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The bankroll you save may be your own!

By Jerry “Stickman” Stitch


It is early morning—my favorite time in a casino. There are very few people around so I have my choice of games. Also, with the dearth of gamblers, very little smoke and/or smokers are around.

It is true what they say: There is nothing worse than a former smoker.

I smoked a pack and a half of Camel straights each day for several years. When I finally crawled out from under my habit 30 years ago, the smell of others smoking went from wildly enticing in the first several weeks after my last cigarette to violently nauseating. The smell of others smoking cigarettes is still totally repugnant to me, though I am better able to tolerate the acrid haze.

Back at the casino, I am sitting at a full-pay video poker game. I am minding my own business, quietly playing. I’m alert, focused and holding my own on the credit meter. I am sitting near one end of a totally empty bar that has roughly 16 multi-game, multi-denomination video poker machines in the bar top.

I must have looked particularly friendly because a long-inebriated, chain-smoking woman plopped her reeking frame on the chair right next to me. She fumbled with a 20 dollar bill, attempting to feed it into the machine. After several attempts she finally succeeded.

“Whatcha playin’,” she slobbers in my direction.

“Jacks or Better,” I reply, not even pausing my play or looking at her.

“I never play that sissy game. I play Double Double. You should try it,” she mumbles as she blows a huge cloud of blue smoke in my direction.

I say nothing, trying to ignore her and fervently hoping beyond all hope she will take the hint and leave me alone.

“I said, Double Double is the only game to play,” she insists while blowing another toxic cloud my way.

At that instant, I hit the Draw button prematurely, failing to save all five cards of a full house—netting two pair instead—costing me 35 credits.

I was so angry I cashed out, grabbed my stuff and moved to the other end of the bar. I inserted my cash ticket into the machine and started playing again. But I was still angry. I wasn’t focused. I missed a low pair. Then I didn’t make sure all three cards of a three of a kind were held, leaving me with nothing but a low pair. Zilch instead of 15 credits. Finally I relented, cashed out and took a break to cool down.

I had gone “on tilt.”

There are many definitions for the term, but the one I like is: A poker term for a state of mental or emotional confusion or frustration in which a player adopts a less-than optimal strategy, usually resulting in the player becoming over-aggressive.

It happens regularly in poker, even to the pros. After suffering a bad beat (having a strong hand such as a full house but losing to a stronger hand such as four of a kind), poker players can lose all discipline.

But it can also happen in video poker. The causes are varied. Some examples of things that can cause a video poker player to go on tilt are:

  • Obnoxious behavior by a neighboring player; loud comments, shouting, foul language, blowing smoke at you.
  • Losing very rapidly—virtually never getting any winning hands over a prolonged period.
  • Never filling hands that should fill somewhat regularly such as four of a flush.
  • As your credit meter spins rapidly down, hearing other players’ games rack up the credits. This can be especially annoying when the game’s volume controls are set high.
  • The bartender or a neighboring player who wants to constantly chat.
  • The player next to you constantly asking for playing advice. The player next to you constantly offering playing advice.

You get the idea. When things are not going well for you, or even when things are not going exactly as you would like them, you are a candidate for going on tilt. Any time you find your emotions running high you are most likely already on tilt.

How can going on tilt be avoided? We are humans, not machines, so we will all probably go on tilt at times. The more we play and understand the natural and inevitable ebb and flow of the game, the less likely it is to happen. Also, having a large enough bankroll that is strictly devoted to gambling will also do wonders in staying off tilt.

But “tilt” will happen. When it happens to you it is important to recognize it and act on it. Act quickly —before you do damage to yourself and most likely to your bankroll. Cash out. Walk out of the casino. Continue to walk around or sit somewhere and relax until your emotions are back to normal. When you are sure you are on an even keel you can once again attack the casino games.

Casinos have enough of an edge already built into their games. Don’t give them any more than that by raging out of control. The bankroll you save will be your own.

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