What’s the real cost of imperfect play?

September 03, 2002 6:22 AM
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There’s no getting away from the fact that in order to have any chance at all against the video poker computers, a player must know what he or she is doing and why. Because the majority of players have no training, a high percentage lose all the time. Are they problem gamblers? No, because most choose their gambling allotment well, and when it’s gone so are they.

But that, of course, is not the case for everyone. There is a comparatively small group of players ”” and I’m one of them ”” who either have an unpresumptuous desire to know more, or are compelled to know more out of habit for the game.

For those of us who do not enjoy losing money to casinos, we try to follow advice if it has been successful and is comfortable for us to do so. In my case I went so far as to develop my own complex Play Strategy after the advice trail failed me, but regardless, I am no different than anyone else in my desire to win. What separates the Rob of today from the Rob of yesterday is that now I expect to win every time I play.

There’s a lot written about the cost of not making the mathematically perfect plays during a video poker session. But let’s start at the beginning of the process. We hear all the time about several hundred "pros" haunting the casinos who play the game and win every year. They are also handed piles of gifts, comps, cash back, and special invites ”” all while the casinos (who are taking the supposed beatings) track every play, watch every step, and continuously count up their losses to these special players. Am I the only one who thinks it’s just a tad strange that the casinos allow such players to keep up the yearly massacres? Or are we not getting the entire truth here?

Gambling egos at work or not, the first miscalculation by any winning player is over reliance on a slot club card. From experience, I do know that after only several winning experiences, I was severely restricted and politely asked not to return in my present professional format.

So what did I do, stop playing there? Give up my career? Go crying to the casino manager? No, I did something long overdue that I had control over. I stopped using a slot club card at all casinos while playing for profit. It was then that I learned that any player who is a professional and who wins, would never, ever want his or her play tracked at any casino they are trying to beat.

Certainly, playing without a card attracts the floor supervisor’s attention when I am receiving a hand pay and/or a W2G. After a short conversation I believe it is assumed that I, like all other gamblers, will simply put my winnings back into the machines sooner or later anyway ”” or maybe I already did. Either way, they have no idea what has happened, does happen or what will happen after that, because they cannot follow my play.

Getting back on track, what about these other "costly plays" that are said to be the reason players do not win. Are imperfect mathematical plays really going to make a difference? Will mistakes ruin the game for us? Could this be the reason why most of the students of the game who try their best just can’t seem to win? Well . . . yes, and . . . no, sometimes.

Let’s see why the experts hold perfect play so sacred. Two players receive the same dealt hand on 10/7 double bonus poker of Ad 5c 7c 9c 3h. Player A holds the Ace, while player B goes for the SF. Who just made the smarter play? Well, whoever wins the most from the hand of course, but we don’t know that before the draw. The mathematicians would never hold just the Ace, because the three SF cards are theoretically worth more in actual cash value. But are they . . . Video poker is a simple game of what-ifs. So, what if player A gets a FH, a straight, four Aces, anything ”” even a Royal, and player B gets nothing but a cross look on his face? Who’s to say that can’t happen? In fact, what-ifs like that happen all the time!

Yes, the math people will be quick to point out that such a mistaken play might cost the player 12 cents (of course this is utter nonsense), and over the course of their lifetime that could add up to a tidy sum (give me mercy!).

But what these people just don’t get is that today’s results are the only ones that matter, and even if the same hand did appear over and over again in the coming years, each time the player may play it wrong and still win more than if the hand were held according to Einstein. Why? Because each hand is it’s own individual adventure having no memory of what has happened before, and regardless of what the math says will happen over infinity, anything can and does happen at any time within the short-term.

Here’s another example I like to use. One player may shuffle the deck 2,500 times and never be able to draw the Ace of Spades as the first card. The next player may be able to draw it a hundred times. Theoretically that’s not fair. Practically, it’s perfectly normal.

I make what experts claim are imperfect plays all the time, yet I have no trouble winning. Why? Because I’m not always after the perfect play that’s suppose to be worth 3 cents more than my play, and because I know that the world of gambling is not at all close to the world of taking exams.

Some of my plays may be off base as far as others are concerned, but they are mathematically perfect for the ground rules under which I play. Which computer did I consult? The one on top of my neck. My laptop couldn’t handle it.