Don’t lose sight of game’s basics

Jun 17, 2003 4:55 AM

It’s been said that getting too much information on a gaming subject is nearly impossible, and having too little is more than what most beginners are equipped with as they start their gambling life.

Perhaps with the exception of blackjack, nothing is more widely discussed or written about than video poker. In fact, many current players are former BJ enthusiasts ”” only the cards never did turn in their favor as they had always figured and counted on since reading what the masters of the game had to say.

But once all the professional hopefuls are beaten into reality (as they discover only the very lucky ever win even token amounts throughout their year long, grueling efforts) video poker is latched onto almost immediately.

Also considered a "beatable" game by the mathematicians because of the tiny positive, favorable percentage, players seldom realize that the "long-term" was first coined by the casinos, and any advantages associated with it are theirs.

Thus, the overall popularity of the game of video poker today is growing rapidly, but the education level must be kicked up a couple of notches for players to have any real fun playing the game.

One only need look no further than reality to understand the importance of this point. The bubbly TV commercials depicting rows of excited, fun-loving players chatting and smiling (presumably, all the way to the bank) because of a string of jackpots and other winners is just that ”” a commercial to get as many gamblers into the fleecing pens as possible.

In reality? Out of several rows of video poker players ”” experts or not ”” there might be one person enjoying himself or herself. The rest always have the glum look of defeat on their faces, and it is a constant. Now you decide if education is best for you or not.

One of the problems new players face is in the multitude of products available on the subject. Not being aware that all but one of the game’s experts has the same message to tell and sell in exactly the same way, these new players understandably cut short their learning process upon discovery.

While some expert-play strategists compete against each other for sales of their video poker educational programs and ideas, I prefer sharing the methodology behind my alternative successful play strategies along with the basics of the game in an open environment.

For example, many people do not understand that each machine has 52 cards (53 in Joker’s Wild) in a constant shuffle mode until a player gives the computer a stop command by pushing "Play 1 Credit," "Play Max Credits," or they insert their first coin. At that instant, you are dealt five cards you can see, and five cards that you can’t see, from which you will draw (if necessary).

And they are in numerical sequence ”” not under each other. If you hold cards no. 3 and no. 5 (from left to right) from the deal, you will replace cards no. 1, 2, and 4 with cards no. 6, 7, and 8. After the hand is over, the machine instantaneously starts the shuffle mode once again ”” awaiting another command.

Unlike BJ, the entire deck is shuffled after each and every hand. There may be some variations of this procedure in some of the older machines, but by and large this is what you’ll be dealing with.

Clearly, the most misunderstood facet of the game is in how luck fits into the equation. Most experts claim luck has a very minor part in the overall scheme of things over the long-term. I totally reject that theory.

Since the computer tells us that at least 50 percent of a player’s hands theoretically should be losers, I consider every winning hand a result of luck — long-term or short-term. Basically, if those 10 cards you’ve been dealt do not produce a hand that at least doubles your money, you’ve been unlucky.

A push is a waste of my time. And if the machine allows the doubling down feature, I don’t bother with that either since it only turns on when you win a hand, and you are not allowed to try for your money back on losing hands. Some people say they don’t double because they can’t rack up slot club points on the bet. Please, spare me this idiotic logic!

There’s really no mystery in how the video poker computers operate. There are of course ways to make it more difficult than it really is — just read some of the books written on the subject.

But in the end I believe everyone wants to win something every time they sit down to play. Maybe not a jackpot’s worth, but they would like to do the opposite of losing. If one enters a session with the expectation that they are probably not going to win, they probably won’t.

But if one is prepared because he took the time to understand the mathematics of the game, he uses the common sense required in holding the cards dealt in a game of poker, and he knows he is gambling and not simply taking a test of some sort, his positive attitude just might help him make less mistakes on his way to becoming a more consistent winner. Sometimes, a step back is a step in the right direction. In this case it’s back to the basics.