Unrealistic Expectations – Gambling With An Edge

Many of you know that I participate in storytelling events. I’ve been regularly attending a workshop to improve my skills.

Recently, after we had all practiced our stories online for the day, Pete, the leader who lives on the East Coast, asked me if I would be willing to take him around and show him how to play were he to come to Vegas.

I was surprised by this. I’ve basically never had such a request before. My answer off the top of my head was inappropriate. I told him that I charge $250 per hour for private consultations, and there is no game I could show him how to play which would cover my fee. He told me he wouldn’t be taking me up on the deal.

The reason it was an inappropriate response is that Pete is a Zoom friend, someone who has helped me improve at something I wanted to do, and basically a good guy. Bottom line is that if he wanted me to spend three or four hours with him gambling at video poker — why not? He’s a friend and he’s worth it.

I could get us both coupon books from the Las Vegas Advisor and the American Casino Guide and go around town cashing coupons with him. There are a number of match plays and other easy-money deals in there and we would probably end up ahead. This is a once-per-year-per-person run, but both of us would be eligible because I haven’t made such a run in years. However, it’s not video poker and he’s been told I’m a video poker expert. If he’s going to have me there helping him, video poker is probably the game he expects to play.

I don’t think this will end well. I think Pete is looking to spend a few pleasant hours, learn a little about gambling, and end up $100 or $200 ahead. If he actually lost $100 or $200, it could be a burden on him. Not a disaster, perhaps, but a problem. He doesn’t have a lot of discretionary funds and I’ve seen him react badly when things don’t go his way.

The problem is, he’s thinking about doing this because he wants some easy money, and I can’t guarantee he’ll win. I certainly don’t win all the time myself, and with translation errors because I tell him to do one thing and he either misunderstands or for some other reason doesn’t do what I tell him to do, his results would likely be less than optimal. That’s a gambling fact of life.

If I sat him down at a quarter Full Pay Deuces Wild machine at one of the Arizona Charlie’s, with the (miniscule for this game) slot club he’d have a 0.8% advantage. This is about as big of an edge as I can get him. And it’s a fairly simple and intuitive game. At the speed we would be playing, the average return would be $5 an hour. But players of this game know that if you don’t hit a royal (worth $1,000) or four deuces (worth $250) today, you’re going to end up hundreds of dollars behind. We might play 1,000 hands over two hours, but royals come about every 45,000 hands on average, and four deuces come about every 4900 hands on average. Either or both could happen on this particular day, but the odds are against it.

So, on the best game that I can lead him to, he’s a favorite to be down $200 or so. This is not what he has in mind. Being told that we were playing a good game and together we could play every hand correctly, but still lose, is not likely to be information that nurtures him.

The easiest solution, I suppose, is to take him out to dinner, give him $200, and tell him not to gamble. Even if he followed those instructions, the money wouldn’t pay for his plane trip. There are casinos in his state that are much cheaper for him to get to. He won’t find Full Pay Deuces Wild there, but if he wants to gamble for a small amount, it’s cheaper for him to go there than fly to Vegas.


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