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by Paul Wilson

BJI contributing writer Paul Wilson is a quasi-Renaissance man and graduate of Millsaps College. Some of his interests and hobbies include finance, consulting, travel, photography, and rock music. He's an avid baseball fan. Paul has done freelance writing and editing for gaming publications and takes blackjack, video poker, and sports betting very seriously. As we learned in the November 2014 issue, he also might have a "thing" for Wonder Woman.

In last month's issue of Blackjack Insider I posed the question "Cash or Comps?" My intent was to make you think, perhaps do some soul searching, or engage in a dialogue with yourself and/or your gambling friends. It worked for me. In fact, late evening on Mother's Day, despite having a large win a mere press of the "cash out" button away, I continued to play thanks to a 5x points video poker promotion. I had set a goal of how much coin-in (CI) I hoped to play and was only 36 percent of the way to my CI goal. I ended up playing twice the amount of CI I had planned and gave back about 20 percent of my winnings. It's easy to second-guess yourself, but I had no qualms with my decision and am always thankful for winning sessions.

This month I am going to continue the cash/comps theme by presenting a recent interview with a gambling acquaintance of mine that fights the good fight in this realm. For the purpose of this interview, I'll call him KO (to protect the guilty, err, I mean innocent). I met KO playing video poker a few years back at Palace Station. He asked me a simple question to confirm a point multiplier and we struck up a conversation. This set the framework for a long, protracted discussion of gambling, comps, sports, and sundry other topics that continues to do this day. So despite what your mother and Rick Springfield ("Don't Talk to Strangers") might have told you, you can still meet quality people in Las Vegas. Sometimes you just have to say "hello." I'm proud to say, KO is one of the better people you'll meet and I think his story can help educate you. I'll let him take it from here. Enjoy.

BJI: Please tell the readers a bit about yourself, KO; for example, your occupation, education, and gambling preferences.

KO: My background? Let's see, I was a high school teacher and coach for 37 years.  I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Social Studies and Physical Education. I also earned a Master of Sciences degree in Education Administration. As far as gambling goes, I'm a video poker player. I like video poker because your mind is active and there is a chip inside the machine that has nothing against you. So you should never get angry, maybe frustrated a little.

BJI: How long you have been playing video poker and when did you first visit Las Vegas?

KO: I have been playing for 16 years and that was my first visit to Vegas, but I was staying in Laughlin and took a ride up to Las Vegas. The first three years I didn't really play that much and when I did, it was very ignorantly.

BJI: You've come a long way since then with regards to your video poker knowledge. I know you don't consider yourself a professional player, but you aren't a "floppy" either. You're a pretty serious "recreational player," right?

KO: Yeah, that's probably pretty accurate. I enjoy the challenge and try to win. I've definitely learned a lot over the years, but certainly not a professional.

BJI: What are your preferred video poker games and did you read books or study strategy cards to learn the games you play?

KO: My preferred games are 9/6 Jacks or Better (JOB) and 8/5 Bonus Poker (BP) because I like the low volatility and the intellectual requirements of the strategy to play these games well. I think the programs on the Travel Channel about gambling in Las Vegas inspired me to study video poker and play it all the time as my choice of gambling.  I also purchased books; "American Mensa Guide to Casino Gambling" and Bob Dancer's "Million Dollar Video Poker" were the first ones and the most influential. I also have Optimum Video Poker. 

(Note: Optimum Video Poker is a video poker strategy training software program developed by Dan Paymar that allows the user to set the pay schedules for the game they want to learn. The software will teach the player the correct strategy for each dealt hand.)

BJI: Do you mind sharing with the readers what denomination of credits you play? I imagine you track your coin-in (CI) and hours played carefully too?

KO: I'm a quarters player about 90% of the time and sometimes step up and play dollars the remaining 10%. I don't play terribly fast and prefer to focus on playing the hands correctly and enjoying myself. I manage to put in 4-5 hours of play per day and average between $4,000 and $6,000 in CI per day. It adds up over a 9- or 10-day trip.

BJI: How did you build your gambling bankroll and about how much do you budget to spend on logistics each trip?

KO: I built my trip bankroll by...

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