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Be wary of ‘fringe’ poker machines

Dec 10, 2007 3:50 AM

OK, so who doesn’t play video poker that lives in Las Vegas anyway? Certainly there’s some, but by and large almost everyone has played or will play this very popular game at one time or another — and more than a few will or already have made it part of their daily lives. It’s a game that seems to pop up everywhere: At local bars, restaurants — even at gasoline stations, convenience stores and grocery markets.

When I began playing video poker in 1990 it certainly wasn’t as widespread as it is now. Along with Nevada and Atlantic City there were a few other locations in the US that had it, and the Indian casinos began putting the machines on their floors. But just as I had begun with little knowledge on how to play the game properly, the casinos were learning as well.

Fast forward to today — where almost every state is or soon will be a gambling Mecca, and where many people just can’t wait to get their hands on the video poker machines. Of course, a lot of that has to do with how so many people have commercialized the game and make a living by selling their "tools of the trade" as they say.

But that’s not the case everywhere. The percentage of players who actually have a clue on how to play in order that they not immediately lose all they came in with, is shrinking — and shrinking fast. That’s because the game is now widely available just about everywhere, and no player’s really all that far away from his or her next thrill.

Meeting up with and chatting with as many people as I do generates some very interesting stories of how they began playing video poker, and why they’re so into it today. But I don’t really need to hear why because I already know.

The game is intermittently exciting, intriguing, provocatively challenging, though-provoking, extraordinarily compelling, and can be more addictive than anything most people have ever been tempted to get involved in. And while there’s really no way the game’s jackpots can be considered life-changing, lives certainly do get changed.

One of the ways it has changed lives has always been a curious one to me, because I would never follow suit. Visiting players who’ve become enthralled with the game years ago on a trip to Las Vegas then began seeing the machines arrive at Tribal or other casinos within a few hours or a day’s drive from their homes, so they started to make weekly trips to play.

But soon that became too tedious to keep doing, and in many places the winter weather kept many a gambler at home chomping at the bit. But the video poker machines never let up. Soon, players began thinking about how wonderful it would be living in Las Vegas so they could be closer to the game and play anytime they chose to.

Now, with machines in just about every locale around Nevada, I’m still trying to figure out why they have to be in grocery stores and gas stations. The pay tables usually stink in non-casino locations, lots of heads shake as others walk by those type gaming areas in the stores, and I can’t believe there’s anyone who goes to those places to gamble first anyway.

Be that as it may, the machines are more popular than ever and are growing in numbers every hour, massive amounts of people play the game all over the country, and people will apparently chase down and play the machines wherever they can find them. Just remember these words on your next encounter: Compelling, Fun, and Unforgiving. Are you ready for that?