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by Frank Kneeland

Frank Kneeland is the former manager of the largest progressive slot team in Las Vegas back in the 90's, and author of a book about his adventures entitled, "The Secret World of Video Poker Progressives." The book is part history and part "how to," and should be perfect for out-and-out beginners and veterans alike. You can read more about the book, and some extra info about Kneeland, on his website You can also listen to his new radio show in Las Vegas (with co-host Bob Dancer), "Gambling With and Edge," at 7PM Thursday nights on KLAV Talk-Radio 1230am, or listen streaming at Archived shows will be posted at: Weekly prizes will be given away, so listening live is better.


This month I decided to preempt my BJI series of articles on progressive video poker to present, instead, the article you are about to read. (We'll get back to our regularly scheduled program next month.) The article is certainly intended for VP players, but it also useful to a slightly larger demographic; namely, anyone still sucking air.

Since the readership of the BJI is no doubt composed of more than one "smart person," I thought it best to detail one of the areas where "high intelligence" can be a curse rather than a blessing. Specifically, a good memory can get you into a lot of trouble in VP if you are good at noticing patterns and searching them in random events. You WILL find them, but ... pay attention to this ... they cannot be used as predictors of the future and they should be ignored. In this case, intelligence can be a handicap, unless one has had special training to avoid this mental trap. College courses in probability span years and still fail to overcome deeply ingrained beliefs that we are exposed to as children and as adults.

I have a subheading in my book entitled "Faces in the Clouds" that covers just this case. It is the inclusion of this type of information in my book (absent in other VP tomes), which prompted me to state with confidence on my website that my book is for everyone, even players that don't play progressives or gamble at all. Rather than restate what I have already published, I'll summarize with a new analogy I recently came up with while guest hosting a radio show. Let's open with a quote:

Highway to Hell Part 1:

There was no question as to the intelligent design of the canals of Mars. The only question was, "Which side of the telescope that intelligence was on?" Where we have strong emotions, we're liable to fool ourselves.

Carl Sagan, Cosmos (Blues for a Red Planet) (summarized)

Imagine you are traveling down a road with "adopt a highway" mile markers posted every mile, stating which families are responsible for the upkeep of each segment of the highway. You notice as you travel down the highway the following:

Mile one, belonging to the Robinson family, is clean.

Mile two, belonging to the Smith family, is dirty.

Mile three, belonging to the Mortensen family, is spotless.

Mile four, belonging to the Curmudgeon family, is filthy.

And so on...

Almost every person on the planet, including me, would at first conclude that the Mortensen family must have their act together, and the Curmudgeon family (as well as having a ridiculous name) must be dropping the ball. This might even be a true conclusion; however, the markers provide some information, incomplete and misleading though it may be. Consider that we are making this dogmatic judgment about family performance without the slightest inclusion of the random distribution of trash along the road. This common mental deficit in nearly all humans is related to the phenomenon know as "The base rate fallacy," or "base rate neglect." The families who have adopted a stretch of highway are responsible for cleaning; however, they are not the ones making the mess. The random distribution of trash by littering travelers is by far the more important piece of information required to make a sound judgment about the true cause of trash placement along the route. However, this information is neither provided nor available. Therefore, as the flawed beings that we are, our minds fill in the blanks with what is available, which in this case turns out to be the same thing scattered about our mythical highway...garbage.

Now that you should have the basic idea, let's add to it and make the analogy even more applicable to video poker.

Highway to Hell Part 2:

Now imagine you are traveling down a lonely road that was the target of college hazing by the well-known fraternity Delta Lota Kappa (DIK for short). Prospective members had to plant "adopt a highway" mile markers every mile on a stretch of unmaintained road, with either made-up names, or the names of the school's staff. You then travel down this route, with completely random distributions of trash, where the mile markers are contrived and literally tell you less than nothing... and notice that:

Mile one, belonging to Dean Smith, is boring and bald.

Mile two, belonging to Professor Cully, is dirty and smelly.

Mile three, belonging to the Dickless family, is spotless and flat.

Mile four, belonging to the Bush family, is filthy and disorganized.

And so on... (No offense to anyone real is intended.)

Now it is the time for introspection and honesty. Assuming you knew nothing of the ruse, can you really tell me you wouldn't draw any conclusion whatsoever about the names printed on the signs, or at least, after seeing the state of their mile, suspect possible negligence on the part of the Bush Family,???..???

Of course, you would. We all would! It is human nature. However, here is the real point: THERE ARE NO MILE MARKERS. It is one continuous stretch of unmaintained road, which simply has imaginary lines of demarcation that force our minds down one-way dead end streets. This is the very sophomoric prank we play on our own minds every time we change video poker machines, leave a casino, go to sleep and get up, alter strategy on a hunch, put on a different sweater, etc. ... ad infinitum. Anything that could possibly be used as a waypoint in our thoughts to measure success or failure between "here---and---there" will be grasped by our subconscious and used to fool us. Random events have no patterns beyond the ones we create in our own minds that is the very definition of random, "Having no specific pattern, purpose, or objective". It would be fine to see if there was a correlation between stormy weather and the time of year. But seeing if the last digit in our Gregorian calendar also effected the occurrence of storms would be ludicrous, since numerical dates are imposed human constructs, and we can only hope in our heart of hearts that Hurricane Harry doesn't know it's the 3rd of February and choose to strike New Orleans during Mardi Gras.

Looking for patterns isn't always a bad idea, but we just don't know when to leave well enough alone.

The only way to win is not to play the game.

~War Games



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