Is online video poker a fair or raw deal?

Jun 11, 2001 12:50 AM

Let’s make believe for a moment you love playing video poker on that little handheld game you got for Christmas last year, but you’ve never experienced the thrill of gambling for real since you’re hundreds of miles from a live casino. What do you do? Well, this simple game which began as Jacks or Better is now part of a very large and profitable business. Internet gaming has exploded, allowing virtually anyone anywhere to have at it whenever they want to. Even Indian gaming facilities, which just recently surpassed all of Nevada in yearly revenue figures, cannot make this claim of being so readily available to the public. The number of on-line sites offering real-money gambling is now estimated at well over a thousand. But is it right for you?

With all this live and virtual video poker available, I’ve had to simplify my own situation in order to keep focused on how I play the game and what I expect to get out of it. First there’s the challenge of all the new Riverboat venues around the country, the lure of Atlantic City’s gaming, and the booming and sometimes spectacular Indian facilities to deal with. Since I live in an area where there are at least four major Indian gaming operations that are constantly in a state of growth, I have a lot of variables to choose from. In the end I looked at location, regulation, and the overall rules of my play strategy, and I chose only to play in Nevada. Although I have nothing against any of the other unique sites in America to gamble (some of which are equally as impressive as in Nevada) I’ve spent the better part of the past 15 years on airplanes, and driving through the desert at night is an experience I really never tire of. One look up into the dark, star-studded sky and you’ll know what I mean.

But for strictly gaming locations, why Nevada, and why not simply play at Casino Arizona or Harrah’s Ak-Chin, etc.? Very easy. Video poker is the easiest of the casino games to become addicted to, and my strategy deals with this issue in such a way as to defeat this problem. I travel to Nevada, I play for my goals, and I return home immediately upon attaining them. I’ve totally eliminated the lure of my local casinos and the game from my mind, because I neither have any idea of how they are regulated, nor do I wish to take the time to find out. I studied Nevada’s system thoroughly, and I trust it.

Of course, all this seems meaningless now with so many on-line sites to choose from. Many of them are nothing less than spectacular, with their color, 3-D sound, multi-player interactive capabilities, and realistic graphics. But the underlying questions are always is it safe? Is it fair? What about security, confidentiality, and payment? And is it legal?

Although I strictly will not play for real money on these sites, not too long ago I broke from that briefly in order to do my own little study. I made all transactions with one credit card, and it was never compromised. I still have never experienced any problems with confidentiality, and payments were always made as promised and on time - although some of the sites do make it a very real hassle. Everything was done in the complete privacy and comfort of my home, anytime I wanted, and there were no expenses. But I felt uneasy”¦and I still do.

The one nagging question, which transcends all other issues, is whether the games are fair. Who knows? But unknown odds usually only work against gamblers. That’s the problem with off-shore casinos.