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Have fun, seriously!

Jun 22, 2004 12:30 AM

Whenever a group of video poker players get together for some chat and a good time, I’ve found that for the most part the majority will listen to anyone who has anything to say about the game — and they will be polite — even if they disagree. The fact is, when players at any level talk about the game, it’s just that — a game. Yet when most enthusiasts play the game inside a real casino, a game it is not. Here’s where lives can and have been altered, dreams finally achieved, or financial disasters realized. Video poker is, in effect, a serious matter to far more people than we hear about.

I’ve always been open about what the game has been to me throughout my career. I lost steadily and often playing long-term/expert-play/computer-perfect strategy from early 1990 through late 1996. I put my faith into what the then mathematical experts had to say about playing the game in order to achieve some type of small percentage profit over a very nebulous but basically unattainable amount of hands, which supposedly constituted the long run. I bought what they were selling and also bought what they said. Hey, I was very well educated and had done well in my life thus far. So how tough could it be to be as successful as they painted themselves to be in the gambling arena?

My big break came near the end of my losing streak, when something hit me that said those who are in the video poker business couldn’t possibly be telling the world how to win. And it only made sense that they could never admit that they lost. There was something drastically wrong with this scenario. As a result, I was determined to figure the game out on my own as well as develop a consistent winning play strategy that would fit my particular circumstances perfectly. Nearly seven years and five winning play strategies later, I am in the middle of unequalled video poker success.

When I look back I can only blame myself for my early errors in judgment. Sure, we have the same theoretical nonsense being fed to us today as was a dozen years ago, but now there is one big difference — me. While those who pedal strategies based on math models, incomprehensible risk-of-ruin charts, and confusingly inadequate bankroll calculations still prowl the streets of Gambling Town USA, my side has only myself as the voice of common sense.

Why is there only me as a public voice on the fallacies of a marketed approach to playing video poker? Because I am not cranking out video poker products touting my way of playing successfully. I don’t sell my time to casinos or private patrons alike to pass on my knowledge of the game. And I don’t charge anyone a dime for advice, meetings, or access to my website for what should always be free information.

What does this all mean? It means the others need to be selling programs, strategy cards, booklets, tapes and web site access — and their businesses rest on the laurels of irrefutable mathematical probability theories. My approach is based on plain old common sense, and I don’t HAVE to sell things to the playing public because I believe they can reason it all out for themselves. One thing you’ll never see on my web site is a request for money in order to read or print out articles, strategies, and other important information, or to join my e-newsletter or to watch informative videos. And I win much more than I lose. In reality, that’s the only calculation needed to be done when playing video poker.

Today, I still can look at video poker as an enjoyable game. That’s what it is and always has been to me. I can blow into town and play five minutes or five hours — whatever it takes to reach my pre-set goals — and then I’ll immediately leave with no regrets. I enjoy the 4½-hour drive each way to Las Vegas and back because I know I’ll enjoy myself when I arrive — win or lose. It is simply a game that I play to win money, and I have no concern whatsoever about if I’m playing for a promotion or not, or of how many points I’ll get along the way. Remember, the casinos are in business to get you to play for the points. They are not in the business to get you to play for the money.

For others though, it’s a serious business where a buck can be made at every turn. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with someone making a living in the best way they can, whenever I try to help a player realize what they’ve been doing wrong, these businesses make my job that much harder. The video poker business is in the unique position of being able to hide behind the math for every pint of advice being dished out. That’s not so easy to overcome, but my efforts are progressing.

In general, people who play the game do so for entertainment. But that doesn’t mean if you come into town with $600 you have to lose it. How many times have you heard someone say something like "I played a dozen hours on my last trip, I lost $600, but I had my room and food comped and I had a great time! Well here’s a flash: The casino manager had a better time, and your host had the best time of all. You know those folks that invite you in, greet you several times during your stay, and make you feel so special? Yes, your slot host may be visually cheering you on to hit a bundle of huge jackpots, but inside they only want to see you play. It’s a business to them, folks, and if you let someone talk you into any other reasoning, you’re listening to a video poker l