Friendly advice often isn’t well-received

April 16, 2002 3:19 AM
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Since I started playing video poker, I’ve been entertained by the many comments I’ve heard or read about in the numerous magazines or papers on the game. But nothing beats sitting around and chatting with old friends, especially a couple whom I haven’t seen in over six years ”” and more importantly, since my transformation from expert loser to a goal-setting successful player. When our friends Graham and Marcy came to Scottsdale for a visit in February, we had quite the lively discussion about the game. They’re from Australia, and while video poker is very popular in the States, it’s nearly a national pastime down under.

The last time I talked to Graham ”” a software engineer with one of the largest defense contractors in the world ”” we were both on the same wavelength when it came to our method of play. We both studied the mathematics of the game, we both practiced perfect play on our home computers, and we only played the best EV games available ”” and usually in Nevada. Any comps or cash back received from using player’s cards were figured into the equation. To a couple of math geeks, that seemed like the right”¦ like the only way to play. We tried to squeeze every advantage out of the game, and we knew what we were doing. But in reality we’d only win once in a great while. The last time I saw him we both wished each other good luck with the game and in life, and moved on our separate ways.

That was then and this is now. What a difference a handful of years makes! Actually, during my last discussion with Graham in 1995, I was grumbling a bit about my results, and I was beginning to work on a new approach to playing video poker. It really never caught his attention though, because with minds such as his, which are never trained beyond probability theories, expected values based on optimal situations, associated risk and statistical analysis, he was closed to outside influence ”” similar to what I’ve run into with the gurus of the game today. But I figured after all these years of losing with perfection, his position may have softened up a bit. I was wrong. I guess the big salary he gets paid has the same effect it used to have on me: a portion of it was expendable to gambling. But after a while, it goes beyond reason. And here’s where the current chat got interesting.

My friend is steadfast in his ways. It’s basically the same tune I hear every day and have had to listen to from our famous names for the past umpteen years, only this time it was all the more irritating because I had to let this nonsense permeate my own home. Even though he still loses much more than he wins every year, he has some kind of blind trust that the math will eventually turn in his favor as the models and programs say it will. He believes he’s a perfect player at 9/7 and 10/7 Double Bonus, and he constantly brags about being the “King” of comps on his frequent trips to gambling destinations. He’s entirely into the free rooms, all the free food that keeps entering his now enormous body, the gifts, the cash back, and he has a special affinity for the oh-so-special way he is treated by the casino VIP hosts wherever he plays. Because he has the income to sustain the losing associated with this kind of fantasy, he loves the casinos and the casinos absolutely love him. Marcy on the other hand doesn’t like the losing, she doesn’t like the smoke, but he drags her along on some trips camouflaging it as some type of “holiday.” Visiting us was her first real holiday in years, but they were stopping in Laughlin for four days before flying home. In fact, with all the trips he makes to Nevada, he’s never had the time to contact an old friend until now. And it was only because he picked up a copy of GamingToday and saw my picture that he could get gambling off his mind long enough to call me.

Almost every waking hour we argued. I told him he was a compulsive, pathological gambler. I told him he was hopelessly addicted to his numerous slot club cards and that he had fallen into the trap set by the casinos of playing for points, gifts, attention and status levels rather than for the original reason he signed up for them. He has both the mind and the resources to be cured. But he can’t let go ”” and actually told me he wouldn’t unless and until he went broke. He told me he can’t help his heart from pounding faster every time he opens his mailbox and sees another freebie offer show up. Now that brought back memories, and none of them is good.

As hostile as the discussion became, it was only getting revved up. He asked me how my play was going. I sang a whole different tune than he expected. I said I really don’t enjoy being in casinos for hours every day, and I no longer do that. I told him I no longer use a slot club card, which eliminates the casino’s ability to track my play, I no longer stay on to foolishly play for the points, and I don’t have to sift through all that junk mail in my mailbox at home any more.

He gasped in disbelief. Then I told him about my five-year old Play Strategy and my new Multi-Play Strategy, and how they have helped me achieve unequalled success by winning 122 out of 127 sessions thus far ”” and I thought he was going to explode! The first emotion I noticed was jealousy, but that was expected”¦ and really not important. When he calmed down he said, “Hey mate, you used to be so logical. Where’d all this come from?” I thought, this, from someone who still loses regularly?

I won’t go into the rest of the story because you know what it would be. But I will say that while time usually cures many ills ”” as it has for me ”” not everyone gets to see the light. While some people may get close on their own, the casinos fight back with their number one weapon ”” the Slot Club Card. And they continually keep on pounding players back into that dark tunnel with special promotions, more aggressive mailers, and by offering classes that are advertised as educational in nature, but do little more than bring in a whole new crop of players to that particular casino. I escaped this road to nowhere in 1997. It wasn’t easy. Playing to lose IS easy. We all make our own choices in life and we have to live our lives by them. Graham obviously is now still letting others do that for him. What about you?