Hit-and-run poker!

Dec 3, 2002 6:33 AM

   Last year I had an idea that I followed through on, and it turned out to be a lot of fun. I went up and down the Strip as well as to a few other spots with the goal of either winning $40 at each casino on $1 Bonus Poker — or losing $300 — and leaving.

   I hit 15 or so casinos, unexpectedly hit one Royal Flush, and by day’s end would have been ahead around $315 even without the royal.

   I wanted to prove a point that players indeed can achieve better results in playing “hit and run” than they obviously do by sitting for hours at machines inside of casinos that continually lure them in to play with blinding promotions.

   I know that if I lived in Las Vegas, the same casino would never see me day in and day out. It’s so much more enjoyable to occasionally run through all that the city offers by getting out, walking around, watching the people, and playing in a variety of beautiful casinos.

   It’s either that — or staying at the same machine for long hours while your bank account shrinks and your girth widens. Not much of a choice in my mind!

   This November I had the same inclination to do something similar but more challenging. I wasn’t really planning on coming to Las Vegas until around Christmas since I met my 2002 win goal in early September, but I’m always thinking of alternative ways to win for those who have the opportunity to play daily.

   After all, many video poker players work at the casinos, and many of them support the upkeep and improvements of the buildings they work in far more than they want to. When last year’s article ran (“A Video Poker Romp Through Town”) I received many e-mails from interested players who’ve simply had it with the long-term routine.

   This time around I thought I’d make it a two-day affair while playing at 24 casinos — and I’d do it alone on a Sunday/Monday. Once again I would shun the use of slot club cards — but only because they’d surely become a hassle by constantly having to search for the right ones, leaving them in machines, etc. with the number of casinos I’d be in and out of in so short a time.

   I changed the ground rules slightly too. I still would only play Bonus Poker, but I’d have enough for 100 credits each of dollars and $5. My win goal was a simple $5 minimum per casino. Yes, $5. Most people would think that’s a waste of time. Not me. If you risk $200 daily, would you be happier walking out of the casino with $205, or with nothing? That’s the common sense approach I used as I embarked on this effort — and once again it showed you can never learn enough about this game.

   I started out at guru heaven — the Suncoast in Summerlin. With all those 100% video poker machines inside, it’s become the epitome of success amongst the local casinos. But I was in there to play a negative EV game, and I walked out with $15 profit. Hmmmm! Negative game, positive result. Why does that wording not fit into any of the columns or books written by “the other guys?”

   Oh well, it’s on to the Rampart casino at the J.W. Marriott across the street — one of my favorites in town. But my stay didn’t last long as I won $5 on 2-pair immediately.

   Now I cranked up my rental car for the trip out to the beautiful Green Valley Ranch resort. Wouldn’t you know it, I hit 2-pair again on my first hand. As much as I’d have liked to stay on and play, my mission had me going straight to the Fiesta Henderson (which still feels like the Reserve to me). Here I lost my first eight hands, but came back to win $10 on dollars. It was a simple start to an interesting day. I was up $35 with 20 casinos still to take on before going home tomorrow evening.

   I went up the road to Sunset Station, which is a place I’ve been coming to for years. Here I met my first real challenge. I lost my $100 and had to play $5 Bonus Poker. My first three hands were 2-pair and two three-of-a-kinds, so I was up $25 and left. Pretty good luck, I thought.

   So I drove over to Sam’s Town and sat at one of their coin-less machines in the newer section that is so much different from the rest of their casino. After a 5-minute struggle that ended with a flush I cashed out a ticket showing a $20 profit and drove over to Terrible’s. I’ve not had much luck here playing professionally, but today my first hand was a dealt flush and I was able to get out with another $20. Not bad.

   No quads yet, but I’m 7 for 7 and up an even $100. How many local players wouldn’t mind that result?

   I went to the Hard Rock Hotel next, where the music’s always rocking the place inside and out. This is a casino I never like to leave — for various reasons. Today, however, I was up $5 in less than two minutes and had to go. It was onto the Palms.

   This was my first real test. I went through my $100 after being even and down slightly after small comebacks a number of times, but I just couldn’t get over the hump. The $5 machine gave me a similar challenge, but I eventually managed to pull out a 5-credit ($25 overall) profit. Across the street at the Rio I hit my first quad — four 2’s — and departed with a $145 profit. My luck continued next door at the Gold Coast, winning $35 after getting what seemed to be one of my few full houses of the day.

   So it was time to take on the Strip. Mandalay Bay instantly contributed $5 to my cause, but Luxor wasn’t so kind. I miserably lost $600 with no win higher than 2-pair. I decided to give them more money by having dinner and staying there for the night. My first day ended in the hole $285. Not what I expected, but I wasn’t yet done.

   Plans and goals have to be followed to the end in order to be effective. That’s the key area where most players go wrong. But you never know in video poker. Last year was much easier because we hit a royal for $4,000 early on. Now I’m facing the real world!

   The next morning I had an early and confident start. New York-New York almost took me to the $5 machine, but I escaped with $5. Monte Carlo did take me to the $5 game, but again I escaped with $25. At the MGM I had my next break: Four Aces on the $1 machine for a profit of $330.

   The Orleans took me to the $5 machine for a $25 win, and Aladdin easily tossed $5 into the pot. As I walked over to Paris, the first thing that hit me was what a great time we had there three months ago at my daughter’s wedding. And the good times didn’t stop.

   A seat at Gustav’s Bar, a surprising Straight Flush from holding 4-6-7 of Hearts — and a cool profit of $205. All in all, I’m now in the black $310.

   And it all has to do with persistence, luck, and knowing how and when to walk. But I still have five more casinos on my list, and I know anything can happen at anytime — even a royal on the $5 machine.

   From Paris I went over to Bellagio through Bally’s. I would have liked to have had time for my beer at the Baccarat Bar, but I went up $5 in a few minutes so I had to leave for Caesars. The same thing happened there. Seems like a long walk for five bucks, but knowing that so many people put in a hundred, get ahead by any amount, then lose it all and more, contributes to the overall sense of what it is I am doing.

   So I move on — to the fabulous Mirage. Here I collect $10 with little effort, and go on over to its sister property — Treasure Island. At one of the floor machines I was five dollars away from having to go to the $5 machines and I hit four 5’s — and a $20 profit. Not much you say, but it’s a lot better than risking my next $500.

   I ended my day by crossing over to the incredible and expanding Venetian resort. I’ve had a number of big days here in the past, but today saw a simple $10 win with me reluctantly walking out the doors. I walked back to Luxor, got my car from the valet, and drove home.

   What were my overall results: 23 out of 24, a net profit of $360, and a whole lot of fun. And the $5 machines never did crank out a huge winner — but they did their job. I’d say making $180 a day isn’t so bad, especially in this manner.

   What’s the significance of such a two-day ordeal? Well, if you live in town and believe you know what you’re doing by being reeled in by all the local promotions that have you playing for multiple points, six packs of Coke, five bucks in gas, over-sized tee shirts, or super duper bonuses for that second royal in 24 hours — or have been taken in by the notion that sitting at the same “positive EV” machine for hour after hour means ”˜YOU WIN’ simply because you’ve listened to someone hype 99.2% and 100.3% in short-term play — hopefully you’ve learned something today.

   If you want to follow these “experts” and continue to deposit your $200 or more a week into the machines while boring yourself to death, that’s up to you. But I’m betting most of you are too smart to let that go on. Romping through town and scooping up the cash is really just too easy — positive or negative EV machines — and who knows if one of those BIG winners is just waiting for you!