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What does skill have to do with it?

Jul 16, 2001 11:27 PM

Actually, playing video poker requires a bit of skill”¦only it’s not the kind the math eccentrics will readily sell you in order to keep their bankrolls up after another losing session. No, the skill I’m talking about is absolutely free, and there’s no need to take that laptop or program along that analyzes what you may face if you were able to play throughout eternity, or that calculates what you should be making per hour if you never made mistakes. I could do one-liners about that system all day long, but let’s get serious.

I’ve said in the past that the game of video poker is 90 percent luck and a mere 10 percent skill, and that bit of skill is simply to know the basics of the game you are playing, as well as knowing the proper path to take in order to maximize any luck the machine may afford you.

To do this you must have a pre-determined plan, and you must stick to it. I utilize goals, low and high volatile games, a progression at times, and a clear understanding that each session is an exercise in short-term play that has nothing to do with yesterday or tomorrow. I know that by playing for the higher-paying hands, if hit these will allow me to reach my goals at strategic points ”” and thereby send me home.

I am playing with the utmost advantage, because common sense tells me that anything can happen at any time. I will not hide behind the math and blame it if I lose, proclaiming to the world that because a computer program says so, I will win tomorrow. Whatever happens when I play is purely the result of gambling ”” day-by-day-by-day, and the only thing that really matters is what happens today!

More and more you will see columns, books, and speakers trying to apply what should happen in the crystal clear, clean, and unarguable world of pure mathematics to the game, and they are dead wrong. Why? You tell me. Go on over to your nearby casino and give it a shot. Go ahead and use that cheat-sheet someone sold you ”” the one with all the perfect plays on it. Find yourself a 100 percent machine and put your slot club card to use. And if you’re really out there, fire up that silly computer in your room to determine how Einstein would approach the game, and what the pay-table means.

All that stuff does is give you the false security that you have a skillful, mythical advantage over the video poker computer. And I think it takes the fun out of it. But one thing this strategy does do is make you play far longer than you normally would, as you chase that elusive tiny win percentage and as many slot club points as you can afford. I wonder, how do these folks feel after eating a “free” tuna sandwich and a coke at the casino café that cost them $350? Actually, I unfortunately know the feeling from seven long years of losing before I turned it around for good.

The bottom line is always luck””and what you do with it when it arrives. The same people who live in a video poker world of ones and zeroes know this, and they are not really as stone-faced on the inside as they appear after hitting a royal flush. Just like you and I, they thank their lucky stars every time they win something. The only problem is, most of them cannot stop playing. Some have come to me already for advice, and I’ve helped them understand how they can go home happy nearly every time they play, as well as enjoy the feeling of no longer being as addicted to the machines as they were. What’s skill got to do with it? Look for happy winners who understand how to handle luck. There really isn’t that many”¦not yet”¦but keep on looking, and they will be there. That’s where the real skill lies.