RISK OF RUIN
How to analyze your risk playing video poker
By Henry Tamburin
There is an excellent software program that does accurate bankroll and risk-of-ruin (i.e., RoR) calculations for a wide variety of video poker games. The author of the program is “Dunbar,” a professional gambler who has a strong mathematical background and a Ph.D. in biophysics. Dunbar first became interested in video poker in the early 1990’s, and co-authored the first article that showed how to solve long-term risk-of-ruin problems for video poker. In 2005, he created his acclaimed software, Dunbar’s Risk Analyzer for Video Poker, which enabled video poker players to assess risks and bankroll requirements for short-term trips as well as long-term play. To get the low down on the software (including the enhanced v2.0 that was recently released), I conducted this exclusive interview with him.
Can you briefly explain what is meant by risk-of-ruin for readers unfamiliar with that term?
“Risk of ruin” is the chance that you go broke. For example, if your risk-of-ruin on a weekend trip to Las Vegas is 50%, it means that there’s a 50% chance you’ll lose all the gambling money you brought with you.
What are the major benefits of your software for average video poker players?
Dunbar’s Risk Analyzer can help you decide which games are best suited for the money you’re willing to risk. Or, if there’s a game you know you will play, it can help you decide how much money to bring with you on a trip. It can also tell you your chance of winning or losing various amounts of money.
Can you give an example of how your software calculates how much money a player needs to bring?
Suppose you want to play 25-cent Jacks or Better (“JOB”) for four hours at a leisurely 400 hands/hour. Dunbar’s Risk Analyzer will tell you that if you bring $200, you’ll have just an 8% chance of going broke. That’s for a 9/6 JOB pay table. But what if the best you can find is 8/5 JOB? Then your chance of losing your $200 increases to 17%.
Will the software give risk-of-ruin data for multi-line games?
Yes, it analyzes multi-line games, too. For example, suppose you want to play 25-cent 9/6 JOB on a Triple-Line game for four hours and you want to know if a $200 bankroll is still enough? Nope! Your risk-of-ruin would soar to 55%. You’d need to bring $450 to get your risk-of-ruin back under 10%.
Besides determining your short term risk, your software can help someone determine how much bankroll he needs in the long term to prevent going broke. Can you give an example?
The process is the same as for a weekend trip. If you set aside some money for the year for video poker, then you just enter the number of hours you want to play for the year and the software will calculate your risk-of-ruin. You can even split your play between up to five different video poker games. If the “RoR” is too high, you’ll know you either need to set aside more money, or plan to play less, or play a different mix of games.
A lot of players wish they knew beforehand if they had a shot at being ahead, say $1000, playing video poker over a weekend. Will your software calculate the chance that this could happen?
Yes. For example, say a player wants to play 20 hours of dollar 9/6 JOB and he wants to know the chance he will ever be $1000 ahead. Assuming 400 hands/hour, the answer is 22%.
Likewise, some players who take a trip to Las Vegas to play video poker would like to know what their chances are of winning (or losing) a specific amount of their bankroll that they set aside to play video poker. Does your software do these types of calculations?
Yes it does. For example, playing 20 hours of dollar 9/6 JOB, there is a 16% chance that you would win more than $2000, and just a 10% chance that you would lose more than $2000. If instead, you played the lower-paying 8/5 JOB, you’d have a much greater chance (36%) of losing more than $2000!
Many video poker players, who heed the advice of experts to play only full pay video poker games and take full advantage of multiple point promotions and bounce back, want to know how long it will take them to get ahead? Does your software give them an answer to this question?
Yes, it will. For example, let’s say the value of the cash back, bounce back and promos adds 1.5% to the 9/6 25-cent JOB game we looked at earlier. Dunbar’s Risk Analyzer tells you that you’d have to play the game for 448 hours to have a 5/6 chance of being ahead. It also tells you that if you want your very long-term RoR to be no more than 1%, you’ll need to have a $4,120 bankroll.
How many video poker games are preloaded on your software?
Dunbar’s Risk Analyzer comes preloaded with 54 video poker pay tables; 46 of them can be used as 3-, 5-, and 10-line games. There is room to add 50 additional custom games. While Spin Poker, Multi-Strike, and Super Times Pay games are not preloaded, I will add up to four of these games upon request at any time after purchase.
You recently released an enhanced version (2.0) of your software. What are some of the new features?
The software now does multi-line games. You can now analyze games with progressive jackpots or with a jackpot bonus. You can split your play between several games and see what the results will look like after each game. You can look at how stopping when you reach a “goal” affects you end results.
What are the PC requirements to run your software?
Dunbar’s Risk Analyzer requires Excel (Version 2002 or later) running in any Windows environment.
Where can someone purchase your software?
DRA-VP 2.0 is available for about $20 from ShopLVA.com, bj21.com, and GamblersBook-Club.com.
Henry Tamburin is a blackjack and video poker expert. He is the host of the smartgaming.com website and the editor of the Blackjack Insider newsletter (for a free three-month subscription, visit www.bjinsider.com/free-trial). For a free copy of his Casino Gambling Catalog, which contains books, strategy cards, and software for casino players, call toll free 1-888-353-3234, or visit the web store at smartgaming.com.