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Aces to the rescue

Aug 19, 2003 4:29 AM

Video poker can be a truly intriguing activity. In and of itself, there’s really nothing drop-dead spectacular about it. But few, if any other forms of entertainment, can match the anticipation, excitement, anxiety, and potential that the game of video poker has to offer.

One of the real joys of going to Las Vegas for my wife Cindy and I is in the choice of magnificent resorts we have to stay at.

This particular trip we stayed the weekend at the Venetian, and it doesn’t get much better than that. The three nights were from a "please come in" comp offer even though I have had little card play there over the past 18 months.

But this weekend was a bit different. I asked my wife if she minded playing in a sort of hit-and-run manner ”” and not just at the Venetian. Having been with me on one of my successful "romps through town" where I’ve gone to multiple casinos with small win and loss goals, I didn’t think she’d bite — too much walking around for her.

All it took, however, was my commitment to take her to the best Sunday brunch buffet I’ve ever experienced anywhere in the world ”” Zeffirino’s on the 2nd floor ”” and we were off and running.

Our first play was at the circular bar in the middle of the casino. We always play the same machine together because it’s fun, and I never correct her for her mistakes when not making optimal short-term strategy plays.

That takes the fun out of it all, and who cares anyway? In any one single session played by any player anywhere, if deals and draws are truly random, as I believe they are in Nevada, computer-perfect plays mean absolutely nothing.

But one play she has down pat is holding a single Ace in Bonus Poker when not matched up with another suited royal card or within four-to-the-flush. Almost immediately, on $1 Bonus Poker 7/5, one Ace was held and three were drawn for a $400 win.

She asked if I minded staying at the bar for a while longer because she was tired from the 4½ hour drive. So one hour later, at the same machine, we hit four Aces again. This time we left ahead $700, and all I could hear was the whining of the gurus saying how we’re not supposed to win on a short-pay machine. Funny, this machine didn’t pay short.

We took our winnings to a triple play dollar machine on the floor, and after nearly 90 minutes of up and down, we lost all of it. She retired for the evening, I dabbled with the $2 and $5 games for an hour or so as I waited for a 1:30 a.m. meeting with someone visiting from the Chicago area, and I lost another $800.

Afterwards, however, at the same circular bar from earlier, I hit four Aces again ”” this time on $2 Double Double bonus for $1,600. Suddenly I was up a hundred. I shifted over to the dollar five-play, once again hit four Aces on Bonus Poker, and finally went upstairs for a few hours sleep. Later that morning we took our play over to my favorite place for video poker ”” Casino MonteLago at the Ritz on beautiful Lake Las Vegas.

The Sports Bar at Monte Lago is perfect for my style of play. It’s roomy, comfortable, and its ambience has more than just a touch of class. But the video poker machines are still machines, and there are no guarantees.

Certainly, I was reminded of that early on in our session of trying to win a simple 50 bucks, as we could hit nothing on quarters, 50¡, or dollars. Even at $5 we were doing badly until, on DDB, four 6’s appeared on the deal for a $1,250 win and a $150 profit. Whew!

The method in which we were paid was also different than I had ever experienced. I was handed my W2G, the machine was "reset," and the $1,250 did not erase from the game credits. That’s because they do not pay cash for these hand pay W2G jackpots at MonteLago. You can push the button and receive a ticket to cash in, but I suspect they’d prefer you play your winnings into oblivion like most every player does ”” except me.

After a stop at the Fiesta Henderson for a quick $30 win, we went back to Venetian where we promptly hit four Aces again on dollar Double Bonus. In the morning before brunch, dollar triple play yielded another two sets of Aces on DDB, and for good measure we hit it one more time at Colorado Belle in Laughlin on dollar BP on our drive home.

When the weekend was over I had a difficult time explaining even to myself how it was that so many sets of Aces could go to us over a very short period. Especially weird was the fact that Aces outnumbered all other quads combined!

Lost in thought until the next day was the absolute perfection in food and service at Zeffirino’s Sunday Brunch, and our painstaking (for me anyway) Saturday shopping at the Galleria on Sunset. But you know what? Any way you look at it, the weekend was Aces.