Just say no to
v-p temptations!

Nov 25, 2003 2:46 AM

For sure, learning the game’s optimal holds ”” the best mathematical play for each hand ”” has a place in the development of a winning player. But just as in becoming far too attached to any casino’s slot club card, it is not the end-all. To become an intelligent, crafty, winning player, everyone’s first and most important lesson should be in how to approach play exactly the opposite as the house would expect you to.

The best example of this would be in reacting to promotions. Players whose hearts start to pound just a bit too fast upon reading about 3x points on a holiday are the ones who keep the rooms well-equipped, the building so spectacular-looking, and the casinos eager for the rest of us.

Much of the lure of the game has to do with attracting that part of us which has a weakness.

Although I am not at all impressed or concerned with video poker promotions ”” and as disciplined as I believe I am ”” I still have my faults. I recently became aware of that fact on a visit to Las Vegas. I went to town and checked in at the Aladdin ”” one of my very favorite places to play.

But on the way I felt I could snap up a few bucks at the Ramada Express. Not so, as $900 disappeared faster than I could finish a bottle of water. That tune changed a bit a few hours later, as I drew to one of an unusually high number of royals this year for a net $3,700 win at Luxor. I popped into Sam’s Town and scooped up a quick $80, but I dumped $300 at Boulder Station ”” all before going over to the Aladdin. Once again, my roller coaster ride had begun.

I thought my wild ride was behind me at this point, and I was dead wrong. I took a seat at my favorite spot at the small video poker bar in the London Club and went to work. Their $1/$2/$5/$10 multi-game machines are perfect for my style of play. For nearly four hours (far longer than I would like to have sat there) I fluctuated from losing at the lower limit games while hitting medium sized winners on the $5 and $10 games that just barely got me out of trouble.

After four W2G’s and too many people watching, I got up and left. I had won $800 for all my efforts. When I went to the slot club in the morning they threw in another $200 plus a $100 shopping certificate that I used at Sharper Image inside Desert Passage. Even though I was staying there, I gave them no more play throughout the weekend. There’s no better feeling than to know you’ve come out ahead at one of the most spectacular resorts in the world.

On Saturday I made my usual rounds for a profit of nearly $1,100 ”” with my biggest win coming at the Hard Rock. But my weakness decided to appear later in the evening at Casino Monte Lago. My plan was to stop in at the sports bar to chat with a bartender I know there, win a few hundred dollars, and then leave. Not so. I began by winning a fast $720. I cashed out the ticket, but then got caught up in the football game on the plasma TV as well as the music from the band playing down in the mezzanine level.

If it were up to me I’d watch football most of my waking hours. Put a video poker machine in front of me, however, and catch me at a time when I’m in no particular hurry to leave — and it spells trouble. Paying attention to the football game more than the game I was playing and before I knew what was really going on, I gave back my $700 profit along with an additional $3200. And the only reason I stopped was because my football game was over!

I’m never shaken when I lose — even like that. Why? Because I’m prepared for anything, and I’m not gambling with money I don’t have. But I know better, and that’s the part that nags at me. I did take home about $800 overall profit, but it didn’t have to be that way.

Casinos lure players in a thousand different ways. When I relinquish my discipline for a few hours because of a comfortable bar and an easy-watch sporting event, I know how tough it must be on locals who have those and other temptations staring at them all the time.

It’s all part of what makes casinos successful. The lesson to learn is in how to march to the beat of your own drum — which I nearly always do. The trick is to do it all the time.