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Don’t turn away
from ‘low’ tables

Dec 30, 2003 1:52 AM

One of the more important aspects of any video poker player’s strategy is to be playing at a machine that has a favorable pay table. "Favorable," I mean, in a way that is either average or higher than average as compared to other similar machines in the casino.

For instance, how often have we seen a bank of 9/7/5 Double Bonus machines across from another with 10/7/5 pay tables? And most of the time there are more players at the lower paying games! Sound crazy? Here’s why.

In case you don’t realize this, most video poker players walk into casinos in a daze, wanting and needing only to grab a seat at their game of choice and win. But as we all know, even the best-intentioned players become side tracked once they start losing — or even winning.

Casino operators know that most people don’t take the time to shop around for the best (in theory) paying machines. Some do, but for the most part these are the players who tend to play too often for their own good. Enter marketing promotions.

Those who think they are some sort of advantage player do nothing more than play directly into casino managers’ hands every time they respond to the many mailings, offers, or locally advertised promotions.

Over the past three years, I’ve often alluded to the fact that I can usually beat ANY video poker machine sporting ANY pay table — as long as it is Bonus Poker or one of the advanced BP games, and there are multi-denominations.

Why is this? Simple. I never play for profit without a plan, and I go in with a goal and always walk out attaining that goal — win or lose. There is no sucker promotion that will ever get me to play longer than I want or need to.

Machines with comparably lower pay tables don’t scare me at all. Once again, I’ll use a real-life experience I just had in Las Vegas to prove this point.

I was at Sam’s Town and wanted to play my Multi-Play Strategy. But I wanted to give a $2 five-play machine a go — only I couldn’t locate one. I did come across a $2 triple-play, so I decided to play $2,000, with a win goal of $200. I rarely play the three-liners, but Sam’s doesn’t have a great selection of the five-plays that I’m used to. That’s why I set my goal low.

After reviewing the pay tables on the machine I was a bit surprised. Bonus Poker was my choice — and it had the game — but the Bonus Poker this machine offered was what most of us know as Bonus Poker Deluxe. Not my cup of tea today, so I punched in Double Double Bonus. Here I noticed a poor version of a good game. At 8/5/4, one would need a lot of will to go with a hefty bankroll (the full-pay version of this game is 10/6/4). I understood the reason why they put in such a lousy version, but it turned me off right away.

My next thought was that the Double Bonus game selection should have at least a 9/6/5 pay table, and I would play that. Wrong again, as I was stunned to see 8/5/4 — the exact same table as in DDB! I wondered how anyone would ever choose to play DB over DDB on this machine. Both had the same lower-end pay tables, and DB did not include the huge bonuses for special quads with kickers. I know not everyone is tuned into understanding these issues, but at $2 triple-play (or $30/hand) that should be enough to make most video poker players have a need to be.

Without hesitation, I started to play DDB — even though the pay table irked me. The machine, even at top speed, was also irritatingly slow in the deal. But my stay was short as it turned out. About a dozen hands into it I was dealt three Aces. The draw yielded four Aces on the bottom line, three Aces on the second, and four Aces with a 4 kicker on top. A very short amount of play produced a $5,630 winner, my goal was met, and I ended that session.

So there I was, playing a pathetic pay table on a game that would never have been played by someone who knew what they were doing anyway. Yet I beat it and beat it good. What’s so special about that?

Well, in the first place I did not shy away from playing a machine with very poor lower-end pay-outs. Why should I? I’m playing for quads and not video game longevity. But even more importantly, I did what I said I would do and left upon winning at least $200 from the thing. Let the next person try to squeeze more out of it. I play to win, and when I do I stop.

There’s another important lesson here. Most players, experienced or not, would likely have stayed on pounding away at that machine until the wee hours of the morning — until all of their winnings were gone.

At the end of the day it is always preferable to play full-pay video poker. I’m not saying to go out and look for anything but. All I teach is to not be afraid of playing any machine because of what it offers on the low-end.

This experience of mine is something I see all the time, and is a staple of my very high winning percentage. I also know how to keep the money I’ve won because I don’t build my play around having to spend X amount of hours of play at this casino, or being required to play $12,000 through machines for a free buffet for two at that casino. Play on your own terms and in your own time and you’ll notice a difference. And you don’t have to buy anything from me to realize that!