Please, no angst!

Sep 16, 2003 12:48 AM

PAYBACK TABLES should not be viewed as a controlling factor for playing video poker. You can win on practically any machine.

To those of us who enjoy playing video poker and who do not live in Las Vegas, it’s never a chore to plan a trip to our favorite casinos.

My particular regimen consists of figuring out if and where I can stay for free, are there any food comps involved, and if the restaurants there are up to my own standards.

Of course in Las Vegas, most of the time they are. Other visitors, however, spend a lot of time researching which casinos have 100.3 percent payback games instead of a mere 99.5 percent ””which I consider to be a huge waste of time.

We all know the slight difference only helps psychologically ”” but for some reason it makes them feel good ”” which in itself can be a positive if properly understood. They also search out if there are any $1.99 food specials, buck beers, or two-for-one buffet scratch card giveaways among other things. The wheels indeed are turning, but in what direction are they actually going?

A visit to Las Vegas is supposed to be fun, spirited, and possibly for profit. What it is not meant to be is a burden on our free time. Those of us who take care of all the variables and accept what lies ahead in a flexible mode are the ones who make the most of it all.

But unfortunately, many have been mislead into a direction of what may turn out to be a frantic, unproductive stay. Whenever I arrive at a casino I look for a good seat at a multi-play/multi-denominational machine and have at it. I have a pre-set plan and I always stick to it. I don’t really care what the pay tables are, and if they’re poor I seldom get up and leave once I sit down.

That’s the first lesson in comfort for any player. I know that most players are ahead of their machines at one point or another during any given session, and that ANY machine can be beaten. There’s where the all-important plan comes in. If you have the ability to set a goal and collect your winnings from whatever machine you’re playing, you’ll rarely have a losing trip.

Using your valuable time nervously looking for particular pay tables ”” and then getting the hives if you cannot find what you’re looking for ”” has no place for those expecting enjoyment out of their trip. And in the end, as usual, it’s all got to do with nothing more than plain old common sense.

So many times we hear of players led into the maze of playing by people who write about how grand it’s all supposed to be. Prior to leaving on their trips, they anxiously scramble around through websites and magazines cutting out $5 coupons, two-for-one buffet deals, match plays, free drawing tickets, and who knows what else.

They do so because they’ve watched an eyes-wide-open pitch by a famous name or two on the TV blabbing about how they’ve been making thousands upon thousands of dollars playing video poker, cutting coupons, getting blessed with endless freebies, and showered with attention over many years — and that it’s the only way to beat the system.

Yes, it all seems so believable and so easy, doesn’t it — especially from the comfort of your easy chair a thousand miles away. You are almost forced into believing what you see if only because your mind wants it to be so.

The very next step in this process is for the ”˜customer’ to purchase whatever video poker trinkets the face on the tube is selling, thinking it’ll all be made up once they start beating the heck out of the positive play machines. Visions of a steady gambling income, a smart wardrobe, nice cars, overdue vacations, and a comfortable life seem genuinely within reach.

When Fantasyland never can be located on that juiced-up video poker map, however, the players finally figure out how to use their own heads — and then they come to me.

When you think about it, what really do you gain by running all over town for a chance at two bucks here or five bucks there? Is not your time spent on such a visit worth much more than that? Sure, you’ve heard about some has-been gambler or two chirp about how they jump all over town just to place a match play coupon on the table, get a free drink, and then leave (win or lose), and you’ve read about the lady who actually did win $10,000 after waiting in line for twenty minutes to spin the wheel.

But did you truly come to town to do all that nonsense or to play video poker in a reasonable manner? And are you really satisfied staying at one of the lowest priced hotels in town just because they have a quarter game that some guru says can be beaten over the indefinable long-term if you never make an error? Or would you rather spend a few bucks and have the time of your life — every single visit to the most entertaining city on earth?

It’s sometimes unbelievable what I run into, and at times I have a difficult time dealing with just how often visitors can be roped into doing irrational things they normally would not do. That’s why I spend the time I do writing over and over about what people REALLY want out of their gambling trips”¦.and why.

I try to add rationale and sensibility to all the gobbledygook out there. For every column I write there’s four or five others that only tell people what they want to hear in order that a purchase or two might be made. Gambling beyond the video poker machines is hardly a game.

That’s where all the marketing hype and slick statements are likely to suck you in. You’re best bet here is just like it is when playing my strategy: Discipline. Train yourself to think on your own terms and not on other’s. You’ve worked hard for your money, and you want the most out of it. Who better to decide on that than you?