What’s skill have to do with winning at poker?

April 23, 2002 4:32 AM
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It’s late Tuesday evening, and you’re home surfing the web looking for those special deals that seem to be a mainstay at all of the casinos. Suddenly, your blood starts to boil as you notice one of your favorite hangouts is having a quadruple point promotion tomorrow evening from 5 to 12! They must have had you in mind when they printed that, you thought, as you immediately grabbed the phone and called all your friends that play as often as you do. Heaven is only one night away!

But let’s examine this situation a little more thoroughly before we start slipping into our white gowns and angel wings. True, you and your pals are all very knowledgeable at 10/7 double bonus poker ”” which is quite plentiful at this casino. True, although the game is already an "advantage" game if played perfectly over some sort of long term, the bonus points put it into what some of you describe as "unbelievable territory" at just over 101%. Add to all this the fact that the math hasn’t been up to par with your skill level lately, along with the expectation that it should be "due" to catch up according to every probability theory you’ve ever read. The result is you go in with more enthusiasm than Jaws about to enter a goldfish tank. No so fast!

Before we get in too deep, let’s count the mistakes made by this type of over-anxious player. First, they’re responding to a promotion ”” in video poker guru terms this equates to money for nothing. What this simply means is a certain casino is holding a function that, if attended by the clientele it expects to respond, will mean a significant amount of profit that it otherwise would not have realized. Are they at all worried that the same troop of famous names and their followers who are always there whenever anything is "given away free" will be sitting at the machines during the promo’s hours of operation? No, casino management is counting on their participation, because they are acutely aware that such a promotion is impossible for them to just say no to when they are able to walk in the door. ADVANTAGE ”” CASINO.

Next, while the players all revel in the glory of picking up 4X points for their seven hour effort, the Slot Club has just once again paid for itself in Spades. Although the club’s frequent and conservative advertisements explain the many benefits of using a card during play ”” such as receiving gifts, comps and cash back ”” there are other serious consequences. One of them is playing for the points rather than for the fun of it or to win money. To those addicted card junkies, it somehow is a concession to come home with 30,000 points after losing $2,500. So when a casino offers up to four times the points for the same effort, the "joy" doubles. Does this sensibly add up? ADVANTAGE ”” CASINO.

Finally, is skill really a determining factor for any player? Hardly. What cards are dealt is pure luck ”” good or bad, and that includes the five you can’t see that are waiting on the draw. All the rest is small potatoes. Robbie the Robot can make every perfect draw, but his ultimate fate already was determined by the luck of the deal. And each hand is a new and individual adventure in luck. Just because you haven’t won in the last seven visits and haven’t seen a royal in five months doesn’t mean your new machine today "cares" about that. So you move onto another machine ”” do you think that machine knows or cares you’re about to pump in your car payment or grocery money, or that your husband or wife will be ready and waiting for you to walk in the door with a multi-decibel verbal lashing? Do you believe you’re due to win because theory says it’s time for this intelligent player to start catching up to the math? Please! CLEAR ADVANTAGE ”” CASINO.

Players from all walks of the game always go into every session hoping and expecting to win. Experts claim they know they’ll lose around 70% of the time while making a tiny profit overall, but this is baloney. Others expect to lose unless they get lucky. This is much more believable, because the game is at least 90% luck ”” no matter who’s in the seat. Why? Player A ”” the math expert, and Player B ”” the common sense expert ”” are both dealt the same hand in 10/7 double bonus poker. Player A holds QQKK because that’s what his books tell him is worth more over infinity. Player B holds a suited KQJ. The best Player A can hope for is a 50-credit full house, but will at least end up with 5 credits. Player B could draw to a loser, 2-pair (5), trips (15), a straight (25), a flush (35), a straight flush (usually 250) or a Royal Flush. For the short time we play any session or groups of sessions, who’s to say what the best play clearly is ”” especially if the winner of a Royal Flush is capable of calling it a day immediately?

In the end, video poker truly is a game controlled by a kind of skill unrelated to play. It’s the type that is a sure thing to bring in untold profits. It has no fear. It surfaces whenever those who control it want it to. It’s the skill of casino management in offering special promotions that rope in weak-kneed players to the many seats in their casinos. And it’s bolstered by an unforgiving Slot Club Card that players protect closer than any credit card ”” if they still have any. GAME, SESSION, ADVANTAGE ”” CASINO.