Play video poker with a purpose

August 27, 2007 5:02 AM
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One of the questions I like to ask the players whom I advise on how to play video poker is why they actually are playing the game. One might expect a simple answer to a simple question, but as it turns out it really isn’t that type of topic. After all, it’s a simple game played on a computer with a deck of cards”¦.isn’t it?

Yes and no. There’s nothing mysterious about the game itself, but it’s played by people, and as we all know, people work well with computers. But when it’s to the point of us trying to beat these devices it becomes a very complex issue indeed.

Over the years I’ve heard people tell me completely logical explanations why they like to go up against the machines. I’ve also heard some very irrational reasons that would make even a statue shake its head. The bottom line is we are gambling when we are playing, first and foremost, but so many people try to pretend that that aspect does not exist.

I know this may sound silly, but many more people play for the points and slot club card status than they do for the money. Think about what you do when you play and why you do it. Are you chasing promotions all around town because you feel the machine’s going to pay out big today? Or are you simply trying to get multiple points piled up or going after the free buffets or other freebie-of-the-day?

Others like to pretend they’ve got the advantage over the casino whenever there’s a daily special going on, but they’re only fooling themselves. I’m sure they get all worked up during the anticipatory hours prior to going in to play, but what usually happens during such visits? Do you really think any casino manager ever regrets sending out all those offers?

In my world — and it’s not that easy a world to become a part of when it comes to gambling and video poker — there is one and only one reason that greatly transcends all others when it comes to the reason for playing the game: winning money! Enjoyable times, great meals and rooms, free stuff, cash back and/or free-play, slot club status and recognition, being invited to a slot tournament or two — that’s just a bunch of excuses from players who haven’t yet figured out how to win.

I regularly chat with hundreds of players from all over the country, and hearing the stories I do only serves to confirm all that I have said above. Many players respond to a special offer only to find themselves stuck in Las Vegas or elsewhere for several days with the machines staring a hole right through them the entire time. They say there is no option but to play.

Others say they have no choice but to go after all the local casinos’ deals because they find it stimulating and entertaining. Still others believe eating free meals every day of the week is the end-all. But when asked to explain just how it is that all meals are free, blank stares are the order of the day. I think we all know what that really means.

Here’s an example of a man and his wife who came from back East to Las Vegas for about a week. The main purpose, of course, was to play video poker. That alone would both scare and be a horrific waste of time to me.

The man was full of excitement, happiness and fulfillment. And who wouldn’t be ecstatic over getting seven royal flushes during that timeframe along with at least the same number of quad aces — some with kickers — on what was reported to be all 25¡ machines? Can you just imagine hitting seven royals between two players in one week while on vacation!

Well, I felt very glad for the fellow and his missus, until, I found that they had LOST $2000 overall! He did try to smooth over the pain by saying about $1000 was recouped in cash back, along with the fact that they had stayed in nice hotel rooms while all their food was "free" (there’s that word again).

I was surprised by the people who congratulated him for his success, and gave him the ooohs and ahhhs for hitting so many royals in such a short period of time. They were basically patting him on the back for a job well done.

Really? If I came home a thousand dollars in the hole after hitting seven royals and all those quad aces while having to scoop up all the cash back to help ease the pain, I’d be labeling myself one of the biggest losers I’ve ever heard of.

More importantly, I’d question whether or not I was controlling my play or if the play was controlling me. And I would not be happy to have my wife be a part of that madness. Back to my world, whenever I hit a royal flush and, many times, four aces, I go straight home. I know I’ll always be able to start playing again next time at my lowest denomination. It is the difference between playing within a structured plan, and having no rational reason for playing at all other than to gamble.

In 2007 I hit only one royal flush yet I surpassed my yearly pre-set win goal. Last year I think I hit three royals while successfully attaining my goal. I really can’t remember if I’ve ever hit seven royals in one year or not, and if I did I would consider it extremely unusual.

Yet this gentleman and his wife were blessed with seven of them in one week, and all that money — which was theirs for a time — was squandered away. Some people who play every day rarely see the hand, and more than a few have told me they’ve never seen a royal.

Bottom line: You can see how many different types of people play video poker and why they play. I also hope you can figure out which are the sensible ways and which are not. If you aren’t able to do that then you have no right playing the game.