Machine hopping

Jul 24, 2007 1:18 AM

Over the years I’ve fielded numerous questions and chatted with many players about the benefits, if any, of changing machines when playing unsuccessfully.

While others may cry out with the boiler-plate statement "The machines are all random and it makes no difference if you play this one, that one, or the one next door" — I prefer to explain what I’m saying instead of taking the easy way out that really only serves to justify others playing far more than they know they should anyway.

First let’s take the sensible approach to understanding the issue of changing machines. Think of how many times you’ve sat down, started playing, and within 30 minutes you hit a royal or other jackpot that put you way ahead for the visit. Then think about how many times you continued to sit there and play on — either because you felt "lucky" or because you read where gurus and advantage players all do it for obvious reasons.

Now try to remember how many times you WISH you DID NOT continue playing after that big hit, and compare it to the times where you made even more money by playing on at the same machine. If you got your facts right you’ll see where yes, there are times when more fortune will come your way, but OVERWHELMINGLY it will not. That is the nature of the game, and why it is as big a moneymaker as it is for all the casinos.

Already the "advantage players" are getting twitchy, but we’re just getting started. More and more the questions come in about how players run into numerous cold streaks and then ask me what it is that I would do when that happens. What they are really asking is if changing machines would be of any help.

In order to accept the true answer to that question a player has to be able to first comprehend that all machines have patterns just as similar random events always depict certain patterns throughout their existence. Cold cycles happen in video poker just as hot cycles do, only there are obviously far more cold ones as we can all attest.

The reason becomes readily apparent when you see the weak distribution of winning hands vs. losers when analyzing the game. The math people are always very quick to tell us of what perfect play throughout infinity will be and what tiny percentages are involved results-wise based on the games’ pay tables. But what they stay away from is how the cycles — which are very common — will affect the outcome and, indeed, our frustration level as we play.

Understanding how to read machine "streaks" and making the proper adjustments has been a key area in why I’ve had so much consistent success throughout the last 10 years of my play. And I am absolutely certain that the reason I lost when I used to play optimal strategy only as an advantage player is because no one educated me on this subject and I just sat and played and played and played”¦.actually without a prayer. Just like tens of thousands who today erroneously follow long-term strategy as I was fooled into doing.

Let’s face it — most of the time when anyone sits at a machine, it is not going to go gangbusters. More commonly it will either give you tit for tat, or it’ll give you a headache as it makes your credits disappear faster than snow in the desert. Most players realize this, yet most of them still play with hope rather than a plan.

With any of my five play strategies, I’m always switching machines if the one I’m on is doing poorly — and anyone can always tell when that is. And if the next one or the next one isn’t showing improvement then I keep on switching. Eventually, I usually do run into one that’s giving instead of taking. It is a very simple concept to follow.

But still, even after reading this, most people won’t. Why? Because players want to change just to try and stop the bleeding but they can’t. They are expecting to find instant gratification on the very next hand every time, and stopping to move only makes the wait that much longer. Determination and discipline are two very important aspects of my overall play strategy. The inability to just get up and leave a losing machine means the player has neither of those traits, and that’s what constitutes a loser.

You’re going to hear the gurus and math experts say that changing machines doesn’t matter or make sense because it takes away from play time and therefore reduces the sacred points accumulation they so feverishly all play for.

But they’re dead wrong in more ways than one. First, winning players only play to win money from their machines and couldn’t care less about casino benefits. Promotion-chasing is a very weak approach to follow if only because it’s exactly what the casino wants you to do.

And, if they’re rejecting the reality of machine streaks and haven’t the ability or desire to stop for a few moments to change machines when losing constantly, they’re missing out on understanding the possible positive consequences of three distinct words: IT CAN’T HURT.