How Does It Make You Feel?
Assume you start with 100 credits on your favorite machine. Over the next twenty minutes, you build up the credits to 350. Full houses are coming with a nice regularity, as are straights and flushes. Four-of-a-kinds are appearing at twice their usual frequency. Life is indeed beautiful. This is the way video poker is supposed to be.
At this point, all of a sudden with no warning at all, the machine turns ice cold. You get an occasional high pair or two, but nothing higher. In fifteen minutes all of the credits have disappeared into Never-Never-Land. Sigh. Welcome to Real World 101.
Anyone who has played much video poker has had this exact situation happen all too often. This is no fun at all. Every person has a slightly different way of dealing with it. Ask yourself which of the following is closer to the way you feel at these times:
1: This is a disaster. If you had just left ten minutes ago, life would be a lot better. You’re an idiot for not being able to see this happening and quitting before it got this bad.
2: This is not a big deal. It happens. All you can do is to choose a good game, play each hand perfectly, and take what you get. Streaks go both ways.
My feelings are pretty well described by 2 above. I would never presume to tell you how you must feel in a particular situation, but I suggest that if 1 describes the way you react to this all-too-familiar situation, then perhaps you need to consider doing something else with your life rather than gambling at video poker.
An American theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, composed what is known as the Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” The current situation involves “serenity” and “wisdom.”
Insofar as helping you gain “wisdom,” I can tell you that this situation happens to everybody. I can tell you that if you watch a computer play every hand perfectly, every so often it has streaks exactly like what I described here. Whether you are playing every hand correctly or every hand poorly may well affect HOW OFTEN you have such streaks, but not the fact that you will have them. I can assure you that NOBODY can accurately predict the next 200 hands. There are other streaks that start out the same as the one described above, but when you get down to 20 credits, everything turns around again and you get several good hands in a row. Maybe even a royal flush. And, until you actually play the hands, there is no way to tell whether this is the time that the streak will turn around or this is the time it won’t.
I don’t know how to help you obtain “serenity.” But I do believe it to be important. For many readers of this column, the hours you spend playing video poker represent a major part of what you do in life. Thinking that what you do is a “disaster” is not a healthy way to lead your life. This is a rather elementary concept. Turning around the way you feel is something quite a bit less elementary.
Notice that “serenity” doesn’t mean you aren’t always trying to improve your skills. I suggest good players do that all of the time. Serenity doesn’t imply you shouldn’t constantly strive to find better games. Good players do that too. What serenity means, in my book, is not beating yourself up when a good decision turned out to have not-so-good results.
Video Poker Is Puzzling
I recently read an interesting book by Marcel Danesi called The Puzzle Instinct: The Meaning of Puzzles in Human Life. In the book, Danesi reviews dozens of types of puzzles and notes that “puzzle solving” is a uniquely human activity. Those who solve crossword puzzles do so, in general, for no reward whatsoever save the joy of completing the puzzle and the enjoyment of the puzzle-solving process.
Playing video poker correctly is in many ways a puzzle-solving activity. The first puzzle is to select an appropriate machine; thereafter you have 600 puzzles an hour of the “How do you play this hand accurately?” variety. Even “When do you quit?” or “When do you change machines?” are puzzles.
To be sure, there’s an important gambling element to video poker that is missing from solving crossword puzzles, but that’s an element I want to talk about some other time. In this writing I am more interested in addressing how a love for puzzles is a major reason why some people prefer video poker and other people prefer slots.
Over the years I’ve subscribed to various crossword puzzle, logic puzzle, and other puzzle-related magazines. For whatever reason, I LIKE to solve puzzles and I have found that I’m better than average at it. Part of this love for puzzles is inborn, I suppose, but part of it must be learned. There are dozens of puzzles starting off with something like, “On the island of VidPoke there are two tribes. The members of the Video tribe always tell the truth and the members of the Poker tribe always lie. You are approached by two individuals who say . . . .” Once you’ve studied three or four of these puzzles, the rest are quite a bit easier than they were at the start. Similarly, in childhood I heard variations on, “A plane crashes at the intersection of Arizona, Utah and Nevada. Where do they bury the survivors?” and I still know that the answer is, “Nowhere, silly, you don’t bury survivors.”
I suggest that those who like puzzles tend to prefer video poker to slots. Is a suited QJ more or less valuable than a suited AK when you’re playing Deuces Wild? That’s a puzzle. Not a tough one, to be sure, and once you learn that QJ is more valuable because it has a lot more straight and straight flush possibilities, it’s not hard to apply that understanding to a different video poker game. Or even to learn the exceptions, such as in Kings or Better Joker Wild, where AK contains two high cards and QJ contains none and that is more important than straight and straight flush potential.
A slot player, generally, does not enjoy puzzles, doesn’t want to take the effort to solve them, or has found he or she is not particularly good at them. They haven’t thought about the relative merits of QJ vs. AK and when confronted with that choice on their occasional forays into video poker, they usually pick the wrong one because AK is better at live poker and they assume the games are similar.
So far I’ve discussed the puzzle-solving attribute with respect to word and/or mathematical games. Perhaps that’s because those happen to be my strengths. But I am quite convinced that any decent cook, seamstress, auto mechanic, or gardener — among many other professions — must also be quite adept at solving puzzles. Anyone who doesn’t think that putting on a successful dinner party for eight involves a lot of tricky logistics simply hasn’t attempted such an activity.
Is enjoying puzzles better than not enjoying puzzles? I’m not willing to make that judgment any more than I’d say that people who preferred strawberry ice cream were inherently superior to those that liked vanilla or chocolate. But I do say that people who enjoy puzzles can get more playing time for their gambling dollar by playing video poker than can those who only play slots.
Part 2: Will Things Break Even In Video Poker? Continue to Part 2.
Learn more about video poker:
Video Poker | Not All Lessons Are Learned So Easily – Bob Dancer
Video Poker | Have You Got What It Takes? – Bob Dancer
Video Poker | How To Learn The Right Lessons – Bob Dancer
How To Play Video Poker The Smart Way
How To Solve The Video Poker Puzzle
Video Poker | Listening To My Mentor – 10x Points At Borgata
Why You Might Be Disappointed With A Straight Flush Jackpot
Be sure to check out some of our other articles on casino loyalty programs & casino gaming:
Casino Loyalty Cards are Similar to Those of Airlines and Hotels — But Not the Same
Video Poker vs. Regular Poker
Why I Prefer Video Poker To Slots
Video Poker vs. BlackJack
Bob Dancer is the premier video poker writer and teacher in the world. (Million Dollar Video Poker) He has created a number of how-to-win products available at bobdancer.com. He co-hosts a weekly radio show called Gambling with an Edge, which is also archived on his website. (The show is also available on iTunes.)