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# Random Thoughts about Playing Video Poker

8 April 2009

Video poker is generally perceived as a "beatable" casino game over the long run if expert strategy is used playing an optimum pay table.

The very nature of the game makes this possible, given the fact cards are randomly dealt from a virtual deck. There are precise mathematical calculations that can be made based upon the hand you are dealt and the cards that remain.

Devotees of the game quite often find it difficult to rationalize a losing session or even a prolonged losing streak. It's frustrating when you're dealt three-of-a-kind and you never draw to the quad; four to a flush and you never complete it; two pair and you never get the full house.

It's the kind of phenomena that brings the very integrity of video poker under scrutiny for some, including maverick video poker authority Rob Singer, whose popular website www.vptruth.com is packed with provocative insight into the game from the perspective of someone who doesn't follow the crowd.

Singer has been conducting some independent testing on select video poker machines at casinos in Nevada, keeping a journal of occurrences when he is dealt four-to-a-flush, two pair, and open-end straights, and how many times he draws the card he needs to complete the flush, full house and straight.

His early findings reveal that he doesn't complete the winning hand a much higher percentage of the time than mathematical probability dictates. He has even observed the phenomenon of drawing a card of a different suit of the same value as the one he discards an unusual number of times.

The dictionary defines random as "of or characterizing a process of selection in which each item has an equal probability of being chosen".

If in fact the operation of video poker machines is a thoroughly random event, how can the percentages appear skewed during sample testing?

John Robison, a nationally recognized expert on the operation of video poker and slot machines, cautions that "random" should not imply outcomes that are to a player's personal satisfaction every time:

"There are cycles on machines, but who ever said that cycles disprove randomness?" Robison has written. "On the contrary, streaks (called local non-randomness) are a requirement of randomness.

"If an event is random, anything can happen, including long cold streaks, long hot streaks, short streaks and choppy results."

Video poker results are governed strictly by random number generation. There is no internal software programming which controls the cards you get on the deal or the cards you get on the draw.

Remember that when you are dealt three-of-a-kind, the one card you need on the draw is among the 47 still being shuffled in the virtual deck, and you have two chances to get it. The odds are against you, but when it happens you quickly forget about the times it didn't.

If it were ever proven that video poker machines do not in fact play like we are told they do, it would be a scandal that would shake the very foundation of the gaming industry.

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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 Insider’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 Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.