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The Value of Practice

20 September 2014

By Jerry Stickman
Arnold Palmer once quipped, “It’s a funny thing, the more I practice the luckier I get.” There is a whole lot of truth to what he said.

Practice is important in developing and honing any skill.

The greats in sports have rigorous practice sessions. Tennis great Ivan Lendl once said, “If I don’t practice the way I should, then I won’t play the way I know I can.” Another tennis star, Andre Agassi, is quoted as saying, “If you don’t practice you don’t deserve to win.”

A good friend and fellow video poker player and I were talking about our video poker playing exploits recently. We both keep track of a variety of information during our playing sessions. Our records both include statistics used for supporting gambling wins and losses when reporting to the IRS such as location, casino, machine number, game type, denomination, start time, end time, money inserted, and money cashed out.

In addition we both keep other information that can be helpful in analyzing our play. This information includes number of hands played, number of four-of-a-kinds, number of straight flushes and number of royals. I also keep track of the number of 4 to a flush dealt and the number of these that are filled.

According to the video poker software we use, he should have been getting a straight flush once every 9,000 hands or so and a royal once every 40,000 hands – on average over the long run. Upon reviewing his statistics he noted that he only got three straight flushes and two royal flushes over that last 135,000 hands.

Based on the long term average, he should have hit at least three royals and 15 straight flushes. Variance can easily account for the one royal that he is down and it could possibly also account for the 12 straight flush shortfall, but that is certainly more unlikely.

I told him to try playing a few hands on my video poker training software to see how well he had his strategy down. It didn’t take long before the source of his problem became clear. Whenever he had two or three high cards he would always hold them even though there was a three card straight flush.

Not every three card straight flush is a better hold than any two high cards, but by not holding the proper combinations he dramatically reduced his changes of hitting the elusive straight flush hands.

That got me to thinking. I have been playing video poker for years and felt I had the strategy down cold. I play several times a month and am very comfortable with the game. I carry a strategy card with me and look at it when I am unsure of a close call, but that is it. I feel I have the strategy mastered. But after what I saw with my friend I decided to try my hand at the video poker training software myself. I felt it would be no problem playing at least one thousand hands error-free.

Was I in for a surprise!

I would miss a low pair on occasion when I had a couple of high cards. I, too, would miss three of a straight flush on occasion. It was brutal. It was humbling.

But it was also inevitable. My “practice” was simply play in the casino. I had no way of knowing when I made a mistake unless I happened to catch it myself. It was at this point I remembered a couple of other quotes I have heard. The first is by Ed Murrow. “We cannot make good news out of bad practice.” The second is one I use when helping others attain their goals. The great Vince Lombardi said, “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”

I had not followed this advice in my own play feeling I was too good to bother with training software. Well no more. From now on my practice will be perfect practice. By using the software to highlight my mistaken tendencies, I can better hone my skills and produce the best results possible.
A word to the wise: don’t feel you are too good for training. You will set yourself up for a fall when you do.

May all your wins be swift and large and all your losses slow and tiny.

Jerry “Stickman”

Jerry “Stickman wrote the video poker section in “Everything Casino Poker.” You can contact Jerry “Stickman” at

This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at


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Jerry Stickman
Jerry "Stickman" is an expert in dice control at craps, blackjack, advantage slots and video poker. He is a regular contributor to top gaming magazines. The "Stickman" is also a certified instructor for Golden Touch Craps dice control classes and Golden Touch Blackjack's advantage classes. He also teaches a course in advantage-play slots and video poker. For more information visit or or call 1-800-944-0406 for a free brochure. You can contact Jerry "Stickman" at

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