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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Connie's video poker marathon

16 June 2008

The human body was not designed to play video poker for 12 hours a day, three days in a row. Even in the plush surroundings of the Treasure Island Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, hour upon hour of pressing buttons and evaluating hands takes its toll.

I saw the effects of video poker overload firsthand in the lady playing the machine next to me at Treasure Island. Other players and I alternated playing the machine next to hers over the better part of a day, but she was always there, playing the same machine.

I never did find out her name. I'll call her Constance--Connie, for short--because she was constantly at that one video poker machine. Connie was in Las Vegas with her husband for their annual three-day Vegas vacation. Because they get to Las Vegas only once a year, they cram as much gambling as they can into the time they have there.

I met Connie at the tail end of her trip. She had lost half her bankroll and wanted to get even before she had to leave. Because it was her last day, she had little time for sleeping and eating. She only had time for her quest to break even.

I first met Connie after we had each had an early morning breakfast. I had enjoyed a nice, leisurely breakfast at the buffet with Frank Scoblete and his wife, the beautiful A.P., after I had gotten a good night's sleep. Connie had grabbed a quick bite to eat after she and her husband had gotten just enough sleep to be able to make it through their last day in Vegas.

Connie and I were playing five-dollar machines, one coin at a time. There was no penalty for playing only one coin at a time on these machines because they paid 800 coins for a royal flush for every coin you played. Most video poker machines pay 800 coins per coin played for a royal flush only when you play full coin. Not only was there no penalty for playing one coin at a time on these machines, there was also no advantage to playing more than one coin at a time. If you played more than one coin at a time, you would increase your risk, but you wouldn't get an increase in payback.

My game plan on this day was to put in $100 and play until it was gone or I hit a royal flush or I earned 100 slot club points. Whenever one of those events happened, it was time for me to cash out and take a break. After the break, I would put another $100 in the machine and again play until one of those aforementioned events occurred.

Right now, in my video poker-playing life, I'm in the middle of a losing streak--

Wait a minute! How do I know this is the middle? Maybe it's the end. Or worse, maybe it's just the beginning. I don't know which it is and there is no way to know.

In any event, I never hit a royal that day and I never got enough action out of a c-note to earn 100 points. The quit point that I hit on each session was running out of credits. Most of the bills went pretty quickly. I took a lot of breaks. A break for lunch. A break for a mid-afternoon nap. A break for a gourmet dinner with Frank and A.P. I took a lot of nice, long breaks.

Each time I returned to my machine, Connie was at hers. I saw her at various points during her marathon. As I said before, being able to play prolonged sessions of video poker was not one of the original design goals for the human body. Under normal circumstances, she was undoubtedly very attractive. As her marathon video poker session grew longer and longer-well, let's just say she was having a bad hair day. Chivalry prevents me from being any more descriptive.

I saw Connie for the last time at 10 that night. She was still down about $1,000 and she had another hour or so before she and her husband had to leave for the airport to catch their red-eye home. Let me tell you, she already had the red eyes. But she still wanted to break even or, better yet, hit a royal in order to pay for their room and meals.

Connie told me that they would like to go to the casino more often, but it's just too expensive. No wonder. Connie broke two of my rules for sensible gambling.

First, maintain an easy pace in the casino. There's always tomorrow and there's always your next visit.

When you're tired, you make mistakes. You miss cards that you should have held. You see combinations that don't really exist, such as a "flush" that consists of four clubs and a spade. Your resistance is lowered and maybe you'll feed that machine a few more times than you would have otherwise. Connie went on tilt trying to cram as much gambling as she could into the limited time she had.

Second, don't chase your losses. Or, as the old saying goes, don't throw good money after bad.

Over the short run, luck has a great effect on your results gambling. And just because you've had a run of bad luck, it doesn't mean that you're due for a run of good luck. The only thing you do when you chase your losses is expose more of your bankroll to the house edge.

Maybe I'll run into Connie again next year. I know where to look for her. And maybe next year she'll take my advice and join the slot club.

John Robison

John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots
John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots