What to Play

            Last week, I wrote about Four Card Poker and mentioned how I would cover it's 'crazy' cousin - Crazy 4 Poker in an upcoming column.  I started to work on this column this past week when I got to the point of discussing why a Player would choose to play one of the games over the other.  The overall paybacks are fairly similar.  The reality is, that I can't really suggest to Players to play one of these games instead of the other.  This is because casino games are (or at least should be) a form of entertainment and we can't overlook this factor in our choices.

            So much of what I write is all about the math.  Years ago, my father, Lenny Frome, described Expert Strategy as a three-legged stool, with each leg equally important.  After all, we know what happens if one leg of a stool is shorter than the other two!   These three legs were:

·         Know which game to play
·         Know how to play that game
·         Know what to expect

            The first of these legs essentially referred to the payback of the game.  Don't play short-pay machines when you can find full-pay machines.  On the surface, it might mean play only the game(s) with the absolute highest payback.  But, if that were the case, everyone should be clamoring for the one type of video poker machine in the casino with the highest payback - probably some Deuces Wild variant. 

            If this were what my father intended, why did he bother to write about all the other games in detail - not just video poker but all of the proprietary table games too?  This is why a few years back, I added a concept to my father's three-legged stool.  I called it the comfy cushion.  It means you have to ENJOY playing whatever game you choose as well.  There are two significant reasons why I added this explicity to Expert Strategy.

            The first reason is because, as I said earlier, gambling should be a form of entertainment.  By this definition, you should enjoy it your time doing it.  Yes, I fully understand that it is a somewhat unique form of entertainment in that you might walk away with more money than you started, but with rare exception, these are not life-altering amounts of money we are talking about.  I'm sure no one minds being miserable while they are winning thousands (or hundreds of thousands of dollars), but more often than not, your win will be far smaller than this and you will lose more often than you will win.  No one likes to lose, but if you're absolutely miserable while you are losing $20 over 3 hours, something is very wrong.   When you go to a movie theater, there is a good chance you'll spend $20 too.  You'll have no chance of getting that money back.  You probably won't mind if the movie was good.  If the movie was a rotten tomato, it might bother you a bit more.  This is the same attitude you should take with you to the casino.

            The second reason is that if you're not having any fun while playing, there's a pretty good chance you are going to forget all about the other two legs of the stool.  You may know how to play a game, but in your frustration you'll start doing things you shouldn't be doing.  You may know what to expect, but while you're not having fun, you'll start imagining the cards are all against you or that the casino must be cheating and again, you'll go away from the strategy that you are supposed to be using.  So, on a theoretical level, you might be playing a game with a higher payback, but if you don't adhere to the strategy you may find that on a reality level, you've lowered the payback to the point where you'd be better off playing a different game.

            Undoubtedly, some of you may take what I'm saying as carte blanche to now go off and play any game in the casino.  In the end, of course, it is your decision.  But, please don't take this as my endorsement of playing slots or sitting down at a Craps table and simply playing the Hardways bets for hours at a time.  The other two legs of Expert Strategy remain full in force, so I suggest you certainly know what to expect in these cases.  Your chances of a winning session is greatly reduced.  It is one thing to pick a 99.2% video poker machine over a 99.6% one.  It is quite another to play a 91% payback proposition bet for hours.  If this is the only thing you enjoy in the casino, it might be time to pick a new form of entertainment