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Ask the Slot Expert: Do you switch video poker machines when your machine goes cold?

10 March 2021

In a past column, I asked whether you tend to play one machine or bounce around from machine to machine when playing video poker.

I intentionally excluded behavior when playing slots. Slot players more frequently switch games when a machine goes cold. In addition, most slot players have a list of machines they want to play and don't plan to play just one game on a casino visit.

I usually have a short dance card filled out when I plan to spend some time playing slots. I've played a little bit on the latest Game of Thrones machine, then maybe took a stab at a new machine I hadn't tried before, and then finished up playing a Quick Hit machine, an old favorite. I rarely play just one machine, just one game when I play slots.

Video poker is another matter. I may try a gimmick game for low (and sometimes not so low) stakes for fun from time to time, but when I'm playing for points to maintain my tier status, I stick with the best game available in the casino, which is usually NSU Deuces.

An experience I had while playing a while ago prompted my question about whether you settle in at one machine or hunt for one that is being generous. I was playing with a couple I hadn't seen for a while. This occurred pre-Covid, when they would split their time between their home on the east coast and their home in Las Vegas.

He was having a horrible time playing NSU. Just could not hit anything. He kept switching from machine to machine, searching for one that would deal him some good hands.

I was playing next to his wife. After he switched machines for the second time, she asked me if I switch video poker machines when the one I'm playing turns cold.

I said, "What's the point?" The machine I'm playing is just as likely to deal me some good hands as the one next to it or some rando machine in another aisle.

Cold streaks are part of video poker. When a machine goes cold, instead of switching, I play through the cold streak. I'm going to show the machine who's boss. It can't keep being this stingy, right? (Spoiler alert: It can.)

Ironically, the machine-hopping husband is a brilliant statistician and knows full well that switching machines does not affect his odds one iota. But switching makes him feel better and, more importantly, does no harm.

This outing was so bad for the couple that they went through their session stake quickly. He said that he felt like a tourist feeding a machine with the small bills he had for spending money in his wallet. He also had to drop down in denomination to be able to keep playing.

Another friend was with us that day. She said that she understood why they had to drop down in denomination, but pointed out that a reasonable run of good luck at the higher denomination would have recouped most of their losses and it was going to take an extraordinary run of good luck at the lower denomination to get them to the same point.

It all comes down to bankroll and ensuring you have enough money for the length of time you want to play. In this case, we were all going out for dinner afterwards, so the couple couldn't just call it a day when their initial bankroll ran dry. We still had a couple of hours before the buffet opened for dinner, so they had to fill the time.

Determining your bankroll is like winterizing power plants in Texas. Do you prepare for the average loss and the average low temperature? If so, a slightly colder machine or temperature might drain your wallet or disrupt your power. Prepare for an infrequent, but not unheard of, low? That will keep you in the game longer. Or prepare for a near worst-case scenario? Then it will take a truly extraordinary situation to knock you out of the game.

I used to bankroll near the middle option. Enough to see me through a typical losing streak, but not so much that I didn't run out of money on rare occasions. Now that I'm playing in fewer casinos, visiting them more often, and playing shorter sessions, may bankrolling is more towards the first option. If I'm doing well on what I brought, I can keep playing. If the machine isn't kind to me, that's okay. There's always next time.


A new question: Do you play until you run out of money or do you cash out before you run out?


Speaking of power in Texas, what do you think about the people who got socked with huge electricity bills?

Isn't the price of electricity after the storm a classic example of Economics 101, supply and demand? Demand is high, supply is limited, price goes up.

And didn't the people who participated in the plans that tied their electric rates to the wholesale price bet that the price of electricity would stay low? And it did until they lost that bet big time.

I've never taken an Adjustable Rate Mortgage. By the time I started applying for mortgages, there were enough horror stories of people who had it good for years, but then found they could no longer afford their homes because the interest had gotten so high. I'd rather pay a little more in interest each month to have a fixed interest rate for the life of the loan.

I'm not saying that nothing should be done for the folks with the higher-than-sky-high electric bills. I don't think they got an alert after flipping on a light switch that it was going to cost $10 per minute to keep that light on. They were not able to make an informed decision about whether it was worth the cost of using the electricity they had available.

I'm just saying that they made a bet and the dice went cold as the snow and the temperature fell.

And consider this: What is the government going to do for the people who paid the higher, fixed rate to ensure that they never had surprise bills?


Here are the latest figures from https://www.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#cases_totalcases.

Totals Weekly Increases
US NV US NV
Date Cases  Deaths  Cases  Deaths  Cases  Deaths  Cases  Deaths 
 03/09   28,937,762   524,695   296,393   5,040   480,902   11,573   2,413   83 
 03/02   28,456,860   513,122   293,980   4,957   463,356   14,129   2,835   75 
 02/23   27,993,504   498,993   291,145   4,882   451,083   13,923   2,406   162 
 02/16   27,542,421   485,070   288,739   4,720   602,906   21,411   4,149   198 
 02/09   26,939,515   463,659   284,590   4,522   779,305   21,828   5,444   244 
 02/02   26,160,210   441,831   279,146   4,278   1,007,777   22,004   7,249   249 
 01/26   25,152,433   419,827   271,897   4,029   1,312,565   23,385   10,324   250 
 01/19   23,839,868   396,442   261,573   3,779   1,317,119   21,318   11,324   279 
 01/12   22,522,749   375,124   250,249   3,500   1,790,345   22,660   17,217   294 
 01/05    20,732,404   352,464   233,032   3,206   1,499,561   18,435   14,655   233 
 12/29   19,232,843   334,029   218,377   2,973   1,258,540   15,460   12,493   186 
 12/22   17,974,303   318,569   205,884   2,787   1,656,411   18,537   16,472   239 
 12/15   16,317,892   300,032   189,412   2,548   1,494,763   17,247   18,825   229 
 12/08   14,823,129   282,785   170,587   2,319   1,375,502   15,483   18,418   175 
 12/01   13,447,627   267,302   152,169   2,144   1,114,175   10,286   15,942   121 
 11/24   12,333,452   257,016   136,227   2,023   1,197,199   10,784   14,130   106 
 11/17   11,136,253   246,232   122,097   1,917   1,099,790   8,501   11,115   65 
 11/10   10,036,463   237,731   110,982   1,852   767,645   6,838   8,868   68 
 11/03   9,268,818   230,893   102,114   1,784   588,207   5,809   5,936   35 
 10/27   8,680,611   225,084   96,178   1,749   492,026   5,585   5,238   (10) 
 10/20   8,188,585   219,499   90,940   1,759   401,037   5,053   4,501   48 
 10/13   7,787,548   214,446   86,439   1,711   351,270   4,886   3,910   48 
 10/06   7,436,278   209,560   82,529   1,663   306,965   4,962   3,232   36 
 09/29   7,129,313   204,598   79,297   1,627   303,616   5,136   3,058   54 
 09/22   6,825,697   199,462   76,239   1,573   288,070   5,370   2,196   82 
 09/15   6,537,627   194,092   72,043   1,491   250,265   5,404   1,825   65 
 09/08   6,287,362   188,688   72,218   1,426   282,919   5,638   2,734   92 
 09/01   6,004,443   183,050   69,484   1,334   251,790   5,291   3,237   104 
 08/25   5,752,653   177,759   66,247   1,230   330,411   7,889   4,076   125 
 08/18   5,422,242   169,870   62,171   1,105   358,071   7,463   4,973   114 
 08/11   5,064,171   162,407   57,198   991   365,353   7,203   5,776   117 
 08/04   4,698,818   155,204   51,422   874   418,683   7,532   7,367   109 
 07/28   4,280,135   147,672   44,055   764   460,996   7,042   7,130   91 
 07/21   3,819,139  140,630  36,195  674  463,682  5,395  8,181  57 
 07/14   3,355,457   135,235   28,744   617   422,861   5,102   5,607   57 
 07/07   2,932,596   130,133   23,137   560   351,367   3,394   5,006   24 
 06/30   2,581,229   126,739   18,131   536   278,941   6,406   4,367   26 
 06/23   2,302,288   120,333   13,764   510 
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