Toe the line when playing machines

September 10, 2002 4:43 AM
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In the game of video poker, somewhere along the way successful players do a lot of preparation and planning. Regardless of the type strategy players follow, those who win more and/or lose less almost always have a reason for what they do at the machines. But of the millions who play the game, a far greater percentage do nothing more than put money in, expect to lose, then watch it disappear. Although many of them could care less about the game of video poker, those of us who do sometimes get irritated by the helter-skelter play methods of these individuals who sit nearby.

   There is a good percentage of players out there who really do want to win, and because of that they try to take advantage of all the information available in order to have a fighting chance. Sifting through the info can be confusing, but it’s still the right thing to do. Those who play often probably have a difficult time coming to grips with the fact that they are likely very addicted to the game, but that doesn’t change the fact that there’s a reason behind the madness. The long losing cycles hit everyone hard, and that’s exactly why persistence in an interest is the only way to derive any gratification — no matter how intermittent — from such a casino game.

   I read an awful lot on what others have to say about what attributes contribute most to a player having the best possible opportunity of coming out ahead. Those who follow the long-term, expert play school of thought and who believe probabilities and computer models tell a meaningful story also believe that correct bankroll is important. But the spreadsheets and cloudy information resulting from their formulas and calculations in determining the so-called proper bankroll has little meaning to even the top enthusiasts. Nonetheless, bankroll remains a key factor for any player who wants to have the best chance to win. Most players, however, simply go to a casino with whatever funds they can scrape together at the time. Is this a problem? Yes, but that’s life. We can’t all do as the experts tell us to do. In fact, who comes to Las Vegas with nearly $12,000 to play dollar machines and expects to win a tiny hourly wage because of it?

   Obviously, the math experts may be telling us that we require so much bankroll over an undetermined long-term (which to most people terminates when they do) in order to be able to win anything, but in reality most of them no more follow their own rules than they obey speed limits. The game has unnecessarily been complicated for players by being fed a steady diet of theories drawn up on paper which, while interesting to analyze the resulting statistics of what should be the case in a perfect world, do nothing more than give a false sense of confidence to anyone who listens. Don’t believe me? Then go sit at a machine, put in a few hundreds, and tell me how important all that mumbo-jumbo is while you’re playing. The truth is as it always is: if you’re lucky you will win; if not you will lose. It goes no deeper than that.

   While bankroll gets most of the attention in articles, books and chat rooms, it’s really a mystery why more time isn’t spent on the proper application of discipline to any gambler’s game. In my Play Strategy, bankroll is as important as determination — which is equally important as playing for goals, progression, money management, game knowledge, special plays that deviate from expert strategy, and always doing what I say I am going to do when it comes time to leave. No one part outweighs any other, but a slip up in one brings the whole thing down. Although the strategy was very complex in it’s development, discipline was the most challenging to understand and learn. It is strictly doing what you say you are going to do to the Nth degree. Don’t think so? Next time you’re at your favorite machine, set a goal and see if you can walk as soon as you reach it. Going in to play video poker for a few hours and run out of money in just 30 minutes? See if you can just walk by that ATM. See if you can just sit at the bar watching others play while you wait for your friends. Discipline in any situation is tough enough, but learning how to deal with it while involved in casino action is far more difficult than anything you’ve ever done.

   Even though I place no more importance in bankroll over discipline, that’s not the case in other systems. If you follow the math and believe you somehow can out-play the video poker computers with a bunch of skill and very little luck, you’d better have a big wad of cash on hand. That’s important. Discipline here means nothing more than learning to stay awake while you waste away hours from your life inside the smoky casinos. It means controlling the amount of alcohol you take in so you don’t hurt yourself or anyone else on the way home. It means remembering to check your slot club card reader constantly so you don’t jump out of your seat with a loud SHRIEK when you see “Reinsert Card.” And it means being able to stand in the at times long and annoying Slot Club lines waiting for your hat, whistle, or tee shirt - & for the gal to hurry up and get your cash back check written out so you can wait in the change booth line to cash it for gas money. Bottom line: Any player can have a bankroll. Very, very few have discipline. Winners have both.