Players do well to heed H.A.L.T.

Apr 30, 2007 3:19 AM

So many times, players are subjected to incredible amounts of misleading information about how the game of video poker should be played. And way, way too often, those who have commercialized the game or have bought into it are the source.

For instance, how many times have you heard or read something like this: "That casino just recently downgraded their pay table for 9/6 Jacks or Better to 8/6, so it’s definitely not playable any longer. It was, at 9/6, just barely positive at 100.03% with comps and cash back, but now at 99.96%, only losers would play that game."

Do you see how foolish such gibberish turns out to be? Yet there’s a world of players out there who because of math models and an inexplicable long-term theory, subscribe to the belief that anything greater than 100% is beatable (over the long-term of course), anything under 100% is not, and anything at 100% exactly means all you’re doing is wasting your time.

On the other side of the fence is myself and a growing number of players who follow the common sense side of the equation. For us, theoretical game pay out percentages means little to nothing, because anything positive can and usually does happen in every session.

It is because of this disparity in schools of thought that I’ve chosen to submit yet another helping hand to those who want to learn video poker properly, in the former of a helpful acronym.

This interesting acronym — H.A.L.T — was brought to my attention by a successful and local player and friend named Cody, and to understand how I break it down is to understand the true essence of what aspiring winning video poker players should not do.

H. Hunger: Never play when hungry. How many times have you been at a machine when your stomach begins to growl for food yet all you can do is feed the bill-feeder? Yes, it’s tough to leave a machine that’s killing you, but there are multiple reasons why you should. Cold cycles, distractions, smokers nearby, hunger and several that follow are at the top of that list.

A. Anger: This is a good one. Just take a walk around the casino and see the number of players who are actually angry with their machines! Does it make sense to show an emotion towards an entity that is incapable of having feelings? Even so, many players act as if they are in process of teaching their machine a lesson. Similarly, if you walk into the casino angry because of personal problems, etc., then turn right around and walk out. What possible good would it do to play a game that usually has the player’s number? Trust me — the machines will still be there tomorrow.

L. Laziness: While most video poker players may appear to be "lazy" at their machines, that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’ve often said that learning and playing my play strategies is a lot more complicated than simply understanding expert-play theories. That’s because 95% of the hands I play are optimal holds, but the approximate 5% special plays that deviate from the math require constant calculations as well as an unwavering determination to play them the proper way. Additionally, the overall discipline needed to be successful with my play strategy is the total antithesis of laziness.

T. Tired: Part of the fallacy of those who preach optimal play is that it says the faster you play and the longer you play, the closer you’ll get to the "long-term." Of course the hypocrisy of this is that the error rate goes up exponentially after every hour played, and as you play into your zombied-out zone you are doing no one but the casino any good. Gurus, experts and math followers all know this, but for obvious reasons it is never mentioned. But it is here.

The sooner you heed H.A.L.T. the sooner you’ll see your results improve. That’s nearly guaranteed. And at the same time you’ll experience a newly discovered enjoyment never thought possible with video poker. It’s a tough game folks. Do everything you can to make it easier.