Bob Dancer - A Master of Video Poker
According to his own website, Bob Dancer is "the world's foremost video poker expert and a regular columnist for Casino Player, Strictly Slots, and the Las Vegas Review-Journal." He's won well over a million dollars during his career, with the bulk of it coming during an amazing six-month stretch at the MGM Grand video poker machines in the winter of 2001.
In addition to the above, Bob does consulting, teaches seminars, writes books, and still finds time to turn a profit at the VP machines. He's also an avid dancer, which is what caused him to adopt the pen name "Dancer" in the first place.
The Life, Love, and Gambling Adventures of Bob Dancer
Video poker players are likely to have heard of Bob Dancer, but they may be unaware of some of the more notable details of his life. In this section, it's my goal to remedy that.
Born in 1947, Bob Dancer spent the early years of his life pursuing the same hobbies and interests as other American males. He grew up, went to college, and earned himself a degree. By the time he was in his mid-20s, Bob had landed a promising job as an economist with the Rand Corporation. Then he read an article in Playboy magazine, and it changed his whole life.
The story happened to be about backgammon, and it caught the young Dancer's attention. Before long, he was devouring any book he could find on the subject, slowing developing a comprehensive knowledge of the game.
After being laid off by the Rand Corporation, he moved to Los Angeles at the invitation of a friend. He soon began frequenting the Cavendish West, a private club where both poker and backgammon were on the menu for gamblers.
Bob realized that he had a lot to learn about the art of gambling, as his early competitive experiences were less than impressive. He refused to quit, though, and his dedication to improvement allowed him to pay the bills by playing a game he loved.
This went on for six years, and Dancer finally decided to get back into the mundane workforce. In 1980, he took a job in the growing field of computer programming, although he continued to improve at backgammon whenever time allowed.
For the next nine years, Dancer continued to punch a clock during the day and indulge his love for backgammon during the evening hours. He also took an interest in blackjack during this period, and occasional trips to Las Vegas allowed him to hone his card counting techniques.
He returned in the Cavendish West in 1989, and his improved skillset resulted in a more successful run. Bob was once again laid off in 1991, and that's when he decided to pursue the life of a professional gambler.
That same year, Bob met a young woman named Ginnie. The pair shared a mutual love for dancing, and it wasn't long before he was also sharing his passion for blackjack with her. This led to numerous trips to Las Vegas, with the pair taking advantage of promotional offers and Bob's card counting skills.
In 1993, they moved to Las Vegas to devote themselves to blackjack. Their bankroll confined them to the low-limit tables, but they made up the difference by using coupons and working any available promotional programs. During the year-and-a-half they played the game, Bob later estimated that the couple made $12,000 from blackjack and another $21,000 from promotional opportunities.
As time passed, however, the duo became known around the casinos of Las Vegas, and they found it increasingly difficult to make money off coupons. Before long, they were forced to seek out new gambling opportunities, and they decided to give video poker a try.
After learning a few basic video poker strategies courtesy of Stanford Wong, they began putting their knowledge to the test. Before long, though, Ginnie grew dissatisfied with the life of a gambler, and she ended their relationship by moving back to Los Angeles.
While his romantic life had hit a snag, Bob began enjoying unprecedented fortune at the video poker machines. His bankroll soon swelled to $50,000, allowing him to play larger denomination machines with potentially more lucrative payouts. He continued to bolster this amount by constantly seeking out promotions, always obsessed with finding even the slightest edge over the casino.
Bob and Ginnie had met while dancing, and lighting struck again in 1996. While on the dance floor of Sam's Town Casino, Bob became acquainted with a woman named Shirley. A resident of California, she made routine trips to Vegas on business, and it wasn't long before the couple were an exclusive item.
Shirley didn't seem to mind being attached to a professional gambler, and the pair soon became a fixture on the casino floors and at parties all across Sin City. They were married the following year, and Mrs. Dancer soon took to video poker like a fish to water.
1999 was a landmark year for Bob and Shirley. The former had increased his bankroll to over $200,000, and he was invited by the management of the MGM Grand to join their player's club and take advantage of a special promotion during a one-month stint. He calculated that the $25 machines would give him the biggest advantage, although Shirley needed some persuading to move up from the $5 machines they were used to.
What followed marked a roller coaster period in the life of the Dancers. They lost $40,000 within the span of two weeks, but a royal flush rapidly changed their fortunes and put them up $60,000. He had been offered double player points during the first month, so Bob insisted on continuing in order to be eligible for all manner of prizes and frequent flyer miles.
They soon earned premium status in the MGM Grand's club, so the perks kept coming at an accelerated rate. Even after the first month had ended, the couple continued to spend all their time at the casino. Six months in, Bob discovered a flaw in certain machines that awarded a higher-than-intended number of player points. They began focusing entirely on those games, neglecting to inform management about the error.
The flaw in the games was eventually fixed, but Bob and Shirley kept plugging away. They went on a $100,000 losing streak during the span of several months, but then Lady Luck intervened and put them up $70,000. Bob moved to the $100 machines at one point, but he reconsidered his strategy after losing $40,000 in the span of three hours.
In the early part of February 2001, the couple hit six $40,000 royal flushes and twelve $20,000 royals. Armed with a surplus of cash, they decided to take another run at the $100 machines. After setting aside $20,000 for the endeavor, Bob and Shirley entered the MGM Grand on February 12th, 2001.
On this particular outing, Shirley played the $100 machines while Bob stuck to the $25 games. It didn't take long for their courage to pay off, as Bob got a $100,000 royal within 15 minutes of play. Less than 30 minutes later, Shirley hit a royal for a massive $400,000 payout.
The casino executives wised up, and within the next couple of months they greatly increased the requirements for earning player club points. Bob's advantage was wiped out, and he decided to take his business elsewhere. The end result of his one-year odyssey at the MGM Grand was still impressive, though: multiple cars, a home entertainment center, a pair of computers, millions of frequent flyer miles, and more than one-million dollars in cash.
Bob went back to the lower-limit machines following his year long adventure, but from then on he enjoyed a certain mystique among video poker fans. He parlayed this into a career as both an author and lecturer, passing on his secrets to anyone with the determination to make a living as a professional gambler.
In 2013, Shirley informed Bob that she was sick of the smoke in Las Vegas and had decided to move back to California. She invited him to come along, but Dancer was unwilling to leave behind his love of gambling. After 17 years of marriage, the couple divorced.
Less than two years later, Bob married a woman named Bonnie. While she doesn't share his passion for gambling, the couple are regular fixtures on the Las Vegas square dancing scene.
Despite entering his seventh decade of life, Bob Dancer still grinds out a living at the video poker machines. He also continues to produce books and magazine columns, as well as teach seminars and host a regular podcast. When he's not gaming or dancing, he can often be found enjoying classic country artists such as Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and the Oak Ridge Boys.
10 Video Poker Tips from Bob Dancer
In most cases, you'll need to read his columns or buy one of his books in order to gain some wisdom from Bob Dancer on the subject of video poker. To save you some time and money, I've culled together a few (paraphrased) tips from a number of sources. If you like what he has to say, then you can always seek out more via the Internet.
- 1If you're searching for some of the best casinos to play at in Las Vegas, here are a few of Bob's personal favorites: Golden Nugget, Orleans, Gold Coast, Sam's Town, Palms, Ellis Island, and either of the Fiestas.
- 2When learning a video poker game, concentrate on one game at a time. Once it's been mastered, then you can move on to another.
- 3If you know where you'll be playing in advance, focus on learning the most lucrative video poker machine at that casino.
- 4Always look for player clubs that offer same day cashback. A growing number are of the bounceback variety, which means you'll have to return to the casino a second time in order to collect your promotional cash. Bounceback promotions offer better returns, but that's only because they know that many players won't come back to collect.
- 5Video poker players often make more off promotions than the actual games, so don't be afraid to go to obsessive lengths to learn the ins and outs of a casino's player club. Networking with other players is one of the most effective ways to do this.
- 6Unless you're willing to study hard enough to gain a mathematical edge over the casino, you won't enjoy long-term financial success as a player. According to Bob, there are about 50 video poker players at any given time who are capable of making $50,000 annually in a specific region.
- 7Strategy cards and a computer trainer are essential aids to any serious VP player.
- 8If you need to get a royal flush to save your bankroll, then you're playing at a denomination that's too high. Since royals only come along an average of every 40,000 hands, you need to play at a level where you can exist during the lean times.
- 9Casinos are always looking to thwart advantage players, which has resulted in fewer slot club perks and less lucrative paytables. In some cases, successful players are simply barred from the casino.
- 10Making a profit at video poker takes tireless effort. This includes networking with other players, learning as many strategies as possible, and searching for the casinos with the most appealing games. And even when all the legwork is done, there's still a chance that the casino comes along and pulls the rug out from under you.
Bob Dancer Video Poker Products
If you're looking to improve your overall video poker experience, you might want to take a look at some of the products offered by Bob Dancer. These can all be found on his personal website, as well as leading retailers such as Amazon.
- Million Dollar Video Poker
The most famous of his written works, Bob's first book details his first six years in Vegas and how he went from a $6,000 bankroll to becoming a millionaire.
- Video Poker of the Intelligent Beginner
In this guide, readers are introduced to techniques for identifying the video poker games with the largest returns, as well as the ins and outs of slot clubs, scouting, team play, progressives, and much more.
- Strategy Cards
In addition to his books, Bob also sells multi-level strategy cards that guide players from the beginner to advanced level. Each card is perfect for carrying in your purse or pocket, and the following video poker games are available: 8/5 Bonus, Double Bonus, Double Double Bonus, Full Pay Deuces Wild, Jacks or Better, Joker Wild Two Pair, Joker Wild Kings or Better, NSU Deuces Wild, and Pick'Em Poker.
- Winner's Guides
Each of these guides focuses on a different video poker game, and their 100+ pages are advertised as the most comprehensive look at individual VP titles. Available options include Jacks or Better, Double Bonus Poker, Full Pay Deuces Wild, NSU Deuces Wild, Pick'em Poker, Double Double Bonus Poker.
Seminars and Consulting
Each year, Dancer teaches a pair of 10-week classes on video poker at the South Point Casino in Las Vegas. These seminars are tailored to all experience levels, and they cover everything from basic strategies to taking advantage of promotional opportunities. Other seminars are held elsewhere on occasion, and you can find a complete rundown on his personal website.
For casinos that want to avoid players like Bob, there's also Compton Dancer Consulting. This firm offers a number of services to gaming establishments, including player reward competitive analysis, player club design, and customer service development workshops. If this sounds like something you'd be interested in, be sure to visit their website.
If you're looking for a well-known figure in the world of video poker, it doesn't get any bigger than Bob Dancer. His 2001 payout is still the stuff of legends, and his articles and novels have helped thousands of VP players to improve their overall game. He's also a pretty mean square dancer, but that's an article for another time.