If UNC won, I'd back sports bets

Apr 8, 2008 7:00 PM

Winning Strategies by Elliot Frome | I wrote this article a few days ago in the hope that North Carolina would have knocked off UCLA in the NCAA Championship.

If it happened, it would have meant two things. First, that I won my NCAA pool. The second is that I didn’t take my own advice from last week. I still occasionally bet on sporting events where the participants have only two legs.

I don’t wager on it because I rely on the income. I do it because it adds a little more excitement to the Tournament. Quite frankly, the same is pretty much true of why most everyone who is reading this article comes to the casino in the first place.

The overwhelming majority of people in the casino aren’t there as professional gamblers. They’re there for entertainment. Sure, they want to win. It’s always more fun to win than to lose. If I go see the Mets play, I want to see them win. If they do, I feel like I got added value for the money I spent on the tickets.

But, I know there is always the possibility they will lose (some years more than others!) It is no surprise that most sports teams draw more fans to watch them when they are winning rather than losing. Winning is just more fun.

So, I guess it is okay if you keep betting on sports events as long as you listen to the rest of my advice about slots and video poker. With regard to slots, don’t play them! It is less painful watching the Knicks while they go 20-60.

As for video poker, use expert strategy to maximize your chances of winning. The three key components of expert strategy is to know which games to play, know how to play them and know what to expect.

Knowing which games to play is critical to increasing your chances to win. When the season starts, which team is more likely to win an NCAA Championship? UCLA or my alma mater SUNY-Albany? If you had to choose a team in preseason which one are you going to pick to win it all at the same odds? Is there really any doubt?

So, why would you choose to play one video poker machine with a significantly lower payback than another? It would be like picking Albany to beat UCLA! Hey, it might happen, but would you really bet even money on Albany if you can have even money on UCLA? I don’t think so.

The fact that you can look at a video poker paytable and immediately know its payback is what makes the game so vastly different from slots. Two slot machines can look identical and sit side-by-side and yet the paybacks they are programmed for can be miles apart.

Slot machines are random, but that’s only regarding the specific combination on the reels. It is totally legal for slot machines to present one near miss after another to get people to think they ‘just missed’ that jackpot.

This is not the case with video poker. Each card dealt is completely random. Thus, any 5-card initial deal is as likely as any other 5-card initial deal. Once you decide to discard a card and draw another, the draw card is as likely to be any one of the remaining cards as any of the others.

Near misses cannot be programmed into the game. As a result, the exact payback can be calculated using computer programs. You don’t need to know how to write these programs, just to rely on their results. You can find numerous books, websites and even magazine columns that will tell you the payback of the most common paytables.

From there, the goal is to pick the ones with higher paybacks, as these will afford you the best chance to win. On any given night, the one with the lesser payback may produce more winning hands. However, it is not likely that this will occur. It is okay for me to root for Albany, but it doesn’t mean I have to bet on them.

Next week: Paybacks from the more popular versions of video poker.