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Best of Bob Dancer

Gaming Guru

 

Winning is a Poor Reason to Continue Playing


Let's look at a puzzle. John and Bill both play video poker. They play 9-6 jacks or better, almost perfectly. Assume their average return is 99.5%. Every night they each play exactly ten hands of video poker --- five dollars at a time. John always quits after the play. Bill will play an extra five hands if he has hit a flush or higher in the first ten hands. And if he hits another flush or higher, he'll play another five hands. He'll keep this up until one of these five-hand sessions goes by when he did not hit a flush or higher, at which time he'll quit for the night.

Here's the question. At the end of the year, who's more likely to be ahead?

John, who always quits after ten hands, is a big favorite to be ahead. Bill, even though his strategy is geared to riding out the winning streaks, will most likely be behind. Let's see why.

Playing a 99.5% game means the house has a half-percent edge. Every $5 hand is a 2.5¢ loser on average. John will lose, on average, 25¢ per night --- which is ten bets times 2.5¢ per bet. Bill starts by losing the same 25¢, but every additional five-bet cycle he goes through costs him an additional 12.5¢ on average. Since the men only play at the 99.5% level, each hand is a loser, on average, and the man who plays the least number of hands loses the least amount of money.

Now to the real world. What does this puzzle mean for us? First, if the house has an advantage, the more you play the more you lose. Betting more just because you are winning today is foolhardy. What has happened in the last hour is a very poor predictor of what will happen in the next hour.

Second, today's score is unimportant for frequent players. Players who play lots of sessions over the year shouldn't get hung up on the score for one session. Hitting a royal is nice --- but wild celebration is shortsighted. Losing hand after hand after hand is no fun at all --- but happens often enough and getting too upset about it is shortsighted too.

Did you notice the caveat above "if the house has the advantage"? This slipped right by many of you, because many intelligent people believe the house always has the advantage at every game it offers. That is certainly true for most gambling games, but is NOT true for video poker. In at least three-fourths of the casinos in the Las Vegas area, the player has the advantage at one or more video poker games.

Players who take the time to learn to play those games, and to play only those games, find they have the advantage all of the time. This is not to say they will win every day. Not at all. In fact, they will lose more often than they win, but their winning sessions will be larger than their losing sessions. Keep playing long enough under these conditions and you will end up winning overall.

Let's go back to Bill and John. Same scenario, except that now they are playing at the 100.5% level. John still quits after 10 hands, and Bill keeps on going if he wins enough. Now who will end up tops after the year?

Under these conditions, Bill will usually end up with more. Why? Because every hand is a winner, on average, and he is playing more hands. Playing more hands when you have the advantage is smart gambling. Playing more hands on a bad game just because you are ahead today is not.

Does this talking about mathematics take some of the romance out of gambling? You bet! I for one prefer honest information and winning over romantic notions and losing.

That's it for this time. Until next time, go out and hit a royal flush.

Bob Dancer
Bob Dancer is America’s premier video poker authority.
His booklets Video Poker Reports: Deuces Wild, 9/6 Jacks or Better, and 10/7 Double Bonus are considered the most accurate strategies ever devised for these games.

Bob Dancer Presents WinPoker is the premier computer trainer for video poker. It requires Windows 95 or newer, and has 15 of the most popular games, including Double Bonus, Double Double Bonus, Double Joker, etc. plus the ability to load in most other games. It has won several competitions for being the best video poker software.

Bob Dancer Websites:

www.zamzone.com
Bob Dancer
Bob Dancer is America’s premier video poker authority.
His booklets Video Poker Reports: Deuces Wild, 9/6 Jacks or Better, and 10/7 Double Bonus are considered the most accurate strategies ever devised for these games.

Bob Dancer Presents WinPoker is the premier computer trainer for video poker. It requires Windows 95 or newer, and has 15 of the most popular games, including Double Bonus, Double Double Bonus, Double Joker, etc. plus the ability to load in most other games. It has won several competitions for being the best video poker software.

Bob Dancer Websites:

www.zamzone.com