Online video poker is real crap shoot

Dec 16, 2002 11:03 PM

   While nearly all casino games are offered through on-line gambling sites, I’m only focusing on video poker for our purposes today. And there really isn’t any reason to discuss more than this single game anyway since they all appear on the same screen in front of your eyes with the simple push of a button and click of the mouse.

   If all that seems just too easy — it is — which is why it appears to be a very popular form of entertainment. “Appears” and “entertainment” are the key words here, and I’ll explain this further in a bit.

   Whether or not you believe that overseas online casino operators consistently pay winners or not, it’s for sure they do pay their advertising bills. Pick up any of the nationwide gaming magazines these days and you’ll find Internet casino ads from the front cover right on through to the very back page. It is so noticeable that it has become overwhelming and even offensive for many of the readers.

   Of course the most non-sensible point I always bring up about this is in the contradictory position that many of these magazines are the pulpits for optimal-play, computer-perfect, advantage-machine-seeking video poker ”˜experts’, yet right next to their articles lies the ads for Internet gambling. So tell me, which message is really more important for players to absorb?

   Last year I wrote about how I’ve only played online once, and that I never would again after such a confusing experience. I felt very uncomfortable punching in my credit card number that went to another country, so I ended up canceling my card when all was said and done.

   In my experience with one of the major casinos on the web, I happen to win several thousand dollars after a few days of video poker play. So I quit, and then went through several months of exasperating, repetitious copying/faxing in of my credit card and driver’s license just to get paid. And when I did the check bounced as quickly as a rubber ball on a hard casino floor. They did make good on it, but not until I made at least 10 calls a day for two weeks. After the incredible waste of time I went through, I can only look back on all this hoping they might visualize my grin as I think about how much I beat them out of. But most aren’t so lucky or persistent — or able to stop.

   My real problem with playing video poker online starts first with the attitudes of other players who may or may not be hopelessly addicted to Internet play — let alone actual casino play. While the US laws are a bit ambiguous as to whether or not players can be prosecuted for gambling in this fashion, it is clear in which direction our lawmakers are moving. And would YOU want to be the first player singled out by our government as an example, where the only things certain are embarrassment and no-mercy? Yet some people not only continue to play. They continue to write how the US policy makers are confused about the issue — that it doesn’t foster problem gambling, financial difficulties, or family break-ups for the most part. They even criticize the Government for not legalizing it so it can become some sort of tax-generating business. I’ve rarely seen such blatant disregard for common sense.

   In any case, why is it that only fools would support or play video poker online? That’s really not the toughest question of the century, but try this. We know that a great many video poker players all across this country do have an uncontrollable compulsion to play the game. It’s challenging enough a problem for these people to struggle with their sometimes demons, trying for those magical royal flushes through interaction with the machines at land based casinos. So now they can try to build on their infrequent winners and chase their very frequent losers on their home computers, i.e., get their needed fix in the comfort of their own homes. And all the time the third world operators are collecting big-time on yet another American addiction.

   What confuses me more than anything is the fact that I’ve been on several video poker chat forums where so-called advantage-machine-players also play on-line. If they see a “positive play” like 10/7 DB or FPDW, they’ll chase that thing until it chases them. I guess the theory that it actually will pay a tiny percentage throughout infinity is based on them talking themselves into the fact that the games are as random as they are in Nevada, so they can have at it. In gambling, reasoning is blind, and in video poker, the blind are everywhere.

   Maybe I’m being a bit naïve here, but this whole thing just doesn’t add up to me. I go to an Internet gambling site, deposit money (which is rightfully becoming more and more difficult for US citizens to do these days — thanks to the efforts of Congress) go to the video poker games, and start playing.

   So I think I’m in a virtual Nevada — or I’m playing a fair game because the disclosure on the front page says “These games are certified to be in accordance with Nevada regulations.” Hmmm”¦ I wonder who certified them, and I wonder if that certifying authority is a company located inside the borders of the USA, where an independent software programming verification can be done at random.

   I think you know what I’m saying. Those who play video poker online obviously must tell themselves the games are fair. Only they know whether they believe it or not. Certainly the game has the ”˜appearance’ of what they wanted it to be, and at first look it will always provide the ”˜entertainment’ that they’re after. But we all know appearances sometimes hides what’s inside, and in video poker, entertainment all too often becomes something much more serious than that. Perhaps that’s the lure for players of on-line games. Perhaps it’s just a fantasy, and maybe the challenge of the unknown is the entertainment for them. Perhaps.