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# Ask the Slot Expert: A video poker triple play

13 November 2013

I’ve noticed at my regular casino that there’s a \$100 video poker machine that almost never gets played. I’m wondering if the machine pays back a percentage of what it takes in, does this mean that it won’t pay out until it builds up and takes in some cash over time? Or — assuming the paytable is the same as the \$5, \$10, \$25 machine next to that does get played — are the chances of it paying the same as any other machine with the same paytable?

Assuming that we're talking about a Class III machine (a Las Vegas-style machine), the machine has to deal from a fair deck of cards, just as if you were dealing at your kitchen table. The cards are chosen at random, without any regard for how much money the machine has won in the past. The \$100 machine has the same chances of hitting any paying hand as a \$1, \$5, \$10 or \$25 machine played with the same strategy.

The slot director at the Desert Inn told me a funny story about their \$100 video poker machine. He was entertaining a vendor with a round of golf on the course that was behind the resort. He got a phone call from one of his assistants in the middle of the round.

"A man hit a royal on the \$100 video poker machine," said the assistant. "What should I do?"

He said, "Pay the man."

After the first hand of 5 cards is dealt, are the potential 6-10 cards already established? Or does the time you take to discard and draw make a difference in what cards are dealt?

Up until a decade or so ago, video poker machines would choose all 10 cards that could possibly be needed to play out a hand when you pressed the Deal button. Having a machine sit with potential results already determined opened it up to cheating and, believe it or not, a group of cheats did figure out how to determine what cards 6 through 10 were and used that information to cheat these machines.

As a result, video poker machines now choose the five cards needed for your initial hand when you press the Deal button. The machines continue electronically shuffling their electronic decks and they don't choose any cards needed to replace your discards until you press the Draw button.

I won't say today's machines are impossible to cheat, but they're much harder to cheat than the old ones.

Why did the racino go ballistic when I copied down a video poker paytable? They demanded I give them the scrap of paper I had written on and said you couldn't copy anything off of a machine. Hmmmmmmm! It makes me wonder what they were hiding. This is a racino that is on the bingo system.

I have three theories. The racino is paranoid, it has some very restrictive regulations or it's just plain crazy.

My experience has been that the mature gambling jurisdictions (Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Tunica) are more tolerant of what players do in their casinos. They're more experienced and know better what a cheating player does and how a cheating player acts. Even though there's nothing you can do to influence the results on a machine by writing something on a piece of paper, the racino may prohibit putting pen to paper in an abundance of caution (and, I can't resist, a touch of paranoia, which is probably the only thing they're hiding).

Legislators also have a limited understanding of gambling, so we can't rule statutory paranoia.

I've never had a problem making notes about machines and writing down results of each spin when I've done so in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Occasionally, someone asked what I was doing, but I bet they thought I had some system I was playing and casinos love players with systems.

I received more scrutiny in a casino near San Diego, however, when I was writing notes about the machines in the casino for an article for Strictly Slots. The guard asked to see my notepad.

Regardless of the racino's reasons, there's no reason to note the paytable on a Class II video poker machine. Those machines do not deal from a fair deck -- or any deck, for that matter. Their results are determined by the bingo drawing occuring on the central server.

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