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Ask the Slot Expert: Video poker deja vu all over again

10 August 2022

By John Robison, Slot Expert™

Question: Can you explain how continuous card shuffle machines work?

I like playing 3-card poker. One casino has a shuffle machine and the other has a dealer shuffle the cards. I am wondering which has the best odds for the player?

Answer: Continuous shuffle machines (CSM) don't actually shuffle the cards, at least not in the sense of having a little hamster inside who takes half the cards in each paw and does a Bridge Shuffle. The machines randomly put cards into slots in the machine and then spit out the cards from those slots to the dealer. The actual procedure varies by manufacturer.

Most machines have a circular protrusion. If you took off the cover, you'd see the carousel that has the slots for the cards.

You can see a shuffling machine in action with its cover off here.

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the odds for Three-Card Poker are the same for CSM or hand shuffled.

You'll probably lose more money at the table with the CSM, though, because the game doesn't have to stop for the dealer to shuffle the cards. You'll play more hands per hour and, in the long run, lose more money.


It was deja vu all over again.

Playing multi-hand video poker, I just couldn't hit any premium hands. The trend on my credit meter was a slow descent to $0. I was hitting plenty of low-paying hands, so I wasn't in free fall. Near the end of the session when I had almost played the number of points I had planned to play, I finally hit a string of good hands and I went from nearly a total loss to almost breaking even.

Two days later, it happened again. Another slow descent to bust with a late session rally. This time, I left with a $150 profit.

Or did I?

This time I would have run out of credits if I hadn't put more credits on the machine. Notice that I didn't say that I put more money in the machine. I didn't. I redeemed points to get more credits on the meter and to keep me in the game.

I actually redeemed $200 worth of points. Plus I played $25 in bounceback play that session.

A note on terminology: Because there are no standard terms, I'm using bounceback for the free play that the casino gave me to get me to come back. It can't be converted to cash or cashed out, only played through a machine. Conversely I could have redeemed the points for cash and put that in the machine rather than redeeming them at the machine.

So, did I have a profit of $150 or a loss of $50 or a loss of $75. Should the bounceback cash and redeemed points be included in my profit/loss calculation?

I think it's pretty clear that the bounceback play should not be included in my coin-in figure. There's nothing else I can do with that money. It's not my money in play. Anything I win is pure gravy.

Note that the casino includes these non-cashable credits in the calculation for the machine's long-term payback. That calculation doesn't care about the source of the bet.

What about the play I got from redeeming points? Should that be included in my coin-in figure?

Whether there's even a debate depends on the slot club rules.

If the only thing you can do with the points is convert them to free play, then they're the same as my bounceback cash and should not be included.

What if you can also exchange the points for food or merch? Now there is an opportunity cost for converting them to free play. This situation is still similar to bounceback cash -- you have limited options. It should not be included.

Now, what if you can also convert the points to cash?

Consider this: If you redeemed your points for cash and then put that cash in a machine, there is no question that the cash you received from redeeming points should be included in your coin-in total.

So why shouldn't points you redeem at a machine also be included?

Nevertheless I don't include them and consider myself up $150 and not down $50. (And for the IRS agents sharpening their pencils in anticipation of auditing my tax returns, that's also what I report.)

But here's the paradox: If I had redeemed the points for cash and played with the cash, I would consider myself down $50 for the session.

Yes, but then I'd also have to log $200 in gambling income from redeeming the points. Net-net is +$150. Might as well just redeem points on the machine.

I think it was Bob Dancer who said that he thinks that consistently redeeming points for cash might be a black mark on your file. You can walk with the money. He recommends redeeming points at the machine.

I actually had to do multiple redemptions of points. Station Casinos limits you to converting $50 worth of points at a time. I redeemed only when my credit meter fell below $50, so I redeemed four times that session.

One time, I thought something was wrong with the system. Even though one screen said that I had more than enough points available for a $50 redemption, I got a message saying that it was not available when I went through the steps.

I've had occasional problems with slot club systems in the past. I still had credits so I continued playing and hoped that the problem would clear.

The problem did clear, but the solution had nothing to do with their system. The problem existed between the chair and the machine. I was pressing the wrong icon. Even though I had pressed the right icon to redeem points two times before, this time I had a brain fart and hit the icon to collect bounceback cash. Doh!

In the beginning of my career, I attended many software development conferences. One of my favorite session topics was user interface design. The common theme of all of the speakers was that the interface should be designed to prevent the user from making a mistake.

One way to prevent a user error is to disable options that are not appropriate.

For instance, the Einstein Brothers app on my phone shows all of the different rewards that are offered, but the only ones that are enabled are the ones that I have enough points for.

Rather than letting me choose a high-priced reward and then displaying an error message saying that I don't have enough points for the reward, the programmers have prevented that error from happening.

The Stations Casinos slot club menu screen could have disabled the icon for activating the bounceback cash after I had played it all. Alternatively, it could only show the icon when a player has bounceback cash available.

Either way would have saved me a minute of cursing at their system and two minutes of cursing at myself.


Here are the latest Covid data. There is a difference in the hospitalization data for US versus NV. The CDC reports total number of Covid hospital admissions. Nevada reports current hospitalizations, not total admissions.

All data comes from the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#cases_totalcases, https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#new-hospital-admissions), except for Nevada current hospitalizations (https://nvhealthresponse.nv.gov/).


Totals Weekly Changes
US NV US NV
Date Cases  Hosp. Adm.  Deaths  Cases  Curr. Hosp.  Deaths  Cases  Hosp. Adm.  Deaths  Cases  Curr. Hosp.  Deaths 
 08/09/22   92,136,376   5,110,212   1,029,185   832,229   378   11,262   937,985   42,621   3,822   5,729   (69)   41 
 08/01/22   91,198,391   5,067,591   1,025,363   826,500   447   11,221   828,560   43,943   2,695   28,360   (5)   16 
 07/26/22   90,369,831   5,023,648   1,022,668   798,140   452   11,205   905,096   45,024   3,072   5,468   (61)   41 
 07/19/22   89,464,735   4,978,624   1,019,596   792,672   513   11,164   890,226   42,620   3,035   7,077   (20)   37 
 07/12/22   88,574,509   4,936,004   1,016,561   785,595   533   11,127   912,596   44,750   2,575   8,611   78   67 
 07/05/22   87,661,913   4,891,254   1,013,986   776,984   455   11,060   683,630   30,500   2,476   8,713   53   34 
 06/28/22   86,978,283   4,860,754   1,011,510   768,271   402   11,026   809,381   33,856   2,580   6,189   (8)   36 
 06/21/22   86,168,902   4,826,898   1,008,930   762,082   410   10,990   648,857   30,459   2,040   8,081   95   41 
 06/14/22   85,520,045   4,796,439   1,006,890   754,001   315   10,949   757,093   29,971   2,630   9,809   42   40 
 06/07/22   84,762,952   4,766,468   1,004,260   744,192   273   10,909   813,916   30,146   2,190   6,818   55   26 
 05/31/22   83,949,036   4,736,322   1,002,070   737,374   218   10,883   670,041   24,555   2,285   5,738   16   41 
 05/24/22   83,278,995   4,711,767   999,785   731,636   202   10,842   756,047   25,027   2,317   5,324   37   28 
 05/17/22   82,522,948   4,686,740   997,488   726,312   165   10,814   680,888   21,183   2,097   3,693   35   26 
 05/10/22   81,842,060   4,665,557   995,371   722,619   130   10,788   534,465   17,934   3,932   2,802   32   11 
 05/03/22   81,307,595   4,647,623   991,439   719,817   98   10,777   432,666   14,755   2,448   2,213   (6)   49 
 04/26/22   80,874,929   4,632,868   988,991   717,604   104   10,728   348,507   12,597   2,446   1,447   (22)   46 
 04/19/22   80,526,422   4,620,271   986,545   716,157   126   10,682   266,330   10,525   3,308   1,232   (37)   497 
 04/12/22   80,260,092   4,609,746   983,237   714,925   163   10,185   228,465   10,343   3,627   1,228   23   53 
 04/05/22   80,031,627   4,599,403   979,610   713,697   140   10,132   203,709   10,312   4,105   1,059   (52)   76 
 03/29/22   79,827,918   4,589,091   975,505   712,638   192   10,056   206,914   9,572   4,083   1,187   5   40 
 03/22/22   79,621,004   4,579,519   971,422   711,451   187   10,016   200,627   8,502   8,178   742   (71)   83 
 03/15/22   79,418,377   4,571,017   963,244   710,709   258   9,933   253,069   17,393   5,492   24,844   (20)   113 
 03/08/22   79,165,308   4,553,624   957,752   685,865   278   9,820   310,308   24,471   9,870   2,099   (101)   116 
 03/01/22   78,855,000   4,529,153   947,882   683,766   379   9,704   465,845   33,261   14,988   6,421   (189)   196 
 02/22/22   78,389,155   4,495,892   932,894   677,345   568   9,508   551,462   46,726   12,797   4,023   (297)   173 
 02/15/22   77,837,693   4,449,166   920,097   673,322   865   9,335   1,005,691   67,963   17,059   5,280   (375)   149 
 02/08/22   76,782,002   4,381,203   903,038   668,042   1,240   9,186   1,769,556   92,750   18,185   11,144   (387)   235 
 02/01/22   75,012,446   4,288,453   884,853   656,898   1,627   8,951   3,193,570   121,420   17,885   26,555   (344)   191 
 01/25/22   71,818,876   4,167,033   866,968   630,343   1,971   8,760   5,102,999   143,329   16,393   57,574   99   133 
 01/18/22   66,715,937   4,023,704   850,575   572,769   1,872   8,627   4,983,654   147,105   13,301   25,927   (1,787)   99 
 01/11/22   61,732,283   3,876,599   837,274   546,842   3,659   8,528   5,421,565   139,572   12,168   32,486   2,594   100 
 01/05/22   56,310,718   3,737,027   825,106   514,344   1,065   8,428   3,501,427   104,272   8,867   20,966   276   61 
 12/28/21   52,809,291   3,362,755   816,239   493,378   789   8,367   1,693,987   63,185   11,127   7,977   89   56 
 12/21   51,115,304   3,569,570   805,112   485,401   700   8,311   1,063,296   55,734   9,102   5,639   9   110 
 12/14   50,052,008   3,513,836   796,010   479,762   691   8,201   853,262   57,885   8,946   5,008   17   91 
 12/07   49,198,746   3,455,951   787,064   474,754   674   8,110   821,215   66,191   8,575   5,011   23   125 
 11/30   48,377,531   3,389,760   778,489   469,743   651   7,985   563,746   28,426   6,309   3,343   (50)   55 
 11/23   47,813,785   3,361,334   772,180   466,400   701   7,930   667,924   41,145   10,754   4,784   (24)   86 
 11/16   47,145,861   3,320,189   761,426   461,616   725   7,844   604,748   63,164   7,862   4,577   22   85 
 11/09   46,541,113   3,257,025   753,564   457,039   703   7,759   516,764   33,219   8,290   5,539   34   103 
 11/02   46,024,349   3,223,806   745,274   451,500   669   7,656   555,915   38,028   9,226   4,327   45   109 
 10/26   45,468,434   3,185,778   736,048   447,173   624   7,547   488,829   42,265   9,842   4,753   (87)   96 
 10/19   44,979,605   3,143,513   726,206   442,420   711   7,451   578,396   11,963   4,381   136 
 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 

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