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by Frank Kneeland

Frank Kneeland was the manager of the largest progressive video poker team in Las Vegas, and has authored a book about his adventures entitled, "The Secret World of Video Poker Progressives". You can get the book as well as some extra info about Kneeland on his website Also, there you'll find a show archive from his radio show on pro Gambling that he co-hosted with Bob Dancer for six months.

"I am of the mind that thinking, well, isn't merely a good idea." ~FK

Hope you all liked my comedy-article last month on how to "win" at gambling. I have a follow-up! Despite my admonitions to the effect that nothing in the article was serious, a fellow who read it came up to me last week and said that based on "my advice," he had stopped keeping records so he could enjoy his "wins" more ... and thanked me for the great tip. I didn't think he was kidding. I have seldom been rendered speechless, but this certainly did the trick. I really didn't know what to say.

I had intended to start a series of articles this month on gambling psychology to help all of you make better-informed decisions on gambling related matters. Rather than tell you about things I have figured out over my long gambling career, it is my hope that in the next few months I can share with you all the information you'll need to overcome our inherent human biases and impart some tools to help you figure things out on your own. I'm preempting that discussion, however, because I went to the Global Gaming Conference this month and want to share some of the things I found there, one of which could change the whole face of video poker.

G2E & ME

For those of you unfamiliar with G2E (Global Gaming Conference), it is a yearly convention where all the major gaming distributors get together to show off their new wares and discuss where the industry is going, or where to take it forcibly. I am reminded of that quote, "There go my people. I must find out where they are going so I can lead them." Yeah, well it's just like that with hot booth babes, free wine and all the glitz, glamour, and class you'd expect from a Vegas Strip Club. It's is not open to the public, but they do let the media in. Much to my surprise, I am now media. Funny, I don't feel any different.

Obviously, as you'd expect, some of the things coming down the pike are just fancier versions of what's out there already. One press person told me that the industry is focusing on adding home video-game quality animation to the gaming experience. This may or may not improve the entertainment value of some games for recreational gamblers. To me it just means that if I intend to play a new progressive slot machine, I'll be bringing a book to read during the now longer and more frequent imposed delays.

It wasn't all fluff, there were a few standouts, and one thing that is either going to be a huge boon or the death knell of advantage play. Only time will tell. Here's what I saw.

The Same, But Different

Shocking Developments: If you liked Shockwave Poker, then you'll really like the gen 2 changes they have made to the program. It's called Super Shockwave. Now if you get another four of a kind during the shock-wave feature, it doesn't end it, it re-triggers it and gives you much more opportunity for those huge 4K pays. This adds quite a bit to the return. When they hit the floors, I may do an article on correct strategy for the new Shockwave and cite some returns or how to figure them out for yourselves. In addition to the re-trigger, you now have your choice of four derivations of the shock-wave bonus. You can get huge 4K bonuses for the next five hands, or proportionally smaller bonuses for 10, 15, or 20 hands, respectively. I would, of course, recommend always going for the larger number of hands with the smaller bonuses, because it reduces variance.

Hit It Again: The new game that most caught my attention is, in some ways, like Shockwave, if you added a bonus round to all the hands and a progressive on the top to boot. If you hit a three of a kind or better it makes you eligible to hit a progressive that stunningly goes up one coin (that's 25 cents on quarters) per hand during the "hit it again" feature. Need I tell you how much that is? In meter rise terms it would be 20% MR, if these were five-coin machines. However, they are not. You pay an extra coin for each paying combination you wish to make yourself eligible for up to a maximum of five extra coins. These are dead coins in the sense that betting 10 you'd only get back five on a pay pair. The enormous "hit it again" bonuses do make up for this high cost and anything with a progressive meter on it that goes up multiple coins every hand will not always be under 100% return and safely ignorable. The strategy will be mind boggling hard, even for the most determined VP professionals, but the edge will be there. This one's going to separate the men from the boys. It is not yet licensed in Nevada; ETA six months.

Power Play: A new game called Power Quads makes getting one of every four of a kind a bonus jackpot. For those of you familiar with the Gamblers Bonus (available in bars in Vegas) this is nothing new. This game allows logging into an account, so you don't have to get them all in one session. The cycle length to hit all 13 quads is about 19,000 hands, if you were wondering. Figure just under two to every RF.

Fast Fours: Rather than being an advancement to Quick Quads, I was told it was actually the game's precursor, but it didn't catch on in the 80's. Now on the heels of the Quick Quad success, they have decided to bring it back. Very similar to Quick Quads it is quite different. You bet only five coins, as the pay structure, rather than extra coin, absorbs the increased quad frequency. Aces can count as 1 or 11. In addition, the face cards count as 10's. I imagine the strategy is very tough. I have no plans to do one, but I'm sure someone else will.

Magic Touch Poker: Ok...are you sitting down? You should be. Never in the history of video poker has a casino been able to track your accuracy. Sure, they know what you play, but not how you play it. Mostly they track results and even in the worst heat joints, if you are losing they will consider you a good customer (translation: loser). Well, not anymore! With a built in VP trainer, Magic Touch Poker tells you if you make a less than optimal hold. It also allows for the transmission of your error rate as a new metric to your slot club account. Basically, it works like this. You play, if you make the best hold it begins spelling out the words "magic touch poker" one letter at a time. Every time you have gotten enough holds correctly in a row, you earn a pro tip. You can then use these before the draw as a built in coach. If you get a hold wrong, it only tells you after the draw unless you use a tip. There is talk about adapting a version of the software to work silently behind the scenes on all VP machines. My guess is that the cost to casinos will make this far less than ubiquitous. We can only hope. On one hand, it will allow even players with only moderate skill to play nearly flawless, as long as they know enough to know what they don't know and request tips at the right time. On the other hand, it will allow casinos to know how much you know. I see this as potentially a bad thing. These machines are currently on trial at Red Rock Station, or so I was told.

Overall, I had fun at the conference. How much of that was due to the free wine is anybody's guess.

Note: Bob Dancer and I went to the G2E together and he wrote his own article on what we found there. Naturally, there is some overlap, but you may find his a different take on things informative:

Next month: Catching The Tabula Rasa Fairy—a Frank talk about how the limitations of human perception fool us into making bad choices where gambling is concerned.

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