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Don’t bet on progressives’
negative return

Sep 21, 2004 1:22 AM

Video poker is almost exclusively a game of luck. And no matter how much mathematical intellect you possess, at the end of the day all you care about is whether you won more than you lost.

Nevertheless, there remain those who are unable or unwilling to come to grips with these basic turths. Surprisingly, a few days ago I had someone contact me and say, "Rob, since you’re such an expert player, why wouldn’t you either play only for the larger progressive jackpots around town or join one of the teams that do?"

After discovering that this person was not trying to push my buttons, I gave him an education on what’s wrong with both those approaches, and why those who do such things can never be serious about video poker.

First, I understand all the hullabaloo about finding progressive jackpot meters that theoretically top a 100 percent payback. The problem with saying a progressive is 102.2 percent is exactly the same as the problem with saying you’re playing at Casino A today because you want the extra 1 percent associated with the double royal and car giveaway promotions.

So what’s wrong with this tempting but pretty picture? If you guessed that the only person who recognizes any kind of real advantage is he who wins the jackpot, then you get the gold star. The rest is nothing but theoretical fluff.

Everyone else winds up losers. A difficult concept to comprehend? If so, you need to take up knitting. At least then, after all your efforts are complete each and every time, you’ll have something to show for it.

Now lets talk about my answer to my friend who suggested I should be playing on a video poker team. This is one of my pet peeves, so please bear with me. I look at playing on so-called teams as one of the lowest forms of gambling. Why? Because as a method of video poker play it involves manipulation, laziness, promotes addiction, it can and has caused trouble for many other regular type players, and gives some of its members an intermittent but false sensation of success.

Want more? It kills any and all the fun out of playing the game. Let’s look at this typical scenario in the day of a team player: Someone calls the team owner to report a sizeable progressive royal flush at a Strip casino that’s considered playable.

The owner pulls together his team, hands out the cash, and tells them to go at it until the royal is hit. So what these people do in essence is hog all or most of the machines for that period of time — giving few others the opportunity to play for the jackpot just for fun. In the past, I myself have been blockaded by these people at a bank of $5 Bonus Poker progressive machines. Thankfully, after several weeks of protest, that casino no longer allows this type of nonsense.

Why does this not make any sense to do? First of all, what if someone not on the team hits the royal? Lots of money just went south. That can and does happen all the time, and nothing is guaranteed.

Then, where’s the fun in playing for someone else with someone else’s money? Even if you win the jackpot and get the W2G, you get only a percentage of the win. I guess one of the main advantages is that when you lose you don’t lose your money, and you can always blab to others how you’ve piled up a dozen W2G’s in the past year and are "way ahead." Sound like fun yet?

I don’t look at this as anything other than having a job in the video poker business. If you enjoy sitting in unhealthy atmospheres for long periods of time, if you like being manipulated by someone else when you play the game, and if you like to pretend you’ve won a bundle of money each year, then this method is definitely for you.

And what does that all mean? It’s one of the most common errors that the Singer Play Strategies warn people against making: Never become controlled by the slot clubs. The only way to consistently win is to do exactly the opposite of what the casino manager expects you to do.

How you play the game is ultimately up to you. Only you can decide what is best for yourself and those who depend on you. What I do is teach common sense to people who like to have fun playing the game for a profit. The first step in that process is telling people how not to play to lose. Playing for a progressive jackpot can be fun if you just happen upon it. Approach this game any other way and you’re in for a big disappointment. And it will progressively get worse. Trust me.