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Ask the Slot Expert: Triple Double Bonus video poker and volatility

13 October 2021

By John Robison, Slot Expert™

Question: Here is the info I should have provided [about my unusual video poker experience].

At 25 cents played per hand, this is the first time I have had a session $1000 or over. I have had a number in the $600 to $700 range. I do not keep records, so do not know the actual number. (I also do not keep "net results" per session.) I play twice a week sessions with one seven hours and one five.

Thee $1000 session was also strange in that four of the quads I hit were aces with the kicker at $200 each.

When playing $1.25 a hand for a long time, I on occasion would have gross wins around $5000 per session, with a lot of them in the $3000 to $4000 area. Of course, I also had the sessions with much, much less than that.

Triple Double Bonus is a very volatile game.

Yesterday, during a 25 cent/hand five-hour session I did not have a quad for the first three hours. During the next two hours, I had a number, including one with aces and kicker for $200. I ended up with a gross win of $400.

I have played this game for a long time. My experience has been that unless you are ready to have a lot of patience, and not switch games back and forth, and not give up early, it is best that one not play it.

I am curious what your reaction is to that strategy.

Answer: This is a follow-up to my column two weeks ago about my reader's unusual video poker experience. He won over $1000 playing Triple Double Bonus at 25 cents per hand. I correctly speculated that he must have gotten many quads and that many of them must have been premium quads.

I also said that I was not as qualified as my reader to comment on how unusual his experience was. I have never analyzed the paytable and I have played only a tiny number of hands of the game.

I have to admit that I'm a bit confused with terminology. First, "session". To me, a session is a period of playing similar games with only short breaks. If I play NSU for a few hours with only a bathroom break, I would consider that one session. If I play for a few hours in the morning, then go to the buffet for lunch (Oops! I forgot. No buffets now in the casinos I go to.), and then play some more, I would record two separate sessions.

After playing NSU for a couple hours this morning, I played four different slot machines. I could have recorded that as just one session playing Electronic Gaming Devices, but I recorded my play as two sessions -- one NSU and one slots.

The IRS doesn't define what a session is, so we are free to use our own definition, as long as it's logical and we use it consistently.

My sessions are shorter than yours. We just have to be careful in assuming that we have the same definition of a session. Ideally, we would specify the number of hands played. Time on a video poker machine is measured in hands, not ticks of the clock. The next best metric is the length of time played, from which we could estimate the number of hands played, but our estimate may or may not be accurate. All in all, "session" is meaningless.

I'm confused about "net results" and "gross win". When you said you had a session of $1000, doesn't that mean that the amount you cashed out minus the money you put in was $1000?

In any case, I was planning to discuss volatility this week, so your last comment is quite timely.

I saw something surprising about volatility looking at one manufacturer's data sheets for its slot machines many years ago. In addition to a volatility index, this manufacturer provided a handy chart for each game. The chart showed the number of ways to make each payout listed in the paytable. Each payout had a bar above it. The taller the bar, the more ways there were to make the payout. The value of the payouts increased going to the right.

Following are two sample charts. They are not based on real payouts and probabilities. Don't read too much into the height of one bar compared with another. A payout with a bar that is twice as high as another isn't necessarily twice as likely to hit, just more likely. I want you to just look at the general shapes of the charts.

Which machine do you think is more volatile? The machine on the left or the one on the right?

WAYS
 
  
   
    
     
      
       
PAYOUTS
WAYS
  
     
      
      
       
PAYOUTS

The chart on the left reminds me of the profile of a ski-jump ramp. The chart of the right looks much tamer.

The chart on the left is from the machine with the lower volatility. There are many ways to hit its low payouts, so the machine pays its low payouts frequently and it keeps you in tray money to keep you in the game. The higher payouts hits less frequently.

The low payouts on the machine on the right, on the other hand, don't hit that much more frequently than the higher payouts. The slot designers took a bunch of the low payout hits and moved them to higher payouts. But the swap isn't one for one. They might have swapped 1000 1-coin hits for one 1000-coin hit. Large decreases in the heights of the low-payout bars yield only small increases in the heights of the high-payout bars.

The machine with the chart that looks like what you see at the top of the first hill on a roller coaster actually gives you less agita about your bankroll than the machine with the chart that looks like smooth sailing.

On video poker, the designers can't alter how frequently certain hands are hit. They can only alter what is a paying hand and how much it pays. (A player's strategy does have a small effect on how frequently some hands are hit.)

I checked the probabilities of getting a high pair and two pair for 9/6 Jacks and Triple Double Bonus on the Wizard of Odds site. The probabilities are about the same for each, about 0.21 for a high pair and about 0.12 for two pair. Triple Double Bonus (TDB) pays for the premiums on the quads by decreasing what you get for two pair, not by decreasing how frequently you hit two pair.

You still get two pair on TDB about as often as on 9/6 Jacks, but they pay half as much so they don't increase your bankroll. If you don't get your share of the premium quads that the decreased payout on two pair are funding, you'll probably have to feed the machine often.

I've compared video poker and slots to a Bizarro world roller coaster. In the normal world, you climb very slowly up the first hill on a roller coaster and then you plummet down.

On the Bizarro world roller coaster, you go down slowly and then shoot up quickly.

You can only lose as much as you bet on each play, so your bankroll decreases slowly. But then you could hit a big jackpot and your bankroll could skyrocket in one play.

In Jean Scott's The Frugal Video Poker Scouting Guide, she and Viktor Nacht give TDB their highest volatility rating, $$$$. In contrast, NSU is only $$ and 9/6 Jacks is $.

Jean once told me that one of the reasons she likes Deuces Wild over 9/6 Jacks is that hitting four deuces can lessen the sting of an extremely bad session -- or even put you into the black -- while 9/6 Jacks has nothing similar. It's just not likely that you're going to hit enough quads and straight flushes to save a really bad session.

If you're going to play TDB, you have to have both patience and bankroll. You need the bankroll to see you through the cold spells when you don't get your share of quads. (Similarly, I've had plenty of times when I've put $100 into NSU, played 20-25 hands, and then had to feed the machine again!)

You also need patience because the high volatility means it will tend to take more hands to home in on the paytable's long-term payback.

Some advantage will use the high volatility to their advantage. Say a casino has two paytables with roughly the same long-term payback. One machine has higher volatility than the other.

I would probably choose the lower volatility paytable, but they might choose the higher one. Because some casinos suspend your mailer after a winning month, they would rather have many losing months and a few big months in which they win big than fewer losing months and more winning months in which they win less. They're trying to concentrate their wins in fewer months.


Here are the latest figures from https://www.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#cases_totalcases.

I think there is a problem with the CDC's number for total cases in Nevada. New York Times has the same number. NVHealthResponse.nv.gov reports 428,934 cases as of 10/11/21. I doubt there were 10,000 new cases from 10/11 to 10/12.

Totals Weekly Increases
US NV US NV
Date Cases  Deaths  Cases  Deaths  Cases  Deaths  Cases  Deaths 
 10/12   44,401,209   714,243    438,039*   7,315   795,586   14,067   15,710*   149 
 10/05   43,605,623   700,176   422,329   7,166   554,194   10,642   3,852   121 
 09/28   43,051,429   689,534   418,477   7,045   817,218   14,463   6,160   165 
 09/21   42,234,211   675,071   412,317   6,880   971,637   14,691   7,466   152 
 09/14   41,262,574   660,380   404,851   6,728   1,176,763   12,919   10,256   145 
 09/07   40,085,811   647,461   394,595   6,583   975,725   10,076   5,237   104 
 08/31   39,110,086   637,385   389,358   6,479   1,113,414   9,385   7,592   173 
 08/24   37,996,672   628,000   381,649   6,306   1,045,491   7,507   8,117   116 
 08/17   36,951,181   620,493   373,649   6,190   959,978   4,715   7,065   150 
 08/10   35,991,203   615,778   366,584   6,040   819,524   3,987   7,652   122 
 08/03   35,171,679   611,791   358,932   5,918   622,832   2,279   7,489   81 
 07/27   34,548,847   609,012   351,443   5,837   652,251   2,394   8,347   79 
 07/20   33,896,296   606,618   341,096   5,758   169,933   1,478   3,351   28 
 07/13   33,726,363   605,140   339,745   5,730   181,047   1,959   4,982   33 
 07/06   33,545,316   603,181   334,763   5,697   75,104   1,373   2,234   27 
 06/29   33,470,212   601,808   332,529   5,670   87,507   2,057   3,020   24 
 06/22   33,382,705   599,751   329,509   5,646   75,420   2,157   1,930   22 
 06/15   33,303,285   597,594   327,579   5,624   95,797   2,293   1,560   17 
 06/08   33,207,488   595,301   326,019   5,607   114,250   3,762   2,271   21 
 06/01   33,039,238   591,539   323,748   5,586   123,333   3,709   991   27 
 05/25   32,969,905   587,830   322,757   5,559   174,125   4,234   1,676   26 
 05/18   32,795,780   583,596   321,081   5,533   223,966   4,230   2,301   27 
 05/11   32,571,814   579,366   318,780   5,506   303,856   4,687   2,541   33 
 05/04   32,267,958   574,679   316,239   5,473   343,348   4,908   2,559   40 
 04/27   31,924,610   569,771   313,680   5,433   383,163   4,958   2,747   65 
 04/20   31,541,447   564,813   310,933   5,368   464,556   5,072   2,590   36 
 04/13   31,076,891   559,741   308,343   5,332   480,061   5,321   2,986   57 
 04/06   30,596,830   554,420   305,357   5,275   448,935   7,124   3,084   38 
 03/30   30,147,895   547,296   302,273   5,237   439,510   6,793   939   63 
 03/23   29,708,385   540,503   301,334   5,174   388,928   7,446   1,863   53 
 03/16   29,319,457   533,057   299,471   5,121   381,695   8,362   3,078   81 
 03/09   28,937,762   524,695   296,393   5,040   480,902   11,573   2,413   83 
 03/02   28,456,860   513,122   293,980   4,957   463,356   14,129   2,835   75 
 02/23   27,993,504   498,993   291,145   4,882   451,083   13,923   2,406   162 
 02/16   27,542,421   485,070   288,739   4,720   602,906   21,411   4,149   198 
 02/09   26,939,515   463,659   284,590   4,522   779,305   21,828   5,444   244 
 02/02   26,160,210   441,831   279,146   4,278   1,007,777   22,004   7,249   249 
 01/26   25,152,433   419,827   271,897   4,029   1,312,565   23,385   10,324   250 
 01/19   23,839,868   396,442   261,573   3,779   1,317,119   21,318   11,324   279 
 01/12   22,522,749   375,124   250,249   3,500   1,790,345   22,660   17,217   294 
 01/05    20,732,404   352,464   233,032   3,206   1,499,561   18,435   14,655   233 
 12/29   19,232,843   334,029   218,377   2,973   1,258,540   15,460   12,493   186 
 12/22   17,974,303   318,569   205,884   2,787   1,656,411   18,537   16,472   239 
 12/15   16,317,892   300,032   189,412   2,548   1,494,763   17,247   18,825   229 
 12/08   14,823,129   282,785   170,587   2,319   1,375,502   15,483   18,418   175 
 12/01   13,447,627   267,302   152,169   2,144   1,114,175   10,286   15,942   121 
 11/24   12,333,452   257,016   136,227   2,023   1,197,199   10,784   14,130   106 
 11/17   11,136,253   246,232   122,097   1,917   1,099,790   8,501   11,115   65 
 11/10   10,036,463   237,731   110,982   1,852   767,645   6,838   8,868   68 
 11/03   9,268,818   230,893   102,114   1,784   588,207   5,809   5,936   35 
 10/27   8,680,611   225,084   96,178   1,749   492,026   5,585   5,238   (10) 
 10/20   8,188,585   219,499   90,940   1,759   401,037   5,053   4,501   48 
 10/13   7,787,548   214,446   86,439   1,711   351,270   4,886   3,910   48 
 10/06   7,436,278   209,560   82,529   1,663   306,965   4,962   3,232   36 
 09/29   7,129,313   204,598   79,297   1,627   303,616   5,136   3,058   54 
 09/22   6,825,697   199,462   76,239   1,573   288,070   5,370   2,196   82 
 09/15   6,537,627   194,092   72,043   1,491   250,265   5,404   1,825   65 
 09/08   6,287,362   188,688   72,218   1,426   282,919   5,638   2,734   92 
 09/01   6,004,443   183,050   69,484   1,334   251,790   5,291   3,237   104 
 08/25   5,752,653   177,759   66,247   1,230   330,411   7,889   4,076   125 
 08/18   5,422,242   169,870   62,171   1,105   358,071   7,463   4,973   114 
 08/11   5,064,171   162,407   57,198   991   365,353   7,203   5,776   117 
 08/04   4,698,818   155,204   51,422   874   418,683   7,532   7,367   109 
 07/28   4,280,135   147,672   44,055   764   460,996   7,042   7,130   91 
 07/21   3,819,139  140,630  36,195  674  463,682  5,395  8,181  57 
 07/14   3,355,457   135,235   28,744   617   422,861   5,102   5,607   57 
 07/07   2,932,596   130,133   23,137   560   351,367   3,394   5,006   24 
 06/30   2,581,229   126,739   18,131   536   278,941   6,406   4,367   26 
 06/23   2,302,288   120,333   13,764   510 

Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert™, at slotexpert@slotexpert.com. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't reply to every question.

Copyright © John Robison. Slot Expert and Ask the Slot Expert are trademarks of John Robison.

 

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John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots
John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots