Rating your play

Jul 29, 2003 2:57 AM

Did you ever wonder why no matter how much you try to help others understand a situation, they’re unable to grasp even the most basic of facts? Certainly, I run into all types of issues with players from all sorts of interests and backgrounds.

But what does it matter anyway? Who’s going to care enough to change their life if it’s under some sort of video poker spell? One way or another, that little voice in the back of their minds always allows the truth to be heard.

So what am I getting at today? What I’m referring to are the many, many players out there who continuously step out of line with their own responsibilities because of the game ”” and who deny it.

"I almost broke even" or "I got everything for free" are the two most tell-tale signs of losers who’ve suffered humiliating losses yet again ”” and who will not admit it to anyone close or distant.

Another is from what I read over and over on Internet forums: "Gambling is a personal thing. I don’t mind losing one bit because I’ve had a great time. It would probably have cost me more to go to Disney World anyway."

Guilt justification. Damage control. Self-defense activation. You name it. The bottom line is, people are not only severely disappointed when they lose, they are very embarrassed and personally let down that they didn’t do something more tangible with their money ”” and admittedly so only after gambling losses occur.

Rather than just theorize, something interesting happened in this respect while on a recent trip to New Delhi. About a year ago, I wrote an article in this column about a friend (through business) of mine named Graham from New Zealand. In the early 90s he and I used to spend most of our spare time playing advantage video poker ”” both of us losing thousands each year doing so.

He was a guest at my home last year, and while he spun the same old tune of being an addicted, optimal play, long-term loser, he was unable to grasp onto the fact that I’ve developed a new strategy of winning that utilizes short-term methodology with mathematics being only a secondary consideration. As is the case with almost every advantage player, although only extremely lucky players ever win with it ”” there just is no other way.

While in the hotel lobby, I ran into a common acquaintance of Graham’s and myself from Malaysia. As soon as I inquired about my friend, I could see the apprehension beginning to build. Apparently Graham still works, still travels, and still plays video poker. But he’s lost his home due to financial issues, he was divorced six months ago, and he now spends every weekend and holiday minute at the video poker machines in casinos around Australia.

In short, he has a severe gambling problem that by all accounts now seems beyond all hope. I really did expect him to hit rock bottom sooner or later, but I just didn’t want to hear about it. I tried to help him and I failed. But this is gambling, video poker can become a huge problem for anyone, and it takes both intelligence and a strong will to survive against the machines. He simply fell short on the will to do things right.

My friend’s saga isn’t really an isolated incident. Every now and then across Nevada similar stories of devastation from playing video poker makes the papers. Even the local Las Vegas newspaper calls video poker the "crack cocaine" of gaming.

Even in Arizona, where tribal casinos are the rule of the day, I read about people who just had to gamble for an hour or so and they forgot their child was waiting in the car. Yet, just as in Nevada or anywhere else for that matter, it seems few if any learn lessons from these things.

More serious players pop out of the woodwork every day. Maybe if they understood what they’re getting into at the start, the problems would be far less. I teach extreme discipline to be used hand-in-hand with several short-term types of play. I learned long ago that the game is very unforgiving, and that adjustments had to be made if I wanted to continue playing. Graham never did.