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Ask the Slot Expert: A video poker product whose time has passed

20 March 2024

You may not recognize John Acres' name, but you know some of the slot technologies he helped develop like player tracking systems and progressives. I attended a seminar he gave about his player tracking system at the World Gaming Congress around 2000. He sold that company, Acres Gaming, to IGT. His new company, Acres Manufacturing, has a product that video poker players might be interested in knowing about.

Video Poker Analyzer uses data from Foundation, Acres Manufacturing's base product, to evaluate every decision a video poker player makes. The software looks at the cards you were dealt, the cards you held, the correct cards to hold, and what your final hand was to "precisely identify the value of each video poker player."

This data will let the casino "create an individualized marketing fund derived entirely from the player's suboptimal decisions." So, the more mistakes I make, the higher my marketing fund.

You might argue that the actual paybacks players experience are an indication of their suboptimal decisions -- er, skill. (I wrote that before I realized that it's not that simple and I have to expound to be accurate.) The problem is that it takes more hands than most players will ever play (millions, say) for skill to have a greater effect on a player's results than luck. Casinos can't really tell if a player is skilled or lousy but lucky.

Looking at how players played their hands removes luck from the analysis.

Due to the skill factor involved, highly skilled players - known as advantage players - are able to achieve a positive expected return that causes casinos to lose money. These losses are increased when factoring marketing offers such as free play or other rewards that are designed to incentivize play.

Casinos can lose money on some video poker paytables. I wonder how much?

NSU Deuces is one of the highest-paying paytables on slot floors in Las Vegas today. The current slot clubs at Boyd and Station Casinos award one point per $2 played on a video poker machine. NSU is positive (100.2%) on days with 10x points. Assuming 600 hands/hour, $5 bet per hand, $3000 in action per hour, the casino loses, on the average, $6 per hour. That's $144 per machine per day, assuming the machine is in constant use by highly skilled players.

This is a problem? Off-strip casinos brought in $285.3 million in revenue in January 2024.

Let's not forget the usual argument offered by advantage players. The casinos may lose money on their play, but casinos make it up on the play from the friend, relative, or spouse they bring with them. And the casino may make it up on goods and services advantage players and their parties purchase.

The next sentence on the product page reminds casinos of how they have already addressed this problem, so maybe they really don't need this software.

Many casinos have responded by adapting their video poker strategy by reducing the number of games and incentives offered.

In the eight years I've lived in Las Vegas, I've seen the number of machines with NSU decline, the free play I earn while playing them decline, and the advantage I have on certain days decline. (I've also seen my offers decline, but those are affected by how much I play, which has also declined.)

Casinos have already taken additional steps to control their losses on advantage play by cutting back on the number of opportunities, not making them available at high denominations, and reducing benefits.

I don't know how much Video Poker Analyzer costs. Maybe the software can be cost effective when casinos are able to identify video poker players who like to play high-payback paytables but really don't know how to play them and offer better benefits to those players.

Tell me what you think about Video Poker Analyzer at the email address below.


If you would like to see more non-smoking areas on slot floors in Las Vegas, please sign my petition on change.org.

I didn't know that the Nevada State Legislature meets for only a few months every other year and I had missed the deadline to propose new legislation when I started the petition. We'll be electing a new legislature this year, so let's keep gathering signatures.


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