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# In Pursuit of the Royal Flush

23 June 1999

"I have been going to the boats for the last few years and to Las Vegas for the past 15 years. My question concerns video poker. I have played thousands of hands of poker. I have played mostly Deuces Wild or Jacks or Better. In all that time I played, I have won everything except a royal flush. I have never seen anybody hit it either. What are the odds of hitting one? Many times over the years I have sat for hours playing and never even came close. Is video poker like the slots or are there different mechanisms?"

I received this letter in late 1997. To answer the question as thoroughly as I possibly could, I sought the advice of Las Vegas-based Len Frome, who was considered one of the world's top authorities on video poker. He wrote more than 500 articles, two books, and two home computer programs on the subject before his death in 1998. Len told me:

"The fact your reader has never hit, or never seen anyone else hit, a royal flush is purely a statistical quirk. In 'Jacks or Better' video poker, a royal flush should be dealt, on average, every 40,000 hands. When I say 'on average' I mean it's possible for a player to hit one four times in a night while another player can go 15 years without getting dealt a single one. Apparently, your reader falls in the latter category. And it doesn't really matter if you're playing a 9-6 machine or an 8-5 machine. The odds against hitting a royal flush change very slightly.

"Now on the 'Deuces Wild' machines, it's harder to hit a royal flush simply because you can't get a royal flush holding deuces. In that variety of video poker machine the odds increase to one royal flush every 42,000 hands.

"As for your reader's question about video poker machines being different from slot machines, the answer is definitely YES! Video poker machines are totally different from slots. In video poker, the cards you get on the screen are chosen at random. Of course, there's something like 2.6 million possible hands, but the random nature of selection is the key.

"Slot machines are governed by random number generators. The symbols you line up on the reels are not selected at random. They're predetermined by a computer program. The cards you are dealt on a video poker machine are just the same as if you dealt them from a deck of cards at home."

Len Frome insisted that mastering the art of expert video poker play gives you such an edge over traditional slot machines that you'll want to "kiss those reels slots good-bye".

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John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insiderâ€™s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

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John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insiderâ€™s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.