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Deal Me In: I'd gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today

21 May 2010

By Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: This is not a new money management method but it is relatively new for me to use at video poker. Now that the machines operate off currency and tickets instead of coins, it is pretty easy to set a winning limit, cash in, put the profits away in one pocket and continue play with the original bankroll. As you have pointed out, the casinos want to do everything they can to divert your attention from the fact that we are wagering money, not mere numbers on a screen or tokens. I simply cash in my balance after getting 50 percent ahead on a $20 buy-in, put the 10er in my left pocket and returning the $20 to the fray, I can walk away knowing what I have won, or lost, for the session. Besides, the short stroll to the cashier or ticket redeemer machine serves to refresh my mind. I've been doing this for a of couple years and found that it is far more effective than the "I'll Quit If The Balance Gets To Whatever Method." The often ended up to be zero even after being ahead by a nice amount. This way, I can at least buy a burger if I have any luck at all. Mike H.

Your system -- per your description of it – has a number of good aspects. Pocketing winnings, right on. Realistic win goals (a Wimpy hamburger) and loss limits, now you're talking. Oh, and those brief strolls to refresh your mind. Actually, savor them as brief moments when your not physically playing the machine, and the built-in edge of a one-armed bandit isn't gobbling away at your bankroll. Still, Mike, allow me to add to your modus operandi.

Video poker offers more than a Hobson's Choice. Your alternatives are better paytables, and game selection. Although you didn't mention which video poker game you prefer, compared to other video poker games, consider Jacks-or-Better. Measured against other video poker games, Jacks-or-Better has a relatively low volatility so you'll see fewer swings to your bankroll.

Tighten up your win goals and loss limits approach. When losing half your session bankroll (loss limits) you walk, and when doubling your money (win goals), consider doing the same. If you chose to stay after doubling your money, continue setting aside additional winnings.

Along with identifying the profitable opportunities in video poker by shopping for the best paytables, learn, and then employ, perfect basic strategy.

Use your Player's Club card to get your fair share of comps and cash-backs. With keen play and decent paytables, you can turn video poker into a positive expectation game.

Finally, Mike, I hope you understand that your money management techniques will not affect the house advantage, nor guarantee that you will win more money. But what good money management principals will do is to minimize your losses, immunize your winnings, and maybe move you up the food chain from ground round to filet mignon.

Dear Mark: Are video poker payoff odds "for" 1 or "to" 1? It seems that video poker payoffs are different than some of the other ways they pay off games in the casino. Mark L.

It's best, Mark, that I first explain the difference between "for" and "to" one. Anytime you see odds quoted as 6 "for" 1, it means you get a total of $6 back for every $1 wagered. A 6 "to" 1 bet means your return would be $7; the $1 you wagered plus your net win of $6.

With video poker, you get "for" one, not "to" one. For instance, for a flush on a 9/6 Jacks-or-Better machine, you would win six coins for every one coin wagered, but the original one coin bet is essentially lost. Since your payoff was a total of six coins, therefore the payoff odds are expressed as 6 "for" 1.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "I've been very poor, and I've been kind of rich. I'd have to say kind of rich is better." -- William "Si" Redd, from his biography, King of the Slots

Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.