Math vs. winning: A world apart

Apr 6, 2004 12:51 AM

It’s been several years since my first book hit the shelves telling every player how and why they’ve been making mistakes in their approach to playing video poker, why losing is experienced more often than winning and that it really doesn’t have to be that way.

While the famous names of the game had for years monopolized the ideas and thinking behind playing, I searched for and found their main loophole, and I continue to work with many concerned players who’s goals are escaping the rut of losing to the tune of mathematical probabilities and statistics. But it hasn’t been easy.

Those who believe playing to the math as the only method of winning at video poker have understandably been critical of what I’m saying. Although the game is based purely on mathematics and uses a computer as its host in every casino, it is very difficult for critics to show an understanding that a human being can neither play long enough or perfectly enough for that approach to ever make any difference whatsoever.

At the end of the day, it is luck and only luck that dictates to every player whether they win or lose, no matter how intelligent, how knowledgeable, or how committed they are. It is clearly at least 90% of the overall game.

The problem with expert play is in how it draws you into thinking you are doing the right things ”” and therefore should win over time. It preaches playing through jackpots just to get in as many hands as possible, which almost always results in giving every penny back. It tells players to expect to lose around three out of every four times they go to casinos, and that the few winning sessions "should" be large enough to compensate for all the losses. I don’t know about you, but I go into casino expecting to win every time I play, and if I don’t I am extremely disappointed. And lose 75% of the time? Give me a break!

What I find most interesting is the requirement to include numerous phantom "benefits" into the formula for having a winning year. Tournament invites can be fun, and a thousand gifts and other comps are interesting.

But I prefer a good profit paid in cash every time possible without all the hocus pocus needed to establish the perceived video poker reputations that we have around town these days. Gambling is gambling, and should never be advertised as a quest to see how many casino giveaways one can get, how much food you can eat, or how many monthly "bounce-back" cash offers you can accumulate at a cost far beyond their actual worth.

All of that is nothing more than a losing proposition. I know that; the gurus know that; everybody knows that! But I’m the only one who publicly says that! And the reason is obvious. Sales of all the video poker paraphernalia available is dependent on how many people don’t understand that.

Being as open, forthright and truthful about playing this game has certainly ruffled some guru feathers over time. I’ve always been prepared for the cheap shots and ganging-up by the optimal-play crowd.

But all these things do is fortify my position and views, and clearly, I am making a difference. Just as the experts theoretically fantasize about how the math models will eventually turn their play results to their favor as they step into the grave, so too does common sense play a major role in determining the outcome of my play.

The one big difference? Mine is tangible and theirs is theory. Understanding mathematics will never turn you into a winner. The Strip is littered with memories of the highly educated. But approach the game with a mind of your own and it is very possible to see a difference soon, maybe even sooner than it took me.