

You want fun, you want potential, you want exciting jackpots, then stick with the games that are in my playing arsenal: Bonus Poker (paying 10 credits for two pair) and most of the game’s advanced derivatives (such as Super Bonus Poker, Triple Bonus Poker Plus, Double Double Bonus Poker, etc.) simply because of the opportunity they all offer. If you’re the type who can quit whenever pre-determined goals are attained or surpassed, these are the games that can produce huge jackpots over and over again. Giant payouts for four aces, special quads, and bonuses for the elusive straight flush, they’ve got it all.

6. "My biggest problem is discipline. So many times I’ve hit my goal, felt cocky, and then I gave it all back and more from the casino’s ATM. I just can’t get up and go when I’m hot! What should I do?"

Well, this person hit on the reason why there are so many beautiful casinos all over Nevada, and why the local casinos are overwhelmed with video poker machines. Nobody or no words can force any gambler to leave a machine when the time is right to do so””especially if they’re in the midst of having a great time. But players have to remember they’re playing with money that can buy food or anything else for their families, and it’s not simply "units of play" as it feels like when we’re playing.

Video poker is an intriguing game, and if approached properly it can be a source of continuing fun, enjoyment and even profits. But the player has to see reality first, and they have to know how to separate the truth from all the BS floating around. Today you read some of that truth.