When to deviate from basic strategy

July 16, 2002 4:48 AM
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Very many times people try to run mathematical models of my Play Strategy. While not all that easy to comprehend for just anybody, when I see a real interest I will answer any and all questions ”” regardless of where the come from.

More often than not, I’ve found that those who are searching for an alternative, fun way of playing video poker more or less look for a basic understanding in order to do as I recommend ”” to use my Strategy as a baseline for coming up with one that is comfortable for them to play while staying within their own financial limitations.

On the other hand, it’s generally the critics and naysayers who want to know every detail and understand every quirk ”” but for quite a different reason.

For the most part, the people who ask to learn have almost always come back with reports of winning far more sessions or losing a lot less money.

But what really surprises me are those few who try to shoot down this relatively new overall method with their questions, and then make statements that are incomplete and shortsighted. For instance, my Play Strategy does not disregard probability theories or computer-perfect play at all.

Conversely, each hand is really played no less than mathematically perfect for short-term, goal-oriented strategy (of course barring unintentional mistakes) based on the deal and the game being played ”” even though quite a few hands require a break from traditional optimal play. Long-term, expert-play gurus usually have a cow when they hear me say this, but they never stick around long enough to see why their one-dimensional thinking has severely limited their play results.

One of my keys to consistent winning is in the deviations from expert plays. Although far more difficult to master as well as requiring extreme concentration during play, these "special plays" are as important to my Play Strategy as any of the other components are. But why are they so "special?"

First, if you were to program a computer with every type of play I make in every situation that would deviate from perfect play, and hook it to a video poker game through the end of time, it is a good bet that the longer this went on, the more this computer would lose. Why? Because over whatever it is that constitutes the long run, the math models clearly show us that these are the expected results. No one could ever argue successfully against this law of nature. This is also the rationale behind why casinos never give up the odds, regardless of whether or not a game advertises greater than 100 percent pay back with optimal play. The long run rests solely with them, while players are merely individuals who always and only will ever play in short-term sessions.

Because of this fact, I set out to find a way to beat the video poker machines on a session-by-session basis. Strategy needed to be reviewed. Rules needed to change. It turned out special plays that deviated from expert play were an absolute requirement in order to have the optimal chance at winning consistently.

And because of their requirement, they are the mathematically correct play to make when they are made. I’m actually writing this just as I’ve returned home from a session in Las Vegas, which was won because of one of these plays. Playing my relatively new Multi-Play Strategy (which is only on 5-play machines), on the $5 game I was dealt a pair of 7’s, an Ace, and two nothing cards.

On any single-play game I always keep the low pair ”” which is the correct play in anyone’s book. But on the game I was playing (Super Aces), four Aces always pays 2,000 credits. Because I am only here for the short-term and I have specific goals set, and because I am playing 5-Play (I’d never play this game in single-play format), Aces are very powerful cards. So with such a deal, I always only keep the Ace (unless either of the two "nothing cards" are cards that have a special high quad payout, because even when you keep one dealt card, four-of-a-kind can and does come up on the draw).

In this case, the special play paid off handsomely, as on the fifth line I drew three more Aces for a $10,000 winner and an overall session profit of $4,960. I immediately left for home. Such a bold play would make some of the long-term EV worshippers nervous, but it is the correct play to make when you are concerned with today’s results and not the least bit worried about what will happen tomorrow””until tomorrow.

They may say that making this play might be costing me 52.4 cents/hour or whatever, but I don’t care about baloney like that, and I’m certainly not after an hourly wage. The bottom line to me is what my short-term EV is, which is arrived at by applying a calculated factor to the hand’s theoretical long-term EV. The rule of thumb to remember is this: Long-term is solely the tool of the casino; short-term is the only way to approach the game.

Throughout my 137 professional sessions to date, these special plays have allowed me to be much further ahead than if I did not use them. Because playing within the boundaries of short-term strategy recognizes that anything can happen at any time, there are times when it is not optimal to make the "expert" play.

This was calculated to be the case in my Strategy’s development, and it has proven out to be true in actual play. It is the only part of my Strategies that I have never fully disclosed. The math people are unable to program every play into their computers. The bottom line is there is a difference on how to approach the game of video poker. When they finally realize that every battle is a short-term session, they talk to me.