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30 June 2000

Dear John,

My friend and I are avid video poker players and have been debating on this subject for years. Maybe you can settle who is right.

We all know that the payout is regulated by the pay schedule that is programmed into the microprocesser and posted on the machines. My friend says that the cards that the machine deals are comming from an electronic 52-card deck and are dealt completely at random as are the cards that are drawn. He says that the machine doesn't control what cards come up.

I say that the cards are not always from a random draw, that the machine can be set up to deal out hands that the machine needs to maintain the payout percentage that the house wants.

Can you shed some light on this and settle the argument?

Thanks,
Gene

Dear Gene:

Your friend is correct. All the cards are dealt completely at random. Any other programming would be illegal in all U.S. jurisdictions.

If the machines did not always deal randomly from a 52-card deck, we would not be able to derive the proper strategies to use while playing a particular machine. Pros would not be able to make their livings playing video poker. Video poker would be no different from slots.

Here's an extreme example: Let's assume that a video poker machine's program could force a particular hand and now is the time to force a royal. A player is dealt a 4-card royal and a 7. Seven is the player's lucky number so he holds only the 7. How is the program going to force a royal now?

The actual payback on a machine (that is, the total amount of money players have won on it compared with the total amount of money players have played on it) is expected to deviate somewhat from the theoretical payback of the paytable. The manufacturers have a formula they use to figure out how much deviation is allowed for the number of hands played on the machine. As the number of hands increases, the allowed deviation decreases. If the payback on a machine is outside the allowed deviation, the casino will inspect it for malfunction or evidence of cheating. If machines could force certain hands to make a particular payback, there would be no need for these calculations.

You can rest assured that any machine from IGT, Silicon Gaming, Bally, VLC, Sigma, Williams, or any other major manufacturer deals randomly from the deck.

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