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Video Poker: Myths and Truths

25 July 2000

By Skip Hughes

When I was a young man, there was a very popular saying heard in bad songs and TV shows: "In any given population, there is a heterogeneity both of valid goals and of methodologies with which to bring about their fulfillment."

Actually, that was the Bill Buckley version. The rest of us just said, "Different strokes for different folks." Louie Anderson put it another way, the first time I ever saw him in Las Vegas. The huge comic walked out on stage, looked around at the crowd and said, "What's this one size fits all crap!"

Among video poker players, this truth holds, regardless of how you state it. We are a group of people with a common interest but with very diverse goals that demand different "strokes." Yet most of us who write about video poker ignore this. We often like to write "myth-busting" articles about video poker or gambling in general. I have been considering this for awhile and I offer here a few myths and truths concerning people who play (and read about) video poker.

Myth: Most players are either: A) fairly expert players who play a lot and derive income from their play; or B) are not yet A's, but want to be and need to be educated and trained to get there. Players not interested in learning how to play perfect strategy are fools and should stick with slot machines.

Truth: Most players do not have the interest, time, or dedication to becoming a pro-level expert player. When considering the visiting player who comes to Las Vegas or A.C. every so often for fun and relaxation, it's hardly surprising they are not interested in burning the midnight oil to learn obscure penalty card situations. Yet they want to enjoy their time in the casino — and in order to do that, they would like to learn as much as possible about the game without making it a lifestyle. They still need to know which games are the best ones to play and how to play them. They need strategies that are as easy as possible to learn without giving up a lot of expected return. They still need good VP "trainer" software (even though they may not have time to practice as much as they should.)

Myth: It doesn't matter much whether the reader is a local or a visitor — the game is still played the same.

Truth: What's okay for a visitor may be suicide for a local and what's smart for a local may not be worth considering for a visitor.

An example: A recreational local player may value a place with only about 100% return at best, lousy rooms and no cash back. Why? Because the food is good and the meal comps are so generous they can eat there several nights a week with only moderate play. This is a good play for the local, but a lousy one for the visitor.

Another: An expert local player frequently plays at a place that is rather ugly, often smoke-filled, has only adequate restaurants, and the guestrooms are alive with critters that never heard of Black Flag. Yet the video poker is outstanding. It makes sense for this guy; but it's not any- one's idea of a place to spend a vacation.

And another: A visiting recreational player likes a place with no game over 100%, but an adequate supply of games right at or just below that level. With adequate play he gets VIP treatment, a luxury room, gourmet food, and a beautiful resort experience. Might appeal to some locals, but for most it doesn't make sense.

These examples are only the obvious differences. The local, everyday player has to take bankroll considerations much more seriously — and for survival's sake, has to become more proficient at the games he or she plays. Why? Because the famous "long run" talked about so much in video poker literature is likely to take place over a much shorter chronological period than for the visiting player (who may never reach the mathematical "long run.") For this same reason, the local player needs to be much more selective when choosing a game to play. That leads us to...

Myth: Players should always play 100% machines.

Truth: There are many reasons why a knowledgeable player may play a less than 100% game. Sometimes, the best game available is under 100%. And although we can tell readers "wait until you get to Las Vegas," that's hardly sufficient. The problem comes down to what both Cyndi Lauper and Sheryl Crow told us — a lot of people (not just girls) just want to have fun! That doesn't mean they want to throw their money away. They still want to learn a good strategy for playing the games they play.

Another reason for dipping a little under 100% was described previously — the amenities and complimentaries just outweigh the small expected loss. Note that by "a little," I do not mean you should go out and play Double Double Bonus. There is no reason to play this game. To paraphrase Field of Dreams: If we ignore them, they will go.

Myth: Players should follow bankroll guidelines figured out by mathematicians.

Truth: For a very large percentage of recreational players, the mathematical bankroll considerations are not relevant. Most people who come to Las Vegas to play do not have a fixed gambling bankroll — they have, in essence, as much bankroll as they are willing to allocate to recreation. For them, a mathematical recommendation of a session bankroll is more relevant, but even that's usually misguided. To a pro player, running up against "risk of ruin" means big trouble. His earning power has been destroyed and he is in serious financial straits. For the visiting recreational player, it means the trip is probably not going to be much as much fun as they had hoped.

Yet for some, going for the gusto is the highlight of the trip. If that's your cup of tea, you have a right to move on up the food chain. You'll probably get eaten, but every so often the prey will turn into predator.

The moral of all of this is that we will avoid condescension towards the non-pro or non-expert player. Obviously, each article cannot address the concerns of all the different kinds of players, but at Video Poker Player we will try to provide information for all kinds of players with all kinds of styles.

Video Poker: Myths and Truths is republished from
Skip Hughes
Skip Hughes is the pen name of a professional computer consultant, writer and expert video poker player. Skip's writings are oriented toward the recreational rather than professional, player.

Skip Hughes Websites:
Skip Hughes
Skip Hughes is the pen name of a professional computer consultant, writer and expert video poker player. Skip's writings are oriented toward the recreational rather than professional, player.

Skip Hughes Websites: