A video poker romp on
and off the Strip

Mar 25, 2003 4:04 AM

In the past 16 months or so, I’ve written columns outlining my two Video Poker Romps Through Town ”” in which I simply set very low win goals at each casino and leave upon reaching them.

Both treks proved that locals ”” players who live near casinos ”” could win, and then leave with a profit on over 95% of their visits if they had the discipline to just get up and leave.

Because many of my critics question my ability to win on my game of choice ””Bonus Poker ”” during these sessions, I decided to go at it again.

To make the challenge more interesting this time around, I decided to line up 10 locals casinos versus 10 of the most fabulous resorts in the world on the Las Vegas Strip.

On the surface, you might say BP is a negative EV (expected value) game no matter where it is played. At just over 99% payback with computer-perfect play throughout infinity, that’s absolutely right.

However, at every locals casino the game did indeed have that 8/5 pay table, but on the Strip I played only those with 7/5 schedules. I can feel the icy cold scowl of the so-called experts out there who would shun such a "losing" schedule. So let’s see if they’re right all the time!

It was early March and I traveled to Las Vegas overnight on Sunday, spending all of Monday working on this shootout. I decided to go after the 10 off-Strip venues first, and then tackle the Strip. I would play 100 credits on quarters, 100 credits on dollars, and 100 credits on $5 machines, and quit as soon as at least $5 was won at each casino. (That’s right, a measly five dollars!)

I began the adventure at Ellis Island, perhaps because I just wanted to see what this casino with probably the best pizza and beer in town was like at 4 o’clock in the morning.

Luckily (in more ways than one), I only had to play three hands to win 20 credits.

Over at Palace Station I had no luck on quarters or dollars, but the $5 machine pulled me through with a 30-credit win.

Out at the Cannery I had to play to dollars in order to leave with a $10 win. Not bad so far. A little testy, but not bad.

My next stop was in Summerlin at the Suncoast, where there were plenty of 8/5 games. I couldn’t seem to get over the hump on quarters, but on my second bet on dollars I got an unusual hand — four 2’s on the draw while holding a Queen. I’ll take it!

Then I went over to one of my favorite casinos in town, regardless of the pay tables — the Rampart casino at the Marriott Hotel, which is just a short walk from the Suncoast. But I only got to play one hand and hit a full house for an $8.75 win, so it was a short stay.

Onto the Fiesta Rancho, where during my quarter play I held one Ace and drew the other three for an $87.50 win. Not so bad after all.

I skipped Texas Station next door, but only because there were other locations I wanted to fit into my schedule — and I’m glad I did. At the Palms I hit a 25¡ Royal that drew three correct cards. Leaving with a $995 profit, I headed over to the new Tuscany Suites on East Flamingo Road.

I like this new entry into the Las Vegas market. It’s modern, spacious, and the casino is very player-friendly. I picked up $15 and reluctantly left. I really wish I hadn’t, because at Sam’s Town I deposited my $625 in what seemed a very short time.

On the disappointing ride out to the beautiful Green Valley Ranch, I tried to see the positive side of being ahead for the round. At first things weren’t going so well. I lost on quarters and I was losing on dollars until my last hand when I lined up four 6’s. But it still wasn’t enough to quit because I was only even. Luckily, my next hand was three 7’s and I left with $10 profit.

Moving onto the Strip, I picked up $20 at Mandalay Bay, $10 at Luxor, and $5 at the MGM Grand. But there was nothing out of the ordinary yet.

I had to work my way up to the $5 machine at the Aladdin, but I escaped with a $75 profit. Then, I was surprised to see my $625 disappear at Paris, considering all the good fortune I’ve had there in the past.

At Harrah’s, I would have left 10 minutes earlier had the BP machine been 8/5 instead of 7/5, but I still left with a $5 profit. No, that’s not much considering how long I played. But it’s a whole lot better than leaving minus another $625, is it not?

I had another semi-struggle at the Flamingo before squeezing out a $15 win. I went over to the Venetian and easily collected $5 in quarters. My first””and only””real break on the Strip came when I decided to try Caesars Palace next instead of the Mirage.

Moments into the $5 machine I was dealt four Aces for $2,000. This was quite a bit different than the beating I took there not three weeks earlier during a pro session. My final play took place at the Mirage. Uneventful and so predictable, I left with a profit of $7.50.

The bottom line? The local casinos contributed $561.25 for my efforts, and I collected $1,517.50 on the Strip. It’s obvious who won — I did.

And if you want to get technical, then the Strip casinos, with their inferior pay tables, fared better. But that’s not the real point here, since it can always go either way and everyone knows that.

This is the third time I’ve run through town like this successfully scooping up short-term profits nearly everywhere I go. If I can do this, so can you. Sure I had a couple of big winners, but I also lost twice — which was more than I expected. Besides, who’s to say that a 25¡ royal couldn’t happen on the dollar or even $5 machine next time around?

What about the game EV (expected value) differences? That turned out to be about as meaningless as my not getting double points at several local casinos because I didn’t use slot club cards. And guess what. I took the money home with me. Have you learned anything yet?