Video Poker: When Winning Most Of The Time Is Not Always Good
Dear Mr. Dancer:
I am not a greedy player. Unfortunately, neither am I lucky.
I start out each session playing for nickels. If I get ahead $20, I quit for the day. If I get behind, I switch to dimes. If that still goes bad, I try quarters, and then eventually half-dollars, dollars, and then a maximum of $2.
I almost always win. In fact, the last 24 times I played, I won 21 of those times. Unfortunately, the other three times I lost $1,000 each time, which was all I had. I never win that much.
I don’t understand. You write that you lose most times you play. Well, I win most times I play, so that must be better. How come I’m so luckless? I’d rather be Sleepless in Seattle.
– Luckless in Long Beach
You are placing undue emphasis on “how often” you win and not considering “how much.” Winning a small amount most of the time doesn’t make up for the infrequent big losses.
You are using a sort of Martingale betting system. A true Martingale system doubles the wager following every lost bet, and then when you eventually win, you start betting the lowest unit again. This system always wins, unless you either run out of money or run up against the house limits. This system bets MORE when you get behind and LESS when you get ahead.
Other players like to bet small to start with to test the waters. If they find their luck is happening today, they start betting bigger. This system bets LESS when you get behind and MORE when you get ahead.
Both types of systems are equally effective. Actually it is more accurate to say that both types of systems are equally INEFFECTIVE. It is one of the first principles of the theory of gambling that betting systems have NOTHING TO DO with your overall return.
Let’s say you are playing 9/6 Double Double Bonus Poker. Played well, this game returns almost 99%. Let’s further assume that while you don’t play perfectly, you play better than average and play a little better than 99% of computer perfect. Your total return is 99% times 99% = approximately 98%.
A return of 98% means that for every $1,000 you bet, you’ll lose $20 on average. For every $10,000 bet, you’ll lose $200, and for every $100,000 you bet, you’ll lose $2,000.
If you increase your bet size after losing, you’ll lose an average of $200 for every $10,000 bet. If you decrease your bet size after losing, you lose an average of $200 for every $10,000 bet. If you always bet the same size, you’ll lose an average of $200 for every $10,000 bet.
Changing bet size works just as well as changing machines. If you change machines after losing 24 hands in a row, you lose $200 for every $10,000 bet. If you never change machines, you’ll lose $200 for every $10,000 bet. And so forth.
One of the problems with explaining this concept to players is the concept of losing $200 for every $10,000 bet “on average”. Each player remembers times that he ended up winning, as well as times he lost considerably more than the average figure. This will always be true in games of chance. ON AVERAGE means over the next million hands or so. It does NOT mean that it happens that way every time.
Winning players do not look to betting systems, quitting strategies, machine-changing strategies, or other superstitions. To improve your results, you need to do one or more of the following:
- a. Choose better machines. Learn to identify the games that pay the most and only play those.
- b. Learn to play better. If you can play more hands correctly, your results will improve. Playing a 100% game at a 99% level or playing a 99% game at a 100% level will both be a 1% improvement over 99% game played at a 99% level. Of course, playing a 100% game at a 100% level will be another 1% improvement. The way to learn to play better is well known: Obtain a strategy and/or Winner’s Guide for the game and practice with a computer program that corrects you.
- c. Choose a casino with a better slot club and promotions. For the same machines, a casino that returns a half percent in cash back is better than one that returns a quarter percent. But it’s a lot more complicated than just figuring out the rate of cash back. Exactly how to figure out what a slot club is worth is a discussion for another column.
Be sure to check out some of our other articles on casino loyalty programs & casino gaming :
How to Solve the Video Poker Puzzle
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
Why You Might Be Disappointed With A Straight Flush Jackpot
Bob Dancer is the premier video poker writer and teacher in the world. 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.)