When does the house edge turn in your favor?

Dec 18, 2001 2:22 AM

So many times people want to know when it is that they can be considered the favorite in video poker. And I always give the same answer ”” never. The simple method of explaining this without really responding with facts is by telling anyone who asks to look around at all the fabulous casinos across the country today, and then count the video poker inventory. But players who care want to know more, and rightfully so.

Since every hand is random ”” having nothing to do with what just happened or what is about to happen ”” and each individual hand is initiated at a mathematical disadvantage for the player, common sense dictates we do not have the upper hand. Whether the machine’s pay table advertises a 101percent return or 99 percent return over the long term with errorless play is irrelevant. Even if you’ve been very lucky by hitting a large winner and are ahead for the day, you’ll still have to be lucky to see a winner of any kind on the next hand, simply because you remain the underdog at all times.

This information was indispensable in the development of my play strategy. Although I knew I would never be the favorite on any one hand before it was dealt, I knew that I could be the favorite after I played my session for my trip by leaving when short-term goals were reached or surpassed. How? By continuously taking complete advantage of any luck the machines may afford me, which allows me to beat most of the machines I play. If you go home with a profit of $25 in your pocket, you were the overall after-the-fact favorite. In other words, you lost (and were not the favorite) on most of the battles, but you were strategic in your wins along with how you handled them, and you won the war.

In contrast, expert play strategists contend that if they only play machines with a theoretical return of greater than 100%, they always are playing with an advantage. This is not only untrue ”” it is dangerous. It’s one reason why even hitting a royal during a session does not guarantee these folks a winning day, because long-term players set no goals and usually play until they drop ”” or run out of money. Occasionally we’ll read about someone who hits a big winner that puts them far ahead for the day, but they’ll continues to play because it’s early, and the machine is still an “advantage” machine. I’ve met with many players from this school in the past six months. The overwhelming concern is they just don’t know how to stop.

If video poker weren’t such a favorable game for the casinos, we wouldn’t see as many machines as we do today. For players, thinking we’re the favorite before we go into the casino simply builds confidence. Once we start to play, however, we are never the favorite. And the only way to leave the casino as the hindsight favorite is to get lucky and not waste the opportunity to leave having taken advantage of that luck. Since you never know when you’re at your “luckiest” point, you must pre-set your win and depart goals ”” and stick to them. Forget about that you might hit another big winner or royal if you continue to play. Think about what usually happens. Is it really worth it?