Keep that royal in your pocket . . . All of it!

July 03, 2001 3:35 AM
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Video poker is a strange game for many serious players. You reach the game’s peak every time you line up a natural royal flush, yet when you get home you spend hours wondering where all that money “disappeared” to. But what happens is really no secret at all.

If you’re an out-of-town visitor and you hit the lucky hand at the beginning of your trip, unless you get another royal, chances are you’ll end up losing before you leave. Locals have another method of returning the money. They love to spread it around ”” taking “advantage” of double-point days, compiling entries for that “special” giveaway, or chasing second-royal promos. And then there’s the “expert” players who may or may not be referred to as pros. To these folks a royal is nothing more than a cog in the mathematical wheel of play, and in most cases they watch the win systematically drain away. Of course they make it a point to tell us about their big winners, but we rarely hear about what happens in-between. I wonder why.

When you ponder the above situations, you’ll better understand why casinos have installed so many of the of the multi-play games in higher denominations. After all, why wait for the money to be returned? But it doesn’t have to be like that at all, and smart players understand this. For example: if you’ve played quite often for a number of years, there’s a good chance you’ve seen your share of royals. How many times have you hit a second one on the same day? What if you went home right after the first? Which avenue would overall be more profitable?

For nearly seven years I played the “that was easy, I can get another one” game, and for seven years I lost. I did everything I was told to do by the book. I played optimal/perfect/expert strategy; I practiced at home; I carried those strategy cards to “help” me through tough hands; I played as fast and often as I could; I piled up the comps and cash back. And it all added up to a serious waste of time. I bit, got hooked, and paid for my mistakes.

That was then, this is now. In 2000 during my professional play I was very lucky to receive 13 royals in 48 trips. That meant 13 quick exits from casinos for the week. This year I’ve had a bit of a struggle ”” not unusual in video poker. Up until my last trip in June, I’ve played 10 times. Although I reached my win goal each trip, I had no royals. I was in a royal drought, but fortunately my play strategy was developed to win without them. When they do appear, they can be a huge bonus as well as affect how I’ll play in the future. I am not a believer in that because the math says royals should appear once every 45,000 hands. So. I should see one soon, but I know people who’ve played for years without ever hitting them.

But this time the odds worked in my favor. My first royal of 2001 finally came — on a $10 Bonus Poker machine. If you have familiarity with my strategy, there are times I progress to higher denominations until a number of lucky smaller hits or one big hit sends me home a winner. This particular time I was on only my eighth hand of play on the $10 machine before it hit. What’s important about this is if I only played dollars the entire trip, even with a $4000 royal I would have lost about $500. And if I only played $10, I would be out an irritating $5000. But because of my strategy rules, I left with a profit of more than $35K. That’s hard to beat in this unforgiving game. To those who play long-term strategy and believe you’ve got it all figured out - think about it.