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Best of Elliot Frome

Gaming Guru

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Naysayers unwittingly become 'Yeah'sayers

11 November 2004

Some people refuse to accept all the proof in the world. The concept of Expert Strategy has been proven repeatedly for the past 15 years. There are numerous writers and mathematicians who can attest to this. They may not call it 'expert strategy' but the concept is the same. You can throw in the concept of 'penalty' cards and we're still really talking about the same thing. You play every hand to maximize the expected value of the hand. This is the best way to maximize your chances of winning (or losing less) over the long run.

No matter how many times I explain it, no matter how much mathematical evidence there is, there is always someone who comes along to refute it. It would be one thing if someone refuted it with mathematical proof of alternate strategies that perhaps one could ascribe to. Invariably, the proof the naysayer produces is nothing more than an anecdotal story of how going against the 'experts' proved to be the right thing to do.

Unfortunately, while stories such as these may make great bar talk, it's hardly proof of anything, other than once in while luck will shine on even the worst player. Many years ago, I was playing golf for only the 2nd time in my life. I was getting ready to make my approach shot, my ball about 20-30 yards from the pin. My friends were already on the green and they were standing by the hole waiting for my chip shot. Well, I caught the ball with the edge of my iron, and sent the ball at what seemed like 100 MPH in a low line drive right for the hole. My friends scattered. The ball hit a few feet in front of the hole, bounced and hit the pin square and dropped about a foot from the hole. If I told you that this is the right way to play such a shot, you'd laugh at me.

But isn't the fact that it worked for me this one time proof that it's the right thing to do? I don't think so. I remember this story vividly and I love to tell it. I don't bother telling anyone about the dozens of times I did the same thing, except for the part where the ball hits the pin, and instead I lose the ball in the woods on the far side of the green!

Gambling isn't really any different. There are people out there who will love to tell you about how they went against the 'experts' and still wound up winning. Of course they did! That's exactly what expert strategy says will happen. Someone is going to get that Royal Flush when all five cards are thrown away. It really doesn't matter if it's a Full House that was tossed or 5 lousy cards. If it happens when you threw away 5 lousy cards, you'll praise expert strategy. If for some reason it happens when you throw away a playable 3-card Straight Flush or a 4-Card Straight, you'll scoff at expert play.

But expert strategy isn't about what happens 'one' time. It's about playing the odds. I can go back out onto that golf course, and you can be sure that I'll shoot a better score if I learn to chip the ball to the green instead of sending screaming line drives at the pin and hope I hit it. The irony about most of these naysayers is that it really isn't the outcome that makes them naysayers. They really are just looking for a reason to disprove the concept. You can tell this because most of them don't even really know what proper strategy is. That's why they'll frequently tell their story and laugh at the experts, but in the end, it turns out that they in fact are using proper strategy.

I recently stumbled across a post on a Video Poker chat board where someone was telling of their great fortune by not playing expertly. They had frequently been fortunate to hit Four Aces with a Kicker on a Double Double Bonus machine after 'going against the experts' by throwing away their Full House with Three Aces instead of keeping it intact. Fortunately, someone informed this person that they were in fact playing according to expert strategy, as the Three Aces have a considerably higher expected value than a Full House. I wonder how the original poster felt when they found out they, in fact, had been playing properly and that it was expert strategy that they could thank for their 'good luck'. Anecdotal stories aren't all bad!

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