On Jan. 12, I was talking to a friend named Henri about a royal flush he hit the day before. He felt his $1,000 jackpots have been few and far between so he was quite happy.
“I played another half hour or so after the royal and went on home,” he told me. “I didn’t want to risk giving it back. I wanted to hang on to it for at least one day.”
Henri’s reaction wasn’t unusual, I suppose, but to me it’s pure nonsense. Henri lives in Las Vegas and plays for quarters at least 300 days a year. He’s smart enough and knowledgeable enough that he’s a big favorite to be ahead at the end of the year.
Let’s say he ends up ahead $5,800 at the end of the year. This is a reasonable expectation for him considering the games he plays, the amount he plays, and how much skill he has. (Luck while playing has very little to do with it. He’ll play more than 1,000 hours this year and luck will pretty well average out. His end-of-the-year score will fairly represent what he deserves.)
Henri is basically retired and plays video poker for recreation, although he really wants to win. So long as his score isn’t too far negative, he can play video poker for as long as he’s alive. And he has the skill to be ahead most years.
Does it matter at all whether he was ahead $920 on Jan. 11 and behind $60 on Jan. 12 compared to being ahead $815 on Jan. 11 and ahead $45 on Jan. 12?
According to my calculations, they both add up to $860 ahead over the two days. It’s the end-of-the-year scores that are relatively important. The end-of-the-day scores aren’t important at all.
His decision variables on both Jan. 11 and 12 remained the same. He plays on point multiplier days when he can and keeps up enough play at about eight casinos so he gets regular free play.
He’d decided beforehand that he needed to play about eight hours over the two days to keep up his mailers. He knows from personal experience that he’s able to stay sharp playing four hours a day, but he sometimes starts making mistakes if he plays longer than that.
He hit the royal after about an hour of play on Jan. 11. Since he quit after another half hour, this will leave 6.5 hours to play on Jan. 12. Will this be too long so he’ll make mistakes? Who knows for sure this time, but over time this will cost him as he tends to make mistakes with longer sessions.
If he had a headache or was otherwise feeling poorly, cutting his Jan. 11 session short would make some sense. But his reason was that he wanted the money in his pocket for 24 hours.
Was he going to spread it on his bed and wallow in it? I certainly don’t know. But if so, it’s probably time his friends help him find a girlfriend.
If this gives him psychic pleasure, it’s fine with me. Henri is a friend and whatever makes him happy is OK in my book. But if he thinks this is going to help him have a better score at the end of the year he is dead wrong.
Games should be chosen based on pay schedule, slot club, promotions and personal idiosyncrasies, such as only being able to play four hours a day accurately. Assuming you are playing for comfortable stakes, whether you are ahead or behind so far today should have no bearing on when you quit.
Instead of Henri’s exact circumstances, let’s say he hit the same royal but was only going to play 30 hours this year because he lived out of town and didn’t get to play in casinos very frequently. In those circumstances, would Henri’s “quit while you’re ahead” strategy made any more sense?
No it wouldn’t. Assuming the Jan. 11 conditions were typical for him, all “hours in the future” are equal. Whether he played an extra two hours on Jan. 11 and two hours less on Jan. 12 or vice versa would make no difference.
Going home to sleep with your money has no intelligent mathematical reason behind it whatsoever. But at the same time, quitting early has no mathematical penalty behind it either. If one way or the other “floats your boat,” go ahead and indulge. But don’t pretend you are being smart for doing so.
Bob Dancer teaches free video poker classes. Check out www.bobdancer.com for the current schedule of classes.