Tourneys are okay, but don’t go overboard

June 25, 2002 2:40 AM
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Video poker tournaments: Being invited in for a casino promotion ”” usually to play for a mix of cash prizes being awarded to those who can score the most points in an equal amount of time and/or from an equal amount of play credits. Sounds like fun, right? Sounds easy? For most, at face value, it’s yes on both counts.

Video poker dreams: Sitting at home ”” whether a mile or thousands of miles away from the thrills of the machines of Las Vegas or elsewhere ”” day dreaming about how easy it should be to hit town, withdraw money at will, have all your meals/drinks/shows/rooms covered by the casinos, and then receive countless gifts and unending special treatment from VIP casino hosts because of it all. Sound exciting? Without a doubt! Sound like this type of life was meant for you? Why not ”” it’s got your name written all over it, does it not?

So what do these two concepts have in common? The explanations really depend upon who you are and how logical you can think. For the dreamers, the tournament invites are automatic ”” sort of another side benefit from living that dream ”” and are looked at beforehand as just another source of income from the casinos. And true to form for sweaty-palmed/over-anxious gamblers, the lure of the machines and the absolute unstoppable compulsion to continually challenge your daily financial position by playing video poker, you are blinded to all meaningful alternatives. While you are playing long hours for who knows what, the only true interruption you may face is the incredibly cruel times your slot card reader times out. But after each and every instance, all is forgotten and forgiven one hand later as the desire to just keep playing takes over and over again.

Sooner or later, for richer or poorer, the tournament invites will be rolling into your mailbox ”” and you will read them with a very high level of anxiety. In fact, if you are creative enough to put together still another cash bankroll for the trip, that last beating you took will instantly seem a million miles away. And guess what? You’ve not thought of this I’m sure, and you will never agree to it while your heart is pounding so fast, but you are doing EXACTLY as the casino wants you to. Is the casino waiting for you to return just to hand your losses back? You know better, but at this point you want no part of that knowledge. Will you be treated as a very special guest from the time you arrive until you depart for home? Certainly. You’re a customer, and customers are the only reason the spectacular casinos can continually keep their doors open and grow. But are you a part of all that? Oops! You know you are, but as fast as a lightening strike you’ve been able to talk yourself into believing that all those comps just HAVE TO be adding up enough so as to make you a winner. And I’ll bet you’ve convincingly told everyone you know the same thing. Nothing is as resourceful as the mind of a gambler.

But you ramble on and into the tournament. The first thing you notice is that there are others invited besides you! And you thought you were soooo special! Now you happen to see a couple of the famous faces in the game. Should you rush over for an autograph? No, you choose the high road and decide to sneak a couple of peeks at their skillful approach to playing video poker. Maybe you can learn something about winning. And maybe not, as a grandma in her 70’s takes home the top prize. Oh well, the tournament was "fun" but now it’s time to get serious. Time to hit the machines for real. Time to "live that dream."

There seems to be one slight problem with all this dreaming, however. The picture we’ve painted by those who have a business income incentive in making it look as if it would be raining hundred dollar bills, now appears to have the colors running in all different indefinable directions. It doesn’t seem to be so pie-in-the-sky after all. What happened?

Yes, you’ve received all those comps and all that wonderful cash back. You were treated so very special by your host. Smiles were the rule of the day. And your room and meals were all first class ”” in fact better than you even live in the real world. But you’ve lost again, and you wonder if it’s just you”¦ if the world has some score to settle with you for past digressions or something. Once again, the conquests the famous names write about make you envious beyond belief, and all you wanted was a piece of that pie. But it was not to be ”” yet again. How could you be such a failure? What is it that turned you into such a willing sucker?

Time to cheer up, Oscar! Put your thinking cap on. Do you think for one minute that any player who chases points and recognition has any results other than that of yours? Keep thinking. Tomorrow is another day. Keep the tournaments in perspective, keep that thinking cap on, and forget the hero worship. There is a better way to play the game, and it’s wholly based on how you want to do it. Walking away a winner is always better.