Don’t let math scare you off video poker

Dec 15, 2009 5:05 PM
Winning Strategies by Elliot Frome |

Set goals, then plan your strategy

I don’t think this is going to surprise anybody who reads my column regularly that I’m pretty good at math. I’m also pretty good with computers.

Of course, I have very little knowledge of how they work. I know it has something to do with electricity and a lot of 0’s and 1’s, but I have no clue how a printed circuit board actually works or how to build one. Yet, I’m still quite confident that computers do what we all know they are capable of doing. I don’t need to know all of the nitty-gritty details to know this.

The same is true for strategy for casino games. You really don’t need to know the how’s and the why’s in order to utilize it. As long as you believe that the strategy is based on some sound fundamentals or generally accepted as being accurate, you should be able to use them without fear. In the world of computers, this isn’t much of a problem.

Yes, we have Intel chips and AMD chips and while there are some differences, it is pretty much universally accepted that they’ll both return the value of 2 when asked what is 1 plus 1. The differences deal in HOW they accomplish what they need to accomplish, but the results are identical in virtually all cases. Thus, I don’t really know anyone who picks a computer because they think an AMD chip will provide more accurate results than an Intel chip, or vice versa.

Different strategies for casino games do not all give you the same result. First of all, there may be different goals for different people. The goal of Expert Strategy (my strategy) is to maximize your total win or minimize your total loss of the long-run. Your goal might be to figure out how to stretch $100 to last all week in Las Vegas while expecting to play video poker 3 hours a night. This might lead you to want to use a slightly different strategy that will increase the likelihood that your money will last all week, but it might reduce your chances of actually winning over that week.

Someone else may want to hit a Royal with a mentality of hitting it or busting. They can alter their strategy to greatly increase their chances of hitting a Royal. But, if they don’t hit it, they are likely to lose more than if they choose one of the other strategies.

Then, of course, there are the many strategies that promise to make you a winner. After all, if I had a sure-fire strategy to make myself a winner at a game, I’d simply write about it and tell everyone else. I wouldn’t consider putting a team of a hundred or maybe a thousand players together and go wipe out Las Vegas!

The key to any of these strategies given that they can have different goals is to figure out which ones are real. It is okay to have different goals for different people, and thus multiple strategies that are real. But a strategy isn’t real just because someone says it is.

The way you prove a strategy is real is by showing how and why it works using the very same math that built the game in the first place. When a game is created, before it can hit the casino floor, you have to show all the math to a variety of regulatory agencies (depending on the state).

One of the key pieces of information is the payback calculation that shows the maximum theoretical payback that a Player can achieve. These are calculated by people like me and then checked at places like Gaming Laboratories, Inc (GLI) and/or the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) by more people like me.

Then, once in a while, someone comes by and claims they can beat these games by following some strategy, but they don’t explain the how’s and the why’s. Some of them will even try and dismiss the math completely, knowing that many players simply don’t understand the complex math, and use a bit of fear to make people just ignore the math behind the game and blindly follow some unexplained strategy.

I try to keep it relatively simple in my columns, but all of my books go through the explanation of exactly why the strategy is what it is, based on the math behind the game. I’ve had plenty of people write to me to say they just don’t understand the math, and plenty who have truly appreciated the detail.

I think that even those who don’t fully understand it, though, do realize that because I’m willing to put all the detail out in front of you, that there must be something to my work, and thus Expert Strategy is based on something quite real.

To put it another way, who are you going to believe? People like my father (Lenny Frome) and myself who have done the math behind Let it Ride, three card poker, Spanish 21, Caribbean Stud Poker and Ultimate Texas Hold’em and who are willing to show you WHY the strategy is what it is; or someone who tells you to follow a strategy simply because it supposedly works for them?

You can try out your strategy by playing our video poker game.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Elliot Frome