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7 August 2000

Dear John,

First, I have to argue a little about what you might term as a "cheater" in your reply to my last question. I wouldn't consider someone that could outthink one of those VP machines as a cheater if he could figure out what cycle the machine might be in, and change his hold selection to suit a situation that he figures is coming up. I would consider him to be damn sharp, and I should see this guy for lessons. I wish I could perform these feats. This also makes me want to challenge the statement that you make that the cards are coming from the RNG are totally random, meaning just like being dealt from a shuffled, 52-card deck. I like to think that when I get beat (as usual) that it's old lady luck that's frowning at me instead of the machine's RNG being in an unfavorable part of its cycle.

My definition of a cheat is someone that tampers with the machines either mechanically or electronically, not someone that could calculate the RNG cycle.

My wife thinks that she gets better hands dealt to her when she only plays two or three credits instead of hitting the max button. I keep telling her that she is wrong about that. Your comment?

Thanks,
Gene

Dear Gene:

I didn't go into enough detail about RNG cheating. RNG cheats know the RNG formula in the machine. With the formula, they can figure out where the RNG is in its cycle by playing a number of hands on the machine. One group of cheats had someone play a machine in a casino and radio to his accomplice what cards were dealt. The accomplice was in a van outside the casino. Inside the van was a computer that was programmed to emulate the video poker machine. It also had software in it to sync up the RNG in the emulator with the RNG in the real video poker machine. This is clearly cheating.

If someone could figure out what the draw cards will be without some inside knowledge of the RNG, that wouldn't be cheating--but I think it's impossible. There are over 2.5 million pre-draw 5-card hands, more when you take the positions of the cards into account. There's no way anyone would be able to figure out the sequence.

The RNG is how the video poker machine implements Lady Luck. When Lady Luck frowns on you, you either get poor cards from a manual shuffle or a result from the RNG that maps to poor cards.

As for getting better hands when you play only two or three coins instead of five, all I can say is memory is very unreliable. Your wife probably remembers all the times that she had a bad streak of hands when playing max coins and doesn't remember the similar times when playing short coin. It's also likely that her money lasts longer when playing short coin. That could lead her to think that she gets better cards when playing short coin.

The only way to prove that playing short coin doesn't improve the cards she gets is to keep track of the hands. Play a set number of hands at full coin and the same number of hands at short coin. Make a note of the outcome of each hand. It would probably take 100,000 or more hands to statistically prove the point, but a few thousand hands may be enough to convince her that it doesn't make a difference how many coins she plays. She should get roughly the same number of quads, full houses, straights, etc., regardless of how many coins she puts in.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos!
John

Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert, at slotexpert@home.com.

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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