A friend of mine, Eliot Jacobson, has a Ph.D. and wrote a book about blackjack called "Blackjack Zone". He asked me to read it in the pre-publication stage and consider whether I would writeBob Dancer is one of the world's foremost video poker experts. He is a regular columnist for Casino Player, Strictly Slots, and the Las Vegas Review-Journa land has written an autobiography and a novel about gambling. He provides advice for tens of thousands of casino enthusiasts looking to play video poker. Bob's website is www.bobdancer.com
some praiseworthy words for the back cover. I was actually amazed by Jacobson's description of the winning process that I will sell the book on my website and strongly recommend it --- even for video poker players who want to understand the winning process. Jacobson's use of a baseball analogy in the book (a rather small part of his book, actually) was the inspiration point for this article.
Ichiro Suzuki is the phenomenal right fielder for the Seattle Mariners baseball team. In 2004, he batted 372 (which means he hit safely in 37.2% of official at bats. The exact definitions of "hit safely" and "official at bat" are complicated, but suffice it to say that this was an outstanding best-in-the-majors-in-this-particular-category achievement.)
Every day, though, his average fluctuated a little. If he "only" went 1-out-of-3 on a given day, his average dropped a bit. If he went 2-out-of-5, it climbed. Nobody knew for sure what his average would be at the end of the year, but most experts expected it to be more than 350. Suzuki is just that good.
There were days, though, when Suzuki drew a blank --- that is, he went 0-for-3, or 0-for-4, or even 0-for-5. Did this mean something was wrong? Usually not. Baseball is a game of inches, and sometimes the difference between a hit and an out is extremely close. Sometimes those close plays went in his favor. Sometimes they didn't. It happened to all players, and in 2004 the close plays went in Suzuki's favor more often than not.
Now let's shift to video poker. Assume you are a competent 9/6 Jacks or Better
, which is a game that returns more than 99.5% to the skilled player. But last time you went to Vegas, you played $30,000 through the machines (ten hours on a dollar machine) at the Golden Nugget and ended up losing $1,500. That's losing at a rate of 5%, which is ten times as much as you "should have" lost.
Does this mean the machines at that casino are bad? Nope. Does this mean you played badly? Nope. Does this give any indication whether your next trip to the Golden Nugget will yield better-than-average or worse-than-average results? Nope.
All this means is the close plays didn't go your way this time. You had 4-to-the-royal three times and didn't connect. This isn't terribly unusual, but if you had connected you would have been up $2,500 rather than down $1,500. You're supposed to connect 4.25% of the time when you draw two cards to 3-of-a-kind (2 chances out of 47 each time), but this time you only converted 4.1%. Not because you played improperly. It's just that the 6,000 hands on this trip are too short of a timeframe for things to average out.
Would a smart baseball manager want to sell Suzuki if he has three hitless games in a row? Certainly not. The manager knows that Suzuki is a solid performer who will get a huge number of hits over the year. Compare this to the gambler who says, "The last two times I played at Harrah's I lost. What a lousy casino!" The two cases are directly analogous.
In video poker
playing, as well as in baseball, every day's score is just a small blip on the year's score, and even your lifetime's score. There will be some remarkable and unusual swings along the way, but overall you get what you deserve in both games. Hitting three home runs in a week would be rare for Suzuki (he's primarily a singles hitter rather than a power hitter), but it will happen on occasion. You hitting three royal flushes in a week will happen too if you play enough. Not very often, but it will happen. Neither event signifies anything about how well you will perform the following week. It's all part of the long run.
Suzuki is physically gifted, but he still works hard at improving his game. He knows that if he keeps working hard that good things will happen to him. Successful video poker players continually work on their game as well. We know that if we master the games and only play when the game plus the slot club plus the casino promotions add up to an advantage, good things will happen to us too. Not every trip, certainly, but over all.