Aim for quads and you might
snare a royal

Jul 6, 2004 6:07 AM

Video poker is such a versatile game. I’ve been playing since 1990, and I couldn’t even begin to tell you if I’ve ever experienced similar playing sessions even once. That’s one of the reasons I like playing the game as much as I do, and it’s responsible for a good part of the inspiration I get to continue playing and to continue writing about my experiences. It is, in my opinion, the most exciting game on the casino floor.

Optimal play proponents depend on hitting royal flushes on an average of about once every 45,000 hands or so in order to win a very tiny percentage. But that requires a perfect world. They have to play every hand flawlessly, they have to play an ungodly number of hours every day as well as spend ridiculous amounts of time in very unhealthy environments and, after all that, they must hope for good luck at the end of the day anyway.

Although I’ve developed a number of winning play strategies and losing sessions are few and far between, they still happen. No one gets more disgusted than I do when I cannot win. Why? Because just like anything else, when you’ve perfected something you not only never want to see it fail — you become so spoiled with its success that it almost seems inconceivable that it ever can. But just as with perfect-play strategy as sold by the few to the many, nothing is perfect.

One of the rules I play by is that it does not take a royal flush to win any session, yet they are nice because they allow a large profit on any one trip. My strategies all play for the quads, and because there are a number of them that have very high payouts in the games I play, they are usually what send me home a Âí­winner.

Yet, I also incorporate several special plays that deviate from expert strategy that go for the royal over some smaller, easier win, so I ultimately also get more royals than could be expected. The rap on this method is that I give up a lot of smaller wins in the process. Yes that’s true, but when you understand that I progress in denomination as well as game volatility as I lose, when the big wins do come it far more than makes up for what was given up along the way. That $25 royal I got nearly two years ago was the result of one of those plays, and since I hardly ever play at those limits, it’ll take an awful lot of lower-limit losses to overcome that huge win. And here’s one for my expert-play friends out there: I took it home with me!

But with the positive comes the negative and the strange. When I say my strategies are interesting, I mean it. Consider this: On a recent advanced-romp-through-town-strategy trip to Las Vegas I took along a $12,000 bankroll. This was figured based on my requirement that I take three times 400 credits of the highest denomination I intended to play. Because I would play the $10 machines, that’s an even $12k. My goal was to win just $500 and call it quits. I had enough for three full sessions.

Starting at dollars, I went through them, $2, $5 and $10 without a cash-out or a quad. It’s not unusual to blow through 400 credits that way and I knew it. But when it happened a second time I was getting concerned — not worried, but concerned — because I am always prepared to lose even though I hate to lose at any time.

On my third session I hit a $10 quad, but it was not enough to recover and I went on to lose the entire $12,000. So I had $1,250 remaining from the three sessions — the sole reason I never play anything I have won. How many of you would have put that in the machine and hope for a lucky hit? Only the losers out there would do such a thing. Unless you have the proper bankroll and have prepared to go onto the next level, never do such a thing.

As with most of my trips to play video poker, it was only just beginning to get interesting. I decided to head over to Tuscany to play a few mini-sessions on dollars — first, because that’s the only bankroll I had remaining from my loss at Sam’s Town; and second, because I’ve never seen anything higher than dollars there anyway. Even though this was one of my more comfortable places to play in town, I’ve never hit a royal there.

But that quickly changed. On quarter (25¡) Bonus Poker (playing 25¡/50¡/$1) I hit a royal. Session over, with a profit of $1,080. On the next session I won with four deuces with the kicker on dollar Double Double Bonus Poker, and pocketed a profit of $920. On my final mini-session another royal popped out, only this was on dollars for a win of $4,240. That made my stop a winner to the tune of $6,240. I went home on a positive note, yes, but I lost overall. "If only one of those royals showed on the $5 game earlier," is all I could think about on my way home.

Such is the way the game goes. It takes a strong will to leave after first losing $12,000 less $1,250, and then winning $6,240. The strength comes in having a pile of cash in-pocket, yet having the ability to just get up and leave just as I said I would — win or lose — after three sessions. There’s always tomorrow, and I’m far ahead for the year with my new, exciting Play Strategy anyway.

I won’t be looking to recover anything from this trip on my next. That’s how I remain a consistent winner. Each session is separate from the last, and is completely unrelated to anything that came before. Short-term strategy in short-term bursts — that’s what it’s all about. And that’s what success is all about.