Poker primer hits jackpot

Dec 30, 2002 10:22 PM

   When I stepped into the professional video poker arena a few years ago, my concept of playing to win in the short term was in direct contrast to many who pioneered computer-perfect play.

   I believe luck determines if you win or lose; they believe it’s mostly skill. They’ll only play when they believe they have a theoretical advantage over a machine; I’ve proven any machine can be beaten. And so on and on.

   But today — and if only for one day — it is different. Million Dollar Video Poker, written by Bob Dancer, is to me one of the most interesting books about video poker that I have ”¦ or will ”¦ ever read.

   In fact, because the book is a sort of mini-autobiography with an eclectic mix of interesting gaming experiences, I felt in order to be accurate in my review, I needed to get several items clarified with the writer to better understand not only the content but the person. The author obliged.

   It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of technical articles written by those who follow expert-play strategy to the letter, and I have to admit that’s what I was expecting when I opened this book. But while there were specific deal/hold/draw examples, they were sprinkled into other characterizations and situations in such a manner as to make most of them part of an intriguing story-within-a-story. Very well done indeed.

   Million Dollar Video Poker’s title refers to an incredible six-month run from Sept. 2000 to March 2001 in which Dancer and his wife Shirley nailed down over 100 royal flushes and netted (including several slot club benefits) $1 million profit, of which $500,000 came in one 30-minute period.

   But as strange as it may seem, this single fabulous event along with the six months of dream play is not really what makes this book difficult to stop reading. It’s the story of the rise of an otherwise ordinary human being from a fairly large family into a highly successful gambler — and we get to experience many of his emotions and personal trials along the way.

   Because the majority of us who read this book are gamblers, most will recognize many of the author’s traits as similar to our own in certain circumstances. From his methods of manipulating slot club errors to his advantage, to his down to earth explanations of how a professional gambler just isn’t in the same league as James Bond when it comes to charming the ladies, we get the feeling we’re right in there with him throughout his journey.

   One respectable area that Bob points out about his video poker life is in his acknowledging those around him who have helped him get to where he is today through their support.

   One other point I learned is that his wife is as much a part of his video poker play as he is. When we look at his winnings or losses it’s actually their winnings or losses — as in they both played and both had separate results to report.

   You may be overwhelmed, as was I, at the exorbitant numbers of $5, $10, and $25 royal flushes being written about — especially those dealt and/or drawn on multi-play machines. But we’re also given a look at the pain and frustration such players feel when they run into the inevitable crushing losing streaks.

   One of the more entertaining lines in the book compares a losing streak to being run over by a bus sporting the license plate “HAHAHA.” Yes, we’ve all been there!

   A topic I wanted elaboration on was in Dancer’s interpretation of luck vs. skill in attaining his winning streak. It’s clear that his $500,000 night basically jump-started his extraordinary run, and extreme good fortune was the name of that tune.

   When asked, he did not deny that those and all the other royals were served up with a good dose of luck, and that royal flushes are a required part of any advantage player’s ability to win. But his overall explanation made a lot of sense as a professional. He feels his many years of “nose to the grindstone” in learning his trade as well as playing nearly 60 hours/week in that six-month period along with all his other duties such as being a husband, a business partner, video poker teacher/writer etc. all contributed to his ability to experience such great luck. He also believes his aggressive efforts in seeking out anomalies in the cash back system in his favor are a factor to his overall success. I can’t argue with any of that.

   Another interesting topic was in his taking a number of very risky pot shots (high risks with a small likelihood of success). I believe this to be a contradiction to what I’ve understood him to be a proponent of. While most of his risk-taking has turned out positive, those who follow advantage play really should not step outside of their safety zone.

   Bob Dancer was lucky to get away with it at very high stakes. In general, players overwhelmingly are not. He does come up with several pages of reasons (excuses?) for when he believes it’s OK to sparingly do so, but I don’t really think he’s recommending it to his readers either.

   Bottom line here: He acknowledges he hasn’t been an unwavering follower of his own 3-5 royal rule for bankroll requirements, but he has come up with a reasonable list of situations where he feels somewhat comfortable in testing the waters. I believe he has earned that right.

   Finally, does the author still play at these high limits, and is the lucky streak back? The answer to the first question is “at times, when there’s a good play available.” As far as the winning, I didn’t even ask, because that’s a personal issue that he’ll write about if he wants to.

   For now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve read about as much winning in Million Dollar Video Poker as I can handle. If you feel you’re up to taking this wild ride right along with him, this book’s definitely for you. That’s it for today. Now go out and hit 110 royal flushes!