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Getting past those losing streaks

Dec 17, 2007 11:19 PM

Normally at this time of year I don’t see this — people complaining loudly that they are losing and losing big. Yes, I know, the only group that lies more than gamblers is fishermen. But when’s the last time you ever heard someone make up a story about how much they’ve lost?

One of the signs that people are losing is whenever you start reading about how the machines could be running on illegal programs or that they could be gaffed in some way. Of course, once that begins the resident geeks chime in with their obligatory "it just can’t be — you’re just imagining all of it" self-confidence building rhetoric.

My take on all this is to keep an open mind. No one knows what goes on behind the scenes at any casino other than it’ll be a bad day at black rock for any casino caught manipulating their machines in most parts of the country.

So, I see no reason to simply write off the complainers as buffoons just because you don’t want it to be that way.

Earlier today a local (Phoenix area) friend of mine who plays his own style of video poker — which is a mix of the math and a belief that if you make many (around 25%) out-of-the-blue purposeful crazy holds — asked me to meet up with him at Casino Arizona in Scottsdale. I hadn’t seen him in almost a year so off I went.

I met him at the bar that had 4-level 25¡/50¡/$1/$2 multi-game machines with the typical poor pay tables that plague the casinos around here. But Bill plays them anyway, and he plays them a lot. His method is to always play the machine’s highest denomination because of some odd superstition he has. But he is a lot of fun to watch — and listen to as he plays.

He told me he won $58,000 in profit at the local casinos in 2007 up until early November, yet since then he’s lost more than $60k. I thought it interesting that he’s "only" $2,000 in the red at a point in time that got him to call me and ask my advice on a few things, but I accepted his story.

First, he pulled out a stack of W2G’s he’s been getting all year, and I told him to put them away. What’s happened in the past isn’t going to help with what he may or may not be doing right today.

Then he showed me his razzle-dazzle style of play, and it was quite unlike anything I’d ever seen him do before. The bar top machines all had several games with substantial sequential royal flush bonuses included, and whenever he had a high card dealt in the position of the possible sequential royal, it was held over any winning combination.

Sure, going for a $100,000 payout is exhilarating, but it’s also so rare that nearly everyone will go broke before they ever hit one. (I’ve hit one since 1990, and it came with no bonus.)

So I asked him if that’s how he’s played all year, and I got the answer I expected: "No Rob, I started in late October after my second $5 royal of the year."

My advice was to stop the practice immediately and get back to his regular method of play — which was odd in itself, as I’ve said. He was disappointed in my input because he thought he heard people say I played a similar strategy. I don’t doubt he heard that because few players take the time to understand just what it is that I really do.

In the past month I’ve been on the phone multiple times with as well as sat with a Las Vegas high-roller advantage player who does what I do not — he only plays when he can create at least a 101.5% edge over the house. I never go that route because I know no one ever has the advantage over any casino when they play because it’s a perceived long-term event and everyone only plays in short-term bursts. A player’s only advantage is if and when they’re able to walk out a winner.

In this relatively short period of time he’s lost a little under $90,000 on a game that’s been very unfriendly to him and is behind expectation by over 20%. It’s really the most outrageous losing streak I’ve heard of, but I’m sure he’s not alone and indeed has a number of silent peers.

Is he playing machines that aren’t fair? I doubt it but I’m not him. He’s sitting at these machines night after night watching nothing but nothing appear in front of him, and that’s enough to create any kind of thought. But for the moment, let’s say everything’s on the up-and-up as it probably is.

What’s he need to get back to even? That’s just as improbable as his bad luck streak and it’s so far out I won’t even write it down. That’s how wacky the game of video poker is. And today it seems even wackier, until, that is, these losers start to win again. Good luck!