Lady Luck reigns, even in video poker

May 7, 2002 2:38 AM

Regardless of how many times I tell players why they’ll never win big at video poker without gobs of luck, the e-mails continue to flow containing analyses on why a handful of people believe they possess a theoretical superiority over the mathematics of these computerized games. Thankfully, many players now see past all that, and my efforts have not been in vain.

Why all the on-going fuss? It’s basically nothing more than a player’s normal everyday experience along with a good dose of common sense. Most who read up on the subject understand that video poker is indeed a game grounded in math.

So how does luck really determine every player’s outcome? I’ve said this before and I’ll continue to say it: Every player experiences luck when they play, and most of it is bad. Who can’t agree with that? Even the gurus say you should expect to lose at least 70 percent of the time. Pretty dismal, right? Actually it is ”” unless you know how to set reasonable goals according to your gambling bankroll, have the ability to take advantage of the good luck you are fortunate enough to experience, and train yourself on the discipline to leave the casino at the proper time. Besides, you’ve got to be nuts to look forward to losing seven out of every 10 visits to town.

If there’s been any doubt about the amount of luck required to have a winning session, let’s see why the math of winning has less than a 10 percent effect on your overall results. I’m at home behind the safe comfort of my computer in Scottsdale, Arizona about 225 miles from the nearest Nevada poker machine, yet I can feel the reality of what I’m about to say. I just pushed the "max bet" button. I was dealt five cards up and five cards waiting on the draw. The remaining cards are dead. But I am experienced and shameless enough to say that this hand’s fate relies completely on those 10 cards. No amount of skill or knowledge of calculus will ever change that. It’s the luck of the draw.

Another area of concern I have is with the use of a slot club card as a means to an end. If the casinos want to "give away things for free" I’ll take some of that as much as the next person. But I’ve seen slot club benefits inflated far too high. I always use a card when playing quarters or dollars recreationally ”” but never at the limits I may reach professionally. No professional WHO WINS should ever want to be tracked; yet all the other guys "won’t leave home without it." And then they brag about their freebie conquests.

Is there really any advantage of playing a positive EV machine over a negative one? Of course. Does it make any difference when trying to have a winning session? Very little, if any. Why? Because most people play off their credits until all is lost anyway. Once in a great while those few extra credits will lead to a jackpot, but to say it’s better to play a machine with a theoretical income of $6.78 vs. $6.72 per hour has little meaning. Playing positive EV machines does little more than make a person feel good about what they are doing. At the end of the day I’d rather be lucky. Save the skill for that safe drive home