Wild video poker ride worth taking again

2013-01-25T00:00:00Z Wild video poker ride worth taking againJohn G. Brokopp Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
January 25, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Bob Dancer, one of the world's foremost authorities on video poker, is not only a teacher. He practices quite efficiently what he preaches. One of his first books, "Million Dollar Video Poker," is a fascinating personal account of how he parlayed his drive and skill to beat the game.

It's still a great read for all video poker fans.

Dancer is no average video poker player, to be sure. He possesses a mathematical knowledge of the game that rests firmly in the top one percent of his profession. He also plays with a bankroll that is directly proportional to the precision and confidence with which he tackles the machines.

But this doesn't mean that "Million Dollar Video Poker" is not for average players. Anyone who has ever gone to a casino in search of hitting the jackpot will find this book delightful and interesting. It's above and beyond a cut-and-dried statistical account of how to play. Rather, it's a personal narrative of success by trial and error and a revealing glimpse into the world of a high stakes gambler.

Readers are not lulled into thinking that they, like the author, can go to Las Vegas with a $6,000 bankroll and turn it into a million dollars in seven years. The book serves as inspiration to average recreational gambling enthusiasts everywhere that a casino game like video poker, which requires an element of skill to play effectively, can be taken to new heights if you are willing to try.

Dancer's belief in his strategies, the calculated risk, and expected return on his target games takes him beyond the realm of mundane quarter, 50 cent, or even dollar games. He has such confidence in his ability that $5, $25 and $100 video poker are his prey.

Just because he knows the precise play to make in every situation for every video poker game doesn't mean that every time he sits down to play he's a winner. Neither does it mean that he can achieve the results he expects in a short period of playing time. Dancer invests many hours in his video poker sessions, sometimes playing two machines at once, and brings a bankroll sufficient to absorb short-term devastation.

Here's an example from the book that gives you an idea of the intricate game plan the author devises before he'll go after a game to beat. (It's important to note that at Dancer's advanced level of skill, he looks at a vast majority of video poker game formats and pay tables with disdain. He only zeros in when he calculates an edge.)

One time he heard about some 10/7 Double Bonus video poker games in the Bally GameMaker version at Bally's Hotel & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. Dancer calculated the game to be 100.52 percent payback (player advantage). When the 0.225 percent slot club return was factored in it made the game 100.75 percent. Expert play would theoretically make the game worth $200 per hour of playing time.

The machines were three-coin $25 units, which meant putting $75 at risk per hand. First he made it his business to learn the subtleties of the game and the correct play in every situation. Then he took $8,000 to the casino at eight o'clock in the evening and went to work. He lost $5,000 in 20 minutes!

Five grand in the hole with $3,000 remaining, Dancer starting feeding $100 bills into the machine. Two minutes later he was dealt four-of-a-kind in threes for $6,000. He finished his session at five o'clock in the morning showing a profit of $22,000.

Here's another glaring example of the roller-coaster ride that Dancer was on. By March 1 of that year he was showing a $120,000 profit for his video poker play. During the next two weeks he lost $80,000 of that money. But as we all know, his story has a happy ending, topped by a memorable $400,000 royal flush.

Dancer's book gives everyday casino fans solid advice and pointers about how to manipulate the system, including player rewards programs as well as the casino hosts themselves. He illustrates the nuances of expert play, including strategic gems that make only fractions of a percent difference but add up to the edge over the long haul.

You'll find new appreciation for the game of video poker and the time effort, inspiration, and perspiration it takes to formulate decision making based on mathematical probability.

The opinions expressed are solely the writer's. Reach him at jbrokopp@comcast.net. John Brokopp's Beat the Odds tips air Sundays at 8:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 10:42 p.m. on WBBM Newsradio 780.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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