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Don’t cry over full-pay games!

Feb 18, 2003 5:04 AM

It was reported that one of the most successful locals casino ever, the Suncoast, has eliminated all of its Full-Pay Deuces Wild machines (100.76 percent with errorless play) in favor of other games that pay between 99 percent and 100 percent.

In other words, the positive EV games had been pulled and negative EV games have been inserted. Oh my God! Holy Moly! Great Balls of Fire! What’s going on here? Could it be the end of video poker gaming as we now know it?

Let’s get real. Let’s take a clear look at it from every point of view. First, when the Suncoast opened, it was praised by video poker enthusiasts everywhere for its abundance of full-pay games.

Many knowledgeable players from all over the US made it their home away from home. Even I enjoyed going out of my way to play some of my sessions there. 10/7 DB up through $2 along with coinless machines are really perfect for my play style.

In short, the Suncoast made a firm commitment to get as many local and visiting players to gamble there as possible, and they did it by populating the casino floor with a large inventory of full-pay video poker machines.

And it was setting records. Success was the name of the game. Who’d of thought that a casino so heavily endowed with 100 percent and greater video poker games would ever be able to turn a profit ”” let alone show such fabulous numbers overall? Well, I did, and it wasn’t magic or by the roll of the dice.

Why did Suncoast include so many positive games for their casino? Basically, so the local writers would gush how these are the only machines that winning players play. We were all given the idea that just because a game had positive return (greater than 100 percent), the casino’s losses would mount up quickly.

At the time, was I the only one who wrote columns challenging the way it all appeared?

Apparently yes. I wasn’t fooled by inappropriate probability theories, unattainable mathematical milestones, super-human-like errorless play, corny bankroll requirements ”” all calculated in a way that math professors would never arrive at the identical solution twice in a lifetime.

Why didn’t I take the bait? Because I’m a professional player, and I have learned beyond any doubt that video poker is a game in which no one can win without luck ”” and a valid plan. Period.

So the Suncoast populated its video poker seats with throngs of players with that age-old gleam of winning in their eye. They came back to the positive EV machines. And they kept on coming back. Club Denaro kept the pressure on these folks by offering double points days, triple point days, free fanny packs, t-shirts, caps, jackets, whistles, on and on and on. 100.76% now looked like 101.5%, and it raised player’s fevers even higher. It’s a wonder the property was able to stay afloat!

But it did, and its success has been unrivaled. You see, while the local pied piping writers were leading everyone towards the Suncoast with free advertising, no player took the time to realize that this was a casino, and the purpose of a casino is to take money from its customers — and lots of it.

Back to reality. The bottom line is the Suncoast had some very savvy marketing people who knew what it took to beat out the competition. They saw that video poker was the game of choice for a majority of locals, and they knew that a pay table of 5 for a quad was more attractive than 4, and 10/7 was a better deal for the player than 9/7 Double Bonus.

And the result? So many people came to play — and still do — that the casino has done exceedingly well. There’s no mystery. Just because a machine advertises over 100% payback doesn’t mean players will win because of that. And they don’t. In fact, the extra 5 credits the appropriately termed "advantage players" receive are almost always played off until lost anyway. Sure, they may get a few extra points here and another logo seat cushion there, but nobody ever wins just because of a percentage point.

Yet there are people who believe they can. Yes, there are always some winners who claim they out-dueled a perfect machine. That’s understandable, because who in the optimal-play crowd would ever want to be heard saying they had some luck? Why, it would simply devastate those who are clinging to the paper-thin hope that their skill will come through for them some day — and if it does they can hopefully put the winnings away without watching it be swallowed up by their habit.

With all this success, you may still be asking why the Suncoast had to remove so many positive machines lately. What’s the big deal anyway? Is it a crime for a business to make a decision to remove popular machines and hope players will still come in?

Seems to me that most players in that market will keep on playing come rain or shine simply because they cannot stop. Even those who not-so-wisely moved from out of state to live near this casino will find themselves still going in after they get tired of driving all over town looking for greener grass, while dodging the collection of uninsured junk cars and drunk drivers roaming the city streets.

The truth is, there are so many more unknowledgeable players than those who know what they’re doing anyway. The few complaints we hear about are from the minority of enthusiasts out there. Where this group might mean a 3% profit, the others might check in at 5% or more. Criticize the Suncoast? Boycott the Suncoast? Nonsense. How about we thank them for what they gave us, and maybe in the future we’ll be lucky enough to see it again.