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Pigs - 7, Hogs - 0

12 November 2005

A few weeks ago, I was playing video poker - full pay deuces wild - when another woman sat down at the machine next to me. Of course, I wanted to tell her not to play at that machine because the payout schedule was not full pay, that full pay was at the next machine over. But having learned my lesson about giving advice two weeks before (you remember Mr. Harumph, don't you?), I kept quiet.

Well, this lady was not there even two minutes when she glanced over at my machine and remarked, "I see you're playing deuces wild. I love that game; it's so much fun, but it doesn't like me. I NEVER do well at that game."

So, of course, being offered the opportunity, I took it. I said something very generic, like it was important to play at a deuces wild machine with the best payout schedule and to play according to the right strategy, but I didn't offer any specifics. She responded with, "Is that so? Well, this machine is cold; it hasn't given up anything for five hands and it's time to move."

She took her player's card out of the machine, moved to the next one (the one with full pay), inserted her card, played five hands and then moved to the next machine, muttering all the while, "See, I told you I can't win anything playing deuces wild."

I want you to notice something. She mentioned to me first that she doesn't do well at deuces wild, but she didn't ask for advice. At that point, I didn't know what sort of strategy she used, but I guessed she was playing by the seat of her pants because she didn't know enough to look at the payout schedules and because she had that hot/cold theory about video poker.

But at least she was using her player's card.

Five minutes later, she had made her way down to the end of the bar. She yelled at me, "How would you play two deuces and two kings?" By reflex, without thinking about my new rule to not give advice, I shouted back for her to save all four. But why not give advice this time? She had actually asked for it, hadn't she?

Not even a nanosecond later, she was whooping and hollering, "I guess my own strategy is better than your book strategy!" She had not held the two kings along with the two deuces but had held the two deuces by themselves. She connected with two more deuces and won the mini-jackpot of $250 for her four deuces.

She had asked my advice, not heeded it and then gloated that she knew better than my "book" strategy. But remember that she had already told me that her own strategy never works for her.

Yes, deviating from proper strategy worked for her this time. And yes, the four deuces paid off better than the four-of-a-kind (two kings and two wild cards). But a hand of four deuces comes along only once in 4,900 hands, while four-of-a-kind comes along once in 16 hands. That fact alone elevates the expected value of a "made" four-of-a-kind hand above the expected value of holding the two deuces.

What that means is that if someone in this situation always holds only the two deuces and always discards the other two like cards, then that someone will hit the four deuces more often than I will, but he will "tap out" or go broke more often between connecting with four deuces. Then, when he or she hits four deuces or even a natural royal flush, those jackpots will not be enough to pull him or her out of the red.

This is just one example of what it means to play for long-term results instead of for the short term.

My role is to educate you. I cannot make you play correctly; you're the only one that can do that. But if you believe in the numbers and percentages - and video poker is definitely a numbers game - then you will play strictly by the odds. Then, and only then, will you be on your way to becoming a pro.

The serious video poker player is happy with the more often but smaller wins. Pigs get fatter and fatter; hogs get slaughtered.

Until next time, aces and faces to you.

Linda Mabry

Low Roller Linda Mabry lives and gambles on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She writes a weekly, general gambling advice column for the Biloxi Sun Herald, and may be contacted through her e-mail address, lnmabry@cableone.net or her web site www.thelowroller.com
Linda Mabry
Low Roller Linda Mabry lives and gambles on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She writes a weekly, general gambling advice column for the Biloxi Sun Herald, and may be contacted through her e-mail address, lnmabry@cableone.net or her web site www.thelowroller.com