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Best of John Grochowski

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Pro video poker and great luck

23 August 2015

QUESTION: I agree with most of what you wrote [in an advising a player who was drawing royal flushes about once per 30 days against playing video poker professionally], but disagree that pros play only games with positive EV such as full-pay Deuces Wild and 10-7-5 Double Bonus Poker. I started out as a full-pay Deuces player when I moved to Las Vegas eight years ago (and still had a job) but now hardly ever play 100% payback games.

The money today is made on free play, point multipliers, other casino promotions, progressives, drawings and tournaments. Every professional has his or her own formula, but I think the basic ingredients are the same for most, if not all, successful players.

I certainly agree it is getting harder to make a living at video poker, although I had my best year last year and am on track to do almost as well this year. Constant adaptation is required.

The biggest change since when I started is that more casinos are looking at strong video poker players the way they regard advantage blackjack players. The only difference is that instead of prohibiting you from playing (although this happened to me at one small locals casino in Las Vegas), they cut off your mail offers, which are what makes the less-than-100% games profitable.

ANSWER: I appreciate the above input from a Las Vegas-based professional gambler who blogs at vegasoffthestrip.blogspot.com.

Turning comps, promotions and direct-mail offers into profit is possible – my longtime friend Jean Scott, “The Frugal Gambler,” has made a career out of it. However, it does take a good deal of work and discipline, sorting out comp rates, strength of promotions, direct mail offers per amount of play and other factors at each casino.

Not all casinos and not all jurisdictions offer generous enough returns through their player rewards and marketing programs to overcome the house edge on machines that pay less than 100% with expert play. Some casinos even drastically reduce rewards on games close to 100%. And while Las Vegas still has many games in the 99%-plus range, in some areas of the country we’re seeing 97 to 98 percenters as the “good” games. It’s extremely difficult to overcome that through rewards and promotions.

That’s something the player with profit-making decisions has to explore and track: Are the total marketing offers resulting in play on a particular game at a particular casino generous enough to turn a 99% game into one that returns 100%-plus?

Attempting to do this professionally remains something I don’t recommend to the vast majority of players.


QUESTION: My sister-in-law always seems to win on the slots. Last week, she won a $20,000 jackpot, and she had jackpots of $5,000 and $8,000 last month. She said she had 14 jackpots last year that were over the tax form amount. She said she doesn’t know how she does it, she’s just lucky. What do you think?

ANSWER: I think she probably plays a lot on high-denomination machines, most likely three-reel games. A larger percentage of your overall return is concentrated into bigger pays on three-reel games than on video slots. Jackpots above the $1,200 level that triggers a form W-2G are a lot more common on $5 games than on penny slots.

However, long losing streaks between jackpots are also part of the norm, and you can have large losses overall despite having a number of big payoffs.

I’d urge caution, and hope that your sister-in-law is not overbetting her bankroll.
Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski