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Poker players: sit and relax!

Dec 7, 2004 7:36 AM

For years, there have been three key components to expert strategy. My dad often likened them to a three-legged stool. The legs are:

”¡ Playing the right machines

”¡ Playing the right strategy

”¡ Knowing what to expect

Each is as important as the others. If one leg is shorter than the others, we all know what happens. If it’s just a little shorter, then you wind up stuffing something under one leg. In the case of video poker, you’ll be stuffing dollar bills under the leg. If one leg is a LOT shorter than the other two, well, the

n you just wind up falling on your butt.

I’ve always felt, however, that there is a fourth component. Adding a fourth leg to a three-legged stool is not pretty, plus I’m not really sure that this fourth component is as important as the other three, although I believe it can make a considerable difference. This last component is:

”¡ Playing a game you enjoy

If you don’t enjoy the game you are playing, it really won’t matter if you get the other three components right. While winning is important, not having fun doing it, won’t get you too far. I’d like to think of this fourth component as the seat cushion on the three-legged stool. Let’s take a closer look at why playing a game you enjoy is so important to the other three components.

Playing the right machines deals with picking full-pay machines that have a sufficiently high payback or return. If the concept of enjoying the game were completely removed, there would be a long line waiting to play the one version of video poker with the highest payback. We know this isn’t the case, and this isn’t only because people don’t understand the concept of playing the right machines. If you don’t enjoy playing deuces wild, then playing it at 100.6 percent may simply not be better than playing a full-pay jacks or better paying 99.6 percent. Over the course of an hour, a person playing max-coin quarters at 500 hands per hour, will cost himself about $6.25 assuming all other things are equal by picking the jacks or better game vs. the deuces wild. Is your enjoyment worth the $6.25 hour?

Of course, $6.25 probably overstates the amount a bit. Because you don’t enjoy the game as much, you’re much less likely to pay as much attention to the proper strategy. Just a handful of mistakes in your strategy (as opposed to on occasional mistake on a single hand), could easily result in giving back a large chunk of that $6.25. If you enjoy the game, you’re much more likely to learn and adhere to the strategy of that game.

Similarly, if you don’t enjoy the game, you’re not likely to bother to learn what to expect while you’re playing. This will lead you to get caught off guard by certain hands or the general flow of the game because you don’t know what to expect. Razgus (discarding all five cards) will occur about 3.5 percent of the time in jacks or better. They’ll occur about 18 percent of the time in deuces wild. Again, if you don’t like deuces wild, then you won’t bother to find this fact out, and as you play, your frustration level will go up. As frustration sets in, you might deviate from proper strategy, and again give back a large piece of that $6.25.

If you’re a professional player (there are VERY few of these), the need to play only the highest payback machines is paramount. If you’re like MOST players, you’re a casual or vacation player. While we certainly don’t suggest you play poor paying machines strictly because they are fun (usually you can find the same machine with better payouts), we do suggest you factor your enjoyment into the equation.

After all is said and done, you’re going to be sitting on that three-legged stool for a lot of hours. You might want to make sure you’re on a comfortable cushion!