Any profit beats losses!

Jun 1, 2004 2:49 AM

When I teach people about playing video poker, one of the very first lessons I give is that, at the end of the day, you’ll feel a whole lot better counting out a $75 profit than a fistful of ATM slips.

Explaining this simple concept to players is relatively easy, but from my experiences I know how difficult it is for the untrained mind to get caught up in exciting casino action. If someone walks into a casino that’s loaded with nightlife — and armed with a healthy $1,200 in cash — guess how many people would be satisfied to walk out when they won a mere $75. That’s not easy to swallow, I know, but it is the only way of consistently beating the casinos.

Casinos operate in such a way as to make you want to stay longer than you should. The booze, the music, the women, and the overall ambience make it that way. Add in the fact that almost everyone alive feels they can win more once they’re winning, and you have the casino manager’s perfect recipe. They know that winners will eventually give it all back and more the longer they stay. They know that they have the mathematical advantage over every single person who walks through those doors.

I, of course, have a ton of experience with this concept. Having been an optimal-play/long-term strategist for six years, I used to succumb to every trick in the book — just as the expert-play crowd of today reacts to the casino business. But for years now, I have taken over control of how I play, why I play, where I play, and when I play. Yet I am not immune to the sometimes incredible ups and downs of video poker, and at times it’s enough to make you wonder how you’ve lasted all these years. Similarly, when I go on a trip I will always tell the entire truth about what went down. That’s what other players like and want to read, and that’s what every writer knows. So I think you’ll find the following experience interesting.

On one of my more recent overnight trips, when I arrived at Sam’s Town I found I had forgotten my pre-set $5,000 bankroll. Because I always carry little cash in my wallet, I really wasn’t prepared to do any gambling. I stay away from casino ATM’s and I reject casino credit. But I did have some old checks with me and, although I prefer to only use my own cash, I picked up $2,000 since I had no other real choice if I wanted to play. To some people that’s not big money, but for most readers, it is.

I believe I write maybe one check every two months these days — if that. With debit cards and electronic payments, I no longer see a viable need for them. But I did write one that day; only just this week when the nasty-gram arrived in the mail did I realize it was on an account I closed long ago. How embarrassing. In fact, I’m headed up there in a few nights just to hand them the cash and apologize for my reckless behavior! I’d also guess my seldom-used check writing privileges will be gone, but I deserve such a humbling lesson learned.

But now, just like any gambler, it was time to play. When I forgot the bag with my cash in it I also forgot my slot club cards. That’s not a big deal to me, however, and you’ll never see me have a heart attack because of it. Yes, I know there’s a famous name or two always whispering in your ear never to play without one, but I play for the money and not for the points. At Sam’s I dropped $1800 of my cash, so I left. With just $200, I went over to the Hard Rock.

Here’s what I like about gambling. I was down to $40 on a dollar Double Bonus game, and I was dealt four Aces. I moved to a different machine, and within minutes I hit four Aces again on dollar Bonus Poker. Suddenly I had about $1200, and I stopped by Tuscany for another try. After about 20 minutes on quarters, I hit my first ever royal flush at that place. As I counted my cash, I found I was winning. It totaled $2120.

My romp wasn’t over yet. I drove out to the Cannery — a place I enjoy playing at. On a 50c machine, I hit four 2’s for an overall win of $140. At Palace Station, I put a hundred in a $5 bar machine and was dealt a flush, so I left with a $100 profit. My next stop was the RIO, and it was a bad choice. Before I left, I lost all but $130 of my bankroll. I felt like driving home at this point, but for some reason I wanted to stop over at the Palms. That place sort of draws you over whenever you’re within a thousand yards of it.

This turned out to be the right thing to do. It didn’t matter which machine I played — I hit quads all over the casino. My only regret was that I didn’t go into the high limit bar and work the $25 machine. When the session was over, I had won $2090 on nothing higher than dollar machines. So with my $220 profit, I walked out the doors, got into my car, and drove home.

Yes, I had won once again. It was only just over $200 — and by the time I added in gas, food, and car rental it wasn’t really all that much — but it sure beats leaving $2000 in Las Vegas casinos! Many people with a $2000 bankroll wouldn’t be happy with such a small profit, and that’s where they go wrong. Casinos love greed, and almost every gambler possesses that trait. I don’t ever have a mathematical advantage over any casino, but I always walk in with an advantage. It’s called discipline and determination, and it’s something they can’t compete with.