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Winning w/o jackpots

May 27, 2003 3:10 AM

As pointed out previously, I had once been an avid video poker player. My game of choice at the time was Joker Poker, mostly because it offered the "mini jackpot" of 1,000 coins for hitting five of a kind (the joker plus four of a kind), which was a nice consolation prize when you couldn’t catch the elusive royal flush.

I recall spending a lot of time at the El Cortez and other downtown casinos because they had a great mix of Joker Poker machines, including single-machine progressives and the 20-1 four of a kind payoff (100 coins with maximum bet).

I bring this up now because I have recently read Rob Singer’s video poker article, of how he plays until he reaches a minimum "profit margin" of 40 credits, I believe, then cashes out and moves to another machine.

Upon reflection, I can see how this can be profitable. When I played video poker with reckless abandon, it seemed that in many if not most sessions, my machine would hit a few four-of-a-kind’s or even a straight flush or two, build its credit meter up, then die and slowly take all the money back.

So I would certainly endorse a philosophy in which the player quit at some point while ahead, then move on and do it again. It may be a tedious process, especially when you’re settled in and merely want to play video poker without interruption. But, from the standpoint of leaving the casino with money in your billfold, it certainly is worth considering.

The idea sounded so inviting that I elected to try a similar tact with my beloved video keno. It seems the same trend often happens while playing video keno — the machine pays off with a few minor awards, then quits and starts to take it all back until there is nothing left.

My plan, then, was to quit the machine and move to another before the machine had a chance to take it all back. Toward this end, I devised two scenarios: the first involved playing Four Card Keno on IGT Game King machines; the second hinged on playing standard video keno. The latter will be chronicled in detail next week.

On the Four Card Keno game, I decided to play four 10 spots (see chart). The numbers consisted of two entire rows (adjacent to each other), coupled with two "stair stepper" 10 spots consisting of the first five numbers on one row coupled with the second five numbers of the lower row, and the second five numbers of one row coupled with the first five numbers of the second row.

This is a cluster of numbers that I frequently use and they often result in hitting one 8-of-10 spot, plus numerous 7-of-10 spots.

The 8-of-10 pays 1,000 coins, so at four coins per game (one coin on each of the four cards), you have a relatively good chance of hitting the 8-of-10.

Because I don’t keep such perfect record as Mr. Singer, I can’t say exactly how much money I won and lost trying this system. But in six session at the Western Hotel, I had four sessions in which I caught the 8-of-10, one session in which I caught a 9-of-10 (a first for me!) and one session in which I caught only a few 7-of-10 payoffs.

Obviously, I made a nice profit in each of the sessions in which I caught 8-of-10 or better. I may have even made money in the other session, because catching 7-of-10 pays a respectable 142 coins, and I know I hit at least three of those.

This is where it becomes a judgment call on the player’s part. You can be ahead by 20, 30, 50, 100 or whatever number of coins and decide to cash out with a decent profit, rather than continue to seek the larger prize while risking the machine taking it all back.

That’s a decision every player needs to make on their own. My personal experience has been this: If the 7-of-10 comes up several times without the 8-of-10 hitting, then I decide that the machine will probably continue to "tease" with the lower award, and then move on.

Either that or I’ll pull a William Bennett and continue to play until I either hit the bigger jackpot or lose all my profit while trying. That’s a decision you’ll have to make, depending on how much you want to win versus how much you want to gamble.

I think that, if you want to consistently show a profit, even if it’s only 40 or 50 coins per machine, those levels would be nice spots to cash out and move on.

The point is to be consistent. After cashing out, find another machine and start the quest over again. The advent of ticket-in, ticket-out makes the process less tedious.

Good luck and let me know how the system works.

(L.J. Zahm is the author of "Cluster Keno: Using the Zone Method for Winning at Video Poker." For a copy, send $19.95 to Cluster Keno, P.O. Box 46303, Las Vegas, NV 89114.)