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Best of Elliot Frome

Gaming Guru

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The Essence of Expert Strategy

5 October 2005

My father decided on the phrase 'Expert Strategy' almost 20 years ago as the name to give the strategy he created for video poker. As time went on, this phrase proved to be applicable to virtually every casino game. Expert strategy was never advertised as the strategy that would guarantee you would win at any particular casino game. It wasn't some 'system' to beat the casinos. It was a sound strategy, based in math and common sense, which would allow the recreational gambler the best chance to win and to better enjoy his time gambling, by stretching his gambling dollars.

When I talk about expert strategy, I'm usually talking about the recreational gambler. This is because the first part of expert strategy is play the right game, NOT play only games that have a positive expectation. If you're a professional player, you HAVE to play games with a positive expectation, and then the math tells you that if you play enough hands each year, you stand a very good chance of making a certain amount of money per year. Expecting to win playing a negative expectation game (a game with a payback of less than 100%) over the long run, would be like trying to defy gravity. It simply doesn't happen.

It was by sheer accident that some early versions of video poker were positive games. Over the years, the casinos have 'corrected' this problem by removing virtually all of these games, although occasionally one sneaks through, especially when you include comps and cashback. There is NO table game that affords a payback over 100%, except maybe blackjack to an accomplished card counter. Many of the newer table games, however, offer paybacks as high as video poker machines. The first leg of expert strategy tells the player to play the right game. This means finding games with a payback that gives you a fighting chance. It's rare for a casino to offer the same table game with different paybacks, but quite common for them to offer video poker machines with different paybacks. So, expert strategy tells us to play the video poker machine with the higher payback in order for us to maximize our chances to win, and to make our bankroll last longer. This doesn't mean that playing the higher payback game will guarantee a win, and it doesn't mean that if you play a lower payback game, you won't win. You're simply increasing your chances, and quite frankly, that's what gambling is really about – giving yourself the best chance to win.

The second leg of expert strategy is to play the right strategy. This is applicable to all casino games, and to both recreational and professional players. The play strategy shown as expert strategy is not always 'perfect' strategy, but a very close to perfect strategy that sometimes has been simplified to help the average human achieve it. Any deviations from perfect strategy have been a conscious choice to reduce errors, knowing that a small fraction of payback may be sacrificed. This is why, where video poker is concerned, penalty cards are not usually brought into the strategy table. For those who are willing to go the extra bit to learn the penalty card strategy, my hat is off to you. For those who scoff at using a strategy such as expert strategy, keep in mind that EVERY casino game is designed with expert/perfect strategy in mind. In order to get a game approved in most jurisdictions, the strategy that maximizes payback must be spelled out. If someone wants to tell you that math models don't apply to casino games, they must also believe the world is flat. There are math concepts that apply to random events, and no amount of anecdotal stories can change this.

The last leg of expert strategy is to know what to expect. I believe that lack of knowledge of this leg is what causes so many people to deny the math behind the game. They see something happens that they feel 'defies' math, thus, all the math must be wrong. The reality is, that as long as the game is fair, NOTHING that happens defies math. Sometimes, when you discard an Ace, an Ace will appear in the same spot (in fact, this is really not all that rare). Sometimes, when you make the wrong play, you still win. Sometimes, when you make the right play, you don't win. Sometimes, this will occur more often that will seem 'normal'.

Many people who have given up on 'expert strategy' thought it was a guarantee to win. This is simply a distortion of the facts. Expert strategy will help the player achieve, in the long run, the theoretical payback of the machines the player chooses to play. If you play 98.5% games with 0.5% comps/cashback, you're still going to lose 1% of all the money you play over the long run. This doesn't mean EXACTLY 1%. This means as you play more and more hands, you'll approach the 1% with a higher degree of probability. If you choose some alternate strategy, does it mean you'll lose more? No…it means you're more LIKELY to lose more.

Besides my knowledge in math, how do I KNOW that expert strategy is the right strategy? All you have to do is look at the paytables the casinos are offering. As I've discussed many times, the reason why the casinos can offer such high paybacks on video poker is because there are so many players who play so poorly. But as more people embrace expert strategy (or one of the very similar strategies), the casinos are finding that less people are playing as poorly, and they need to reduce the paytables, which is exactly what has been happening.

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