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Best of Elliot Frome

Gaming Guru

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How can they do that?

25 March 2004

Because of who I am, what I do and the amount of time I spend reading or talking to people who are essentially Video Poker Experts, I sometimes forget just how many people there are who still play by intuition or common sense.

Last night I had the opportunity to talk to one such player. He's a very typical recreational player, going to the casinos a few times a year. As we talked, he seemed genuinely surprised to find that many Video Poker machines pay 99%+ and that there are numerous machines that pay over 100%. He couldn't quite understand how the casinos can get away with doing it.

I explained that it wasn't much different than the way Blackjack has been for decades. Depending on the exact rules, most blackjack tables have the ability to offer the player a pretty solid 99% return. Do some light card counting and you can push that a good deal higher. One percent is a pretty slim margin for a casino. The good news for them, as we all know, is that only a small portion of players use Expert Blackjack Strategy. Fewer yet, use any sort of counting scheme. So, it's okay if a few players play 99%, even 99.5% so long as there are enough players splitting 10's, too scared to hit a 16 looking into a 9 or who just don't understand the concept of doubling down. It's these players that allow the experts that reasonable chance at walking away a winner.

Well, Video Poker isn't much different. The next time you're in the casino, spend 15 minutes turning it into a spectator sport. Watch 4 or 5 different players play a few hands. Oh sure, most know to keep the High Pair, or go for a 4-Card Straight. How many know what to do when they are dealt a 3 card straight or flush with no high cards. How many go for it? How many don't realize at what point you throw away those five cards and mutter 'another Razgu!', but realize it's a better play than trying anything you were dealt?

Obviously, it depends on exactly what 'common sense' strategy the player is using, but there's a good chance those that do, are giving up at least 5% of their payback because of their strategy. I'm not talking about the guy who holds 3-High Cards instead of playing the 2-Card Royal. Sure, this person is giving up a little, but not like the guy who doesn't realize that 2-Card Royals aren't THAT bad, or doesn't realize that 3-card straights ARE THAT bad!

We should all be thankful for these players. If not for them, we wouldn't have the opportunities to play 99.5% machines virtually anywhere or the 100%+ paybacks that are out there if you look more closely.

This is where games such as Video Poker give the player a marked advantage of Slot Machines. Slot machines have no real strategy. In the long run, they will pay whatever percentage they are programmed to pay and there isn't much you can do about it. Because there is no large group of players who can play BELOW this programmed average, the casinos are forced to make this percentage relatively low. The same is true for virtually every casino game with no strategy. Casinos cannot count on errors or poor players to help offset 'Expert Players' so they have no choice but to set the 'fixed' payback much lower. Games with relatively 'easy' strategy (i.e. Three Card Poker, Let It Ride, etc…) wind up with paybacks not as generous as Video Poker but more generous than those at the low end.

Then there is Video Poker. Relative to most Casino games, Video Poker has complex strategy. Thus, the casinos can 'afford' to give players an opportunity to achieve higher paybacks because there is a sufficient number of people playing without Expert Strategy to keep the overall 'vig' well within the casino's comfort range.

So, you may not want to walk up behind one of these 'common sense' players, tap them on the shoulder and say 'thank you', but you may want to make sure you're NOT one of the players that someone ELSE is thanking!

Elliot Frome

Elliot Frome is a 2nd generation gaming author and analyst. His father, Lenny Frome was considered one of the premier authors of Video Poker books. Titles include, Expert Video Poker for Las Vegas and Winning Strategies for Video Poker, which includes the strategy tables for 61 of the country’s most popular versions of Video Poker. Check out Compu-Flyers website at www.vpheaven.com, or drop Elliot an e-mail at compuflyers@prodigy.net.

Elliot Frome Websites:

www.vpheaven.com

Books by Elliot Frome:

> More Books By Elliot Frome

Elliot Frome
Elliot Frome is a 2nd generation gaming author and analyst. His father, Lenny Frome was considered one of the premier authors of Video Poker books. Titles include, Expert Video Poker for Las Vegas and Winning Strategies for Video Poker, which includes the strategy tables for 61 of the country’s most popular versions of Video Poker. Check out Compu-Flyers website at www.vpheaven.com, or drop Elliot an e-mail at compuflyers@prodigy.net.

Elliot Frome Websites:

www.vpheaven.com

Books by Elliot Frome:

> More Books By Elliot Frome