Four phases of every video poker hand

January 22, 2002 3:39 AM
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There’s really no getting away from it. Video poker was put into casinos as a pure moneymaker in every denomination available. And it has surpassed everyone’s expectations in that department by becoming the most popular casino game ever. But why is it that almost everybody loses when they play, and just why is it that they keep coming back for more? It was through the understanding of this intriguing set of facts and questions with an open approach that has enabled me to develop a play strategy which would not be simply another waste of time against the casino’s computers.

Once I finally understood that hitting a jackpot and staying on to play for additional expected winnings due to my perceived advantage in the expert-play mode only gave the casinos that much more of an opportunity to get their money back, the rest was easy. I began to look at each victory or defeat at a machine as its own separate occurrence, each session’s overall results as a single event, and most importantly ”” each individual hand as completely unrelated to those that came before or to those that would follow. And it was at the point where I accepted these revelations that drastically turned around my disappointing results. After all the smoke had cleared away from what everyone else said was suppose to happen because of formulas and statistics, I learned the only true way to consistently beat the machines without extreme and unusual luck ”” which never lasts ”” was through a program of short-term, goal-oriented strategy. This system begins and ends with recognizing and properly reacting to the three phases of every hand.

Phase one: This is the hand as it appears in the player’s mind before it is dealt. The anticipation of a winning hand on the deal, the excitement of how you will feel when you have won, and the exhilaration of having beaten a computer for some needed money, all add up to warm the spirit ”” but only for a second ”” and it is a recurring event. It’s what grabs players to the machines and keeps them there ”” far too long more than 99 percent of the time. The second phase nearly always abruptly ends that state of euphoria, as the actual cards are revealed and the player is faced with a decision. Phase three arrives once the final hand unfolds, prompting the player to once again make a decision ”” this time whether to stop or continue. And it is always the player’s failure to understand the overall importance of these three phases that leads to long losing streaks, irritating losses, and the compulsion to keep on doing it over and over again.

But how does coming to grips with each of the phases really help any player achieve the very unusual plateau of consistent winning sessions? The first phase is really most players’ reward for playing. “To travel hopefully is better than to arrive” is an aphorism that drives many efforts human beings undertake ”” regardless of the final outcome. The decision-making of the ­­second and third phases presents players with challenges not found in other slot games. Knowing that this entire psychological cycle will occur upon the start of each and every hand adds a touch of reality to a game that has been labeled a form of escape for many people. Ignoring it and/or falling into the trap of piling up slot club card points can and very often does lead the player into a vicious cycle of problematic gambling and financial difficulty ”” and continued profits for a casino that will gladly look the other way.

When the second phase arrives and it’s time to make a decision on what cards to hold, most of us look at this as a case of simple common sense ”” and many times it is. Really, when it’s an obvious hold, why not hold it? But it’s the relatively few borderline deals that are a point of contention. Here’s where the experts tell us to go beyond all that”¦to always “go with the numbers” in order to come out a winner by the tiniest of percentages if we perform this task flawlessly throughout eternity. I compare this feat to having the ability to accurately explain how far out space goes, then to tell us just what’s behind whatever it is that constitutes the termination of space ”” and then how far out this thing goes on for. Mind-boggling to say the least ”” in either case ”” and exactly why there’s times when it’s best to play for the big winners regardless of the math. After all, it’s a game, and we don’t get that many deals offering that many chances to make something big happen.

Anything CAN and DOES happen at any time, and if you sometimes give it the opportunity to, sometimes it will. Learn to set departure goals after having some luck and you’ve learned how to beat the computers.

While many people say it’s this second phase which will decide our fate, it’s phase three that ultimately determines whether we win or lose each year. No one knows the best point at which to quit when ahead, but setting goals and sticking to them without deviation eliminates the need to guess ”” and is the main reason I have won 112 out of 117 trips in my professional career. Why do most people lose? Because they play on far too long without purpose, other than to appease their adrenalin rush (chasing elusive jackpots) as they feed their addiction (craving intermittent gratification) or by creating their own fantasy (“I’m special because I have more slot club points than most people”).

I ask you all to stop for a moment, take a step back, and look at what you’ve really been doing ”” and why. Perhaps that’s the fourth phase to all this, and perhaps it’s the most important of them all. It was for me.