Do you have what it takes to win?

Apr 13, 2004 5:41 AM

Most players who live in a casino town (they’re called locals) get to play video poker at their own pace, while those of us who drive in from out of state often play like zombies in marathon sessions until our time is up.

Years ago, I used to be in the group that visited Nevada casinos for 48 hours or so, and played video poker for about 30 of them. The reasoning was to play as much as I could for as long as I could and as perfectly as I could, and by the time I checked out, I might be ahead by a percentage point or two for all of my playing efforts.

The trouble was, I became more and more frustrated by the losing sessions, and the occasional winning visits never did compensate for all the losses I accumulated.

Thank goodness I finally found a better way.

There’s something about a sensible approach that makes people want to know more, but they tend to lose faith and then interest when the heat of losing is turned up. It is at this point that players revert to bad habits or, even worse, reckless play.

But, such is the nature of gambling, and such is the nature of trying to teach players a winning strategy that veers from "generally accepted practice."

Just this past week I had two visitors to the Phoenix area that wanted to learn the ropes. I had them both agree on what they were going to do and how they were going to do it before I gave up my time to spend with them in a local Indian casino. And they both wholeheartedly agreed. In each instance, we met at Casino Arizona at Talking Stick at off-hours for our session.

The plan was to play 25¡/50¡/$1/$2 video poker machines in a progressing bankroll for each denomination ($40/$100/$300/$600), with an overall goal to win $100 in $10 increments. That’s $1,040 in bankroll, and both folks told me they were willing to risk that amount to attain the goal.

They also both knew there was a risk of losing, but there was also a chance of getting a large winner at any time. In my own experiences, I’ve rarely lost in small progressions like this — although I personally play a wider spread in terms of incremental progressions.

The first session was not off to a good start, as we had no cash-outs on quarters or halves. To my surprise, the fellow became timid and did not want to continue risking his money. He was from Ohio and on his way to Las Vegas, and I reluctantly understood.

But he did cheerfully let me continue the training session for him with my funds. I put $300 in the machine for $1-level play, and without even a full house the money was gobbled up by the machine. Of course he was feeling better at this point because it wasn’t his money that was going south.

Nevertheless, I play with complete confidence because I win far more than I lose. Since I am always prepared for the occasional losing session, going to the next level up never really bothers me. I could see the almost bewildered look in my student’s eyes as I fired in $600 to play $2 Double Double Bonus Poker.

Well, we were $500 into the session when an $8,000 royal flush appeared! Now, the fellow was so overcome that he had to leave.

Did I feel bad for him? Well, I gave him $160, wished him good luck in Las Vegas, and felt not one bit of sympathy. He had his opportunity, and painfully learned the Singer lesson of video poker - and life, as well: Always do what you say you are going to do.

Later that week a similar episode occurred. A couple from Casa Grande, Arizona met me at the same casino with the same set of agreed-to terms. Like the previous disciple, they lasted through losing sessions — again with no cash-outs.

However, they didn’t take it so well, and left angry at the casino and angry with me. As soon as they left I finished out their progression, and promptly hit four aces on the $2 machine for a jackpot of $1,600. An email to the couple has so far gone unanswered.

What more is there to say? I’ve found that most people don’t have what it takes to play to win. Scared money never won a dime, and if you play that way, then you are very good friends of the casino. I prefer to use a little patience (and courage!) and walk out a winner.