Pre plan, set goals to beat video poker

Oct 8, 2002 2:55 AM

   One advantage about playing optimally and losing for seven years is that, although I’d never say this in public, I always looked at the casinos I played in and said to myself “This week I probably paid for three rows of seats inside the new movie theater” or “I just put food on the table of my host and her family for the next four months.”

   Why? Because the only planning I ever did was in when and where to go gamble. Once at the machines, I played on and on like a zombie who just swallowed a slide rule — and the results almost always meant improvements at my favorite places of escape.

   That was then: up until early 1997. Since that time and into the present has been a different story. And it all has to do with my ability to make a plan, set goals, and never deviate from what it is I say I am going to do before entering the casino.

   How does one make an adequate plan? What’s my bankroll? Am I on a timetable? Do I really want to win money, or is it the points and status I’m after? If I’m from out of town, do I have any idea of what else there is to do in case I get very lucky early on-or do I expect to just give it all back, foolishly rationalizing that I was playing with “their” money? There’s many variables-almost as many as there is gamblers.

   The bottom line is that a solid, reasonable plan is an absolute essential part of any winner’s overall strategy. Whether players strive to learn my entire Play Strategy or not, a good plan will usually eliminate the long, irritable losing streaks associated with video poker play.

   One of the most popular questions I get is about goal-setting. I go in each week with a minimum pre-set win goal and a maximum pre-set loss goal. I never waver. At the same time, each dealt hand is analyzed to see if it qualifies for one of my special plays that deviate from expert strategy.

   Similar hands may be treated differently depending on where I’m at in my session goal, my yearly goal, and in my current denomination of play.

   Nowhere can this be more profoundly illustrated than in my most recent play session in mid-September. I was in a two-session losing streak ($6,200 and $7,700 — the first time in 148 lifetime sessions), and I was losing again, about $5,800 worth. On $25 BP I was dealt 3-to-the-royal (10cKcAc), Kd and 6h. If I were on DB or DDB, I would have gone for the optimal play-four K’s ($6,250) — at that denomination, which would have sent me back to $1 BP with some more pocketed profit.

   But because my Play Strategy almost always calls for going for the royal when the alternate higher EV potential winning hand of four K’s ($3,125) would not have taken me back to dollars, I went for the hand that would send me home-and hit it-for $100,000. If I had gone with the percentages and held the two Kings, the best I could have hit after the Jc & Qc were drawn was three of them for $375. Such expertise. Thank God for the ability to use my brains rather than a strategy card.

   After I caught my breath, I realized that several goals had been reached in one simple draw. Did I reach my weekly session win goal of at least $2,500? Obviously. But more importantly, I instantaneously surpassed my 2002 win goal, and that meant no more for-profit play until Jan. 2003, when I begin my quest for goals all over again. In essence, I’m on vacation because of the one hit.

   So was it skill or luck that made the royal show? There’s no way I couldn’t say it was mostly luck, but I at times have to wonder. If I didn’t develop this Strategy would I have hit it? Would I be where I am now and in the same position? What-ifs are great to ponder, but I only worry about what today’s results are-and how to attain my goals. That’s how I keep my sanity in a game that has the ability to run players into the ground in more ways than one.

   Why did I quit for the year, or why did I not jump on the $100 machines trying to up the win? Easy. How many times have you heard someone say “I hit a dollar royal for $4,000 yesterday, but today I gave it all back and more to the darn $5 machines!”

   Taking shots at higher denomination machines sometimes works, but usually does not. And even if it does, the player is compelled to stay at the higher level until he or she is beaten back into reality. I learned my lesson years ago, and it has made me a much better player because of it. To those who would say I’m way off base to be playing in this manner? Let them eat cake.