A case study for short-term wins

Oct 7, 2003 1:22 AM

It was around 7 p.m. on yet another warm Wednesday evening when a friend of mine from Kentucky called. He was at Mandalay Bay and was in Las Vegas for what else, a convention. He had the next day free, and he asked if I could meet up with him for some beer, a chat, and of course some video poker play.

He doesn’t get to town much, so naturally he wanted to meet at the Hard Rock Hotel. When I arrived around midnight, he was in the sports lounge losing his money to one of their machines. After some small talk about his business, he was much more interested in what he had read about me on my website and how I play the game.

But first he proudly showed off his player’s card to me, and told me how he’d lost $700 while waiting for me to show up. Bingo! Now I had a goal. He had lost some money waiting on me, and I told him we were going to stay up all night until he got every penny back ”” but we were going to do it my way. I knew there was a reason why I put $6,500 into my bag before I left.

Gene’s a down-to-earth kind of guy. He owns a pub in a small Kentucky town that his family has run for many years. I met him years ago when I used to have business at one of the military installations in the state ”” which I often traveled to.

He never travels out of the country, is very conservative, and is very sensible in nearly everything he does or says. Well, video poker can change any man, and he is no exception. Almost immediately, he started by showing pride in how many points he had accumulated at the dollar machine, and bragged that "I can probably get us both a free meal at Mr. Lucky’s."

Gene is not a regular player, and he doesn’t study the game and gambling in-depth. He understands about using slot club cards, getting comps, and the fun of being in a casino. But what he didn’t know about was how to win, how to leave a winner, and that falling in love with his slick and pretty little slot club card was almost as dangerous as falling in love with one of the casino’s lovely little cocktail waitresses. Luckily for him, I knew video poker.

His first lesson was that I didn’t take along my Hard Rock player’s card ”” we used his. He now had the best of all worlds: We were using my money to try and win his back, all points earned were going to his account, and his losing was over for the night. In fact, since we were starting on a mini-romp around town, I would be the driver. He was already half in the bag.

So our quest to regain his $700 began. I put a hundred dollars in my machine, set it to Bonus Poker, and began. Soon I was up $30, I cashed out my ticket, and said it was time to go. Gene had a problem with that. He didn’t mind moving to another machine in another part of the casino because he liked the lively activity and better than average scenery at the Hard Rock.

But since I was the teacher and I had the money ”” we left. Our next stop was the Palms. My friend has never been in there, and once inside his face immediately began to light up. "Not much different than the Hard Rock," he said. He was right on. It was early morning and the place was still in motion. But we had a goal to meet, and there were two empty chairs together at the sports bar.

After sitting down I put $100 into my machine. Before I could select $1 Bonus Poker, Gene said he wanted to get credit for this play too, but neither of us had a Palms players card. Sure, credit’s good, but we didn’t come in to get points. We came to win him some money.

While he was a bit uncomfortable with us playing without the casino’s most powerful marketing tool, he succumbed to the common sense of it all. Soon afterwards he was looking at four 3’s and a $115 profit. Again he complained a little about getting up to leave as I cashed out the winning ticket. He was slowly learning the only true way a winning video poker player can remain a winning player.

Onto the Tuscany on East Flamingo, another one of my staples for this type of play. Again no card, but this time Gene finally showed he was beginning to get the idea. He realized we were doing this to win money. The comps and cash back would be nice, but they are not the end-all. Concentration, comfort, and discipline are far more important in video poker play than worrying about a few freebies and the recognition that comes with it.

I chose 50¡ Double Double Bonus poker. My partner likes that game, so I let him choose the holds. Not five minutes into it he holds three aces and pulls the fourth plus a four. He hit $1000, his goal is met and surpassed, and he’s already turning the machine up to play dollars.

Lucky for him I was there to straighten that out. I told him that’s what severe addicts do (as I know from doing so from 1990-1996). Almost always, however, winnings are lost and feelings are shot. Those very few times of success underlie the real problem: Only terribly afflicted compulsive gamblers ever take such risks.

Afterwards, I took Gene back to his hotel a happy man. He had his money back as I promised, and I had made my point — one that he will hopefully remember on his next trip out. And me? Over the next 20 hours I took a nap, turned my $6,500 into $7,240 (although I lost nearly $2,000 at Monte Lago — interestingly on my last stop on my way out of town - with play at numerous casinos around town, on the Strip, and lastly in Laughlin just prior to leaving for home) and called my friend at his hotel to make sure he was still in the black.

He just got in from a convention dinner party, and said he was through gambling for this trip. Let’s hope so. Most gamblers don’t always tell the truth. If he only took one lesson home with him though, I hope it was that video poker players are only in this for the short-term, and they should only and always approach play that way. Long-term advantage is only in the casino’s vocabulary and not ours. Players can learn. I certainly did.