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Don’t let winning cloud your brain

Sep 2, 2003 7:52 AM

One of the ways I amuse myself these days is by planning certain types of video poker trips to and through Nevada. Because we’ve always made the drive from the Phoenix area to Reno/Lake Tahoe/San Francisco twice a year for as long as I can remember, our latest August vacation was as welcome as it always is.

But this one was vastly different, and video poker was the reason. Generally, we do not play much on these trips. It is just too easy to get caught up in losing due to lack of a reasonable play plan, and discipline is usually missing in action when play takes a back seat to a family activity. For these reasons, I chose to take a modest gambling bankroll along of $1,200, and once it was gone there was to be no chasing the ATM’s.

We left home on Tuesday midnight for an 8 a.m. arrival at a secluded beach we know north of LA. After four hours of perfect weather, fighting large waves, and a fabulous barbeque, the real work was about to begin.

We were headed to Las Vegas for a Wednesday night RFB stay at the Golden Nugget, but I-15 was washed out in Barstow and we were detoured through I-40 and Needles. The problem seemed to involve millions of others, and our planned 5-hour drive to LV turned out to be a 9-hour affair. Upon arrival at the GN we had dinner, and then we started our video poker play. After an early profit of $200, a run of bad luck brought us down to $100 remaining ”” hardly a great way to cap an already tough day.

In the morning I went down for a few bottles of water and to collect my $64 in cash back. While I waited at the bar I put $20 in the machine in front of me and immediately hit four 7’s for a $120 profit. That was it for the GN. We had lost about a thousand on 8/5 ACES Bonus Poker, and we were off to the Hyatt Regency on beautiful Lake Tahoe ”” whose casino has always been the home of exclusive non-full-pay video poker machines. But that didn’t stop me. As I always teach, ANY video poker pay table can be beaten in the short-term if you know how to handle luck. We had some, I cashed out plus $500, our room and food were comped, and things were beginning to look up in the gambling department.

After an exhausting Friday in San Francisco, we drove back to Reno and somehow mustered up the energy to get some play in at the Peppermill’s dollar 10/7 progressive games. Up $45 and road-wary, we quit and drove over to check in at the Atlantis ”” where our room and food were covered once again.

After a quiet dinner, we thought we’d play around 30 minutes on a 50¡ machine. We hit Aces on BP and again on DB poker in just five minutes, then we were dealt four-to-the-royal and caught the draw for the royal flush. Now the gaming portion of our trip was really beginning to look good. We left Atlantis in the morning with very little play under our belts and a $2,400 profit.

We planned on Saturday being a long, relaxing day of driving 550 miles to Laughlin along with a picnic at one of the most uncrowded lakes in the world ”” Walker Lake. The day went exactly as planned, we arrived at Ramada Express for an easy first class passenger check-in, and we were just in time for our 8 p.m. steakhouse reservation. Then it was off to Grand Junction Premium Lounge for a try at the 50¡ bar top progressives. It was here that the whole face of our vacation began to change.

After innocently losing $100, I felt like trying to win it back on the $5 BP machine right next to the one we were playing. But we got a quick four 2’s and were suddenly up $800. I led Cindy over to the $5 ”” 10/7 DB machine, where four 6’s gave us another $600 profit.

When we lost $1,000 on dollar triple-play, I had the idea in my head that we could put another thousand into the $10 BP machine to see if we could nail four 7’s (pays triple at RE), and here’s where we began to lose count. Down to five credits, we hit a $40,000 royal flush. My wife ”” as well as most everyone else around ”” were all staring in amazement. I’ve seen several of these large hits before, but this size win is hardly the norm for a place like the Ramada.

After this type of win it is usually my policy to stop play. But this trip was not being totally run by me, and I was talked into going to the $2 ”” 10/7 game for a $600 go at it. This made sense to me in a way, because the normal course of action for losing players after hitting a royal is to find a higher denomination machine and give it a shot. Certainly, if we were to play on, going down several levels was the right thing to do.

It turned out we didn’t know just how right this was for us. Four 2’s, four Aces, and another royal flush gave my wife the playing night of her life. For someone who plays very little, three royals in 24 hours is almost overwhelming. I was flabbergasted myself. But I needed some reality to all this. That came very easily after losing $3,000 to the $5 DDB game. NOW I could go to bed and actually sleep!

The next day before we left, I decided to make a hundred quick bucks first. Not so fast, as I found out. Playing only on the $5 — 10/7 machine, it took about $2,500 before we hit four Aces and a win much higher than my goal. We took our $47,000 net win from Ramada home with us.

What was very pleasing about all this was the fact that I was so very close to losing my entire trip bankroll and not being able to play any more for the week. Because of the discipline I’ve taught myself as a professional player, I really knew I would have stopped play — especially since I’ve done it a number of times in the past.

Another problem that "winners" always face is what to play after hitting it big. In my opinion, it makes little sense to attack the higher denomination machines after a royal. All that says to me is that play easily gets out of control, and the thrills of it all are becoming non-existent. That’s why I enjoy playing as much as I do. I know how to win, I actually win on a very consistent basis, and I know how to keep what I win — all a result of playing the bankroll properly. A lesson well-learned.