A MEETING OF VIDEO POKER PLAYERS . June 2005

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A MEETING OF VIDEO POKER PLAYERS By Terrence "VP Pappy" Murphy plus ACES AND KINGS BY KAPLAN; POKER AS LIFE--SMOOTH READING and ENG'S BETTING ON HORSE RACING FOR DUMMIES, Book reviews by Howard Schwartz (Manager of the Gambler's Book Shop in Las Vegas)

A MEETING OF VIDEO POKER PLAYERS

By Terrence "VP Pappy" Murphy

"Players who only play when they have a theoretical advantage, by the large, are winning players. Players who choose their casinos based on how loose their poker schedules are, by the large, are winning players. Players who practice on a computer and take classes to improve their play, by the large, are winning players. Players who tend to only play on double point days, by the large, are winning players. Players who have learned the correct play and make it a practice never to deviate from the correct play, by the large, are winning players."

--Bob Dancer

I left work Friday at 11:30 and old VP Pappy and I headed for Detroit to spend the day playing video poker and meet some other vp players. The players were all people who live in the Detroit area, post on vpFreeDetroit and can play the vp games almost computer perfect. It will be nice to talk to some gamblers who know what the hell I'm talking about when I mention such terms as perfect play, expected return, percentage of payback, and NSUD among others.

My first stop was good old (if you can call 3 or 4 years old) MGM Casino. I hadn't been there for awhile since they started changing the pay schedules to squeeze a few more pennies out of the already beleaguered blue-collared Detroit vp players. But, I wanted to check out their new TICKET IN TICKET OUT SYSTEM (TITO), instead of a coins pay out system.

Upon entering the place, I went to the bar to see if they still had the full-pay Pick'Em machines that were there the last time I was here. Yup, they still had a few here and there, and just like before, there were people playing on the 96% payout ones when right next to the machines that paid almost 100%. I used to think that they just didn't know and if I informed them of this disparity they would quickly switch machines to play the better ones. Wrong! Most kept pointing out that they were on the one that paid the 10,000 credits for a royal flush and that was what they were really playing for. And when I pointed out that a royal on this game occurred about once every 352,000 hands or so, and that there were lots of players who, after playing for years, hadn't hit one yet, it still didn't seem to make any difference to them.

"You can lead a gambler to a casino, but you can't make him think."
--VP Pappy

Since the pay schedule was right, and I had about $1200 on me, I decided to play a little as long as I was here. I put in a hundred was off and running. Up and down I went on the credit meter until I was up about $75. VP whispered in my ear, "Leave you idiot, we could use the money to pay for our drinks." But, and how many times during gambling sessions have said to our selves, "Self, this is a good time to take a small profit and run,"... Nah, I'll quit when I win a $100. Twenty minutes later I lost not only the $75, but the original hundred as well. Will I ever learn? Probably not.

Next I went to the player's Booth to redeem a $40 free-play coupon that they sent me in the mail. Not only did they redeem this coupon, but they also redeemed an expired one, which I thought was very nice of them. I got all choked up about it, or maybe it was just all that cigarette smoke in the building.

"Everyone knows, smoke and mirrors are what casinos are all about."
--Alan Krigman

Walking over to the progressive bank to play some 9/7/5 DB, I noticed all the brand-new-ticket-out-machines lined up in a row. I put in my card and punched in my pin number, them waited for the free- play credits to rack up. After a few minutes and nothing showing on the screen, I asked the woman next to me if she had done this before. She was nice enough to give me the low-down on how it worked. First, you have to put some money in. Then when you play the free credits ring up onto your total a little bit each hand as you play. I guess this is so you won't just take the free credits and run. Originally I had put $40 in and when I got up to $100 and then I cashed out, I got this slip of paper worth the hundred to take to the cashier's cage.

I next went upstairs to visit my old friends who work in the sport's bar, formerly Venti Uno. Venti Uno used to be VP Pappy and myself's favorite retreat. It was our hangout, our home away from home when we were on a gambling session in Detroit. We knew everyone there and were treated like one of the crew. I spotted Lazell, who seems to be the only one left of that crew, the friendly host and got a warm hug from her. We talk awhile and then I left to go to Motor City Casino to meet some vp players.

"Never fall in love with a casino. They will only break your heart."
--VP Pappy

Motor City was jumping when I got there. All the blackjack tables were crowded as well as the roulette ones. (and this at three in the afternoon) I also couldn't find an open seat at the quarter progressive video poker bank, so VP and I got a beer at the bar and I wandered around for awhile checking to see if there was anything new. When I got back, there was an empty seat waiting fore me. I played NSUD (Not So Ugly Deuces) for several hours and at 6:15 cashed out down a few bucks and headed for the bar to meet some people whom I only knew off the internet.

The bar was not too crowded with only a few people sitting around sipping drinks. Now let me see... who looks like they would be a video poker player? I went up to one guy who looked like the type, although I had no idea what the hell a vp player type looked like, and said "Hi, are you from vpFree?" He looked at me with a startled look and said, "What the *%#+* are you talking about?" I quickly made my retreat, got a glass of wine, and took a seat and waited, watching people come and go. Finally I spotted this small group of video poker looking people sitting over in the corner. I figured that they must be the ones because they looked so studious. I went over and introduced my self and this time I didn't get cussed at which was a relief.

"To me, a gambler is someone who plays slot machines. I prefer to own slot machines."
--Donald Trump

They were Dan and Lynne and Johnny Zee. Later, Jerry and Brenda showed up to round out our little group of supposed expert vp players. After talking for awhile and marveling over Jerry's cool PDA that had "Win Poker" (a video poker software program) downloaded on it, we all went out for dinner at the deli. Later, we all went to different places in the casino to play some vp. Dan and Lynne went to the progressive bank to play NSUD, Johnny Zee and I went upstairs to play some triple-play 9/6/4 JB, and Jerry and Brenda went someplace else or maybe home.

"Consider Jack's or Better as the Hershey bar of the video poker candy store; classic, reliable, straightforward, and simply satisfying."<
--Andrew Brisman

Johnny Zee and I struggled to get and stay ahead on the triple-play machines until John said he'd had enough and retired for the night. I hung in there until I finally got a quad dealt to me and got back to even. I quickly cashed out and headed back downstairs. The bad thing about playing Jack's or Better is that once you get behind, it's hard to catch back up unless you hit a royal because of the small amount you get for a four-of-a-kind (125 credits) so I was glad to get back to even.

Back at the progressive bank, Dan and Lynne seemed to be doing alright as Lynne said she hit the four deuces on NSUD and Dan said he was up a little bit for the night. When they were leaving, I got a hug from Lynne and a handshake from Dan. Just then old VP Pappy showed up as expected and said, "Hey, where's my hug?" After he got a big hug from Dan and a handshake from Lynne, he headed back to the bar grumbling.

After they left, I lost about $200 playing NSUD.(Rats!) At 12:30 I finally found VP again (at the bar, where else?) and we left.


On the way home, being in a mellow mood after a long day of gambling and talking to interesting people, I popped in a Steely Dan CD and VP and I cruised up I-75 with their cool, jazzy sounds blowing through the burned out windmills of our minds.

"Gambling is a most foolish and impudent pursuit."
--Fyodor Dostoevsky

Talk to all you vp players again, TM & VP

 

ACES AND KINGS BY KAPLAN; POKER AS LIFE--SMOOTH READING

By Howard Schwartz (Manager of the Gambler's Book Shop in Las Vegas)

They keep on coming, new and interesting books about poker the game, the people who play it and for those who can't get enough new information. The two newest arrivals at Gambler's Book Shop are Aces and Kings by Michael Kaplan and Brad Reagan (281 pages, hardbound, $24.95) and Poker as Life (101 Lessons From The World's Greatest Game) by Lee Schreiber (239 pages, hardbound, $14.95).

Kaplan a regular contributor to Cigar Aficionado and Sports Illustrated magazines and Reagan, who contributes to The Wall Street Journal and Maxim magazines, gained the confidence of some of the world's top poker players and got to them to talk about the challenges of the game and their offbeat, high-energy lifestyle with what they call an "all-cash existence." From old pros to the new generation TV superstars of the game, the two authors trace beginnings to highs and lows, and with a colorful, breezy style, offer a glimpse into a world of pressure, decisions and big paydays.

There are fifteen chapters (with photos of the players featured) to this easy read. Those interviewed are Puggy Pearson, Amarillo Slim, Doyle Brunson, each in their own way, part of poker history; followed by Chip Reese, the late Stu Ungar; Erik Seidel, Phil Hellmuth; Men Nguyen; Howard Lederer; David Ulliott; Annie Duke; Chris Ferguson and Barry Greenstein.

There's a section on online poker; a look at new arrivals and future champions like Daniel Negreanu; Phil Ivey and Erick Lindgren.

There's good how-to stuff, along with a look at how the game has gained popularity; how each individual approaches the game and tools they bring to the table; a look at the different type of table "image" each reflects when they play; along with the "dues" each paid to reach heights of "world-class player."

The authors truly have a feel for the game--they played, observed, listened, absorbed the feeling and attitude these top players have for the game. They understand the language and offer up each profile with colorful incidents, key hands, turning points in the lives of many.

This is a fine addition to a gaming library; a nice item to have while on summer vacation for recreational reading or one to help prepare yourself for the pressure-cooker world of high stakes poker.

Poker as Life by Schreiber is both a reference guide to the game, packed with wit and wisdom and a quick read. It's packed with advice, trivia, quotes about the game from the famous and not-so-famous, but there's a lot that makes sense and these "quick bites" of advice will probably help you become a more disciplined player and have a better understanding of the game.

There's a section on good and bad luck signs; the best and worst poker movies--according to the author (here I don't agree that The Cincinnati Kid ranks 10th), but that's what makes life interesting--diversity of opinion.

A good theme for the book might be that poker the game, often reflects the realities of life--the dangers, the moves our competitors in business or some other area, may test us with.  It's about bluffing, out-lasting, being wary, making smart moves, doing our homework and avoiding the hidden dangers we may encounter.

ENG'S BETTING ON HORSE RACING FOR DUMMIES

By Howard Schwartz (Manager of the Gambler's Book Shop in Las Vegas)

Richard Eng, who has been writing about thoroughbred racing for more than 20 years (he lives in Las Vegas), has written one of the sharpest, smartest books for newcomers to the sport and those who have a few informational gaps to fill.

His Betting on Horse Racing for Dummies (362 pages, paperbound, $19.99) covers the sport via 26 chunky, well-organized and easy-to-digest chapters. Now the turf editor for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Eng knows what novices and seasoned pros must understand if they want to make an intelligent decision regarding which horse to bet and why.

He also understands how much has changed over the recent decade in the sport and for bettors, including advanced handicapping resources such as the Beyer Speed Figures, Ragozin Sheets and Thoro-Graph, Brisnet for example; as well as handicapping tournaments and betting by phone or betting in Las Vegas.

Eng doesn't neglect harness racing enthusiasts (10 pages) or quarter horse racing (six pages), for those who need a primer in those areas, but it is the sequence of material and the clarity of writing and his examples and explanations which are the strength of this book.

Thoroughbred racing needs a shot in the arm to revive the sport--new bettors, new marketing, new ideas, fresh energy and Eng's book is a fine start toward education of horseplayers, particularly those who like fast action, compared to the 15 or so minutes they must wait between races. Thoroughbred racing takes thought, research, discipline, patience and money management.

Eng is like the ever-patient teacher we remember in grade school or high school. He has organized chapters explaining the different types of races; how pari-mutuel racing operates; what the various straight or exotic bets are; how to prepare for your first trip to the track; understanding a track's layout and how to observe and learn from what you see during the paddock inspection and post parade.

He outlines the importance of a jockey, the role of trainers, the economics of horse ownership; understanding track surfaces and track biases; the impact of equipment changes plus bandages and the use of lasix.

For many, understanding the Daily Racing Form is still a problem, with its many abbreviations and success depends on how you interpret and apply the statistical material in the Form.

Eng begins to focus on actual handicapping at page 149, with material on finding value in the odds; the importance of post positions, weight, speed, pace and looking for overlays. His discussion of bankroll control or money management is one of the most vital areas, for without it, all horseplayers are lost.

For those who want big payoffs, Eng informs the player about the exacta, quinella, trifecta and superperfecta, then moves to the daily double, pick 3, 4 5 and 6; the place pick all and even future bets, then follows with part-wheels and boxing.

The book offers common sense guidelines and angles to watch for or test. With the growth of national handicapping tournaments, Eng proves background on how it works and how to maintain your focus and survive.

There's a small section on what to expect at your OTB (Off Track Betting) operation; with another chapter on 10 betting angles; 10 best racetracks to visit and 10 common betting mistakes to avoid.

Overall, this is a wonderful book to get a friend or, relative started betting the ponies or one for someone who really doesn't have it all together but always seems to have a challenging question which takes some time to answer. It's a fine gift item for someone or a solid refresher course for you.

(The books mentioned here are available from Gambler's Book Shop, 630 South 11th Street, Las Vegas, NV 89101. Call l-800-522-1777 from 9 to 5 Monday through Saturday Pacific time to order, using only MasterCard, VISA or Discover card (no Amex accepted). You may order through the store web site at www.gamblersbook.com and view the store's 1,000 books, videos and computer software. You may also call or write and ask for the free 80-page catalog to be sent to you. The store, founded in 1964 by John and Edna Luckman, is located about two miles from Downtown Las Vegas, and the same distance from where the Strip begins, a block west of Maryland Parkway, just off Charleston Boulevard.)