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Ask the Slot Expert: More on Video Poker Dealing

17 September 2014

By John Robison, Slot Expert™

I read with interest your early September column about video poker dealing being changed from five cards with five "shadow" cards behind them -- and you got the card behind whichever card you threw away.

I am wondering if you left out one iteration of dealing before IGT (and others) got to the current system of the second five cards being randomly circulated by the RNG -- which changes your result based on the exact second you hit the draw button.

I distinctly remember reading in such gaming magazines as Casino Player and Strictly Slots over the years that such guru columnists as Bob Dancer and others state (in writing) that you got the next card off the top of the deck -- i.e., the sixth card regardless of which card you discarded. I remember it being a discussion of the cards being dealt in "parallel vs. serial."

I think it's high time that you gaming writers get definitive answers from each of the Video Poker Gaming companies and put it in writing in your columns, blogs and articles including the history of the development and reason for these changes -- as you partially discussed in your early September column.

I am a retired casino marketing director of 15 years and am fed up with the "smoke and mirrors" discussion of video poker dealing -- and also the fact that most slot employees including many Slot Directors -- do NOT know theses answers, as well.

Also, in a recent column you mentioned that sequential royals only count from left to right. I have been told by many slot employees at different casinos that they count either way. Why don't the slot machine companies just print this on the machine glass to clear this up -- it is not listed that way on any machines that I have played -- and provide casinos with signage to that effect.

Thanks for your interesting articles -- but time to get answers straight from the horses' mouths -- IGT, Bally's, Williams and others.

Still waiting for better VP paytables here in Wisconsin -- especially now that winter is coming again. They can't get any worse!

Thanks for the kind words about my articles.

I've covered the dealing of video poker hands a few times. You'll get four hits if you search for "parallel" in the search box on any of my article pages.

You're right that I did not include serial dealing in my answer. Because the author of the question specifically mentioned parallel dealing in the question and because the question was about choosing 10 cards on the draw versus five, I left out serial drawing because it wasn't really relevant to the answer.

The definitive answer on video poker dealing is this: The electronic deck is being continuously shuffled. Five cards are chosen at random when you hit the Deal button. The electronic deck is still being shuffled while you make your hold/discard decisions. The cards needed to replace any discards are chosen when you hit the Deal button. Nevada gaming regulations require this method of dealing.

My note about sequential royals only counting from left to right in my 8/27/14 column was in reference to the calculations I was providing from the Wizard of Odds. The calculations assume that the sequential royal has to be left to right.

Perhaps you're familiar with a different machine. On his site the Wizard wrote, "A 'sequential royal' is only one way, from 10 to ace going from left to right. There is another game called 'Reversible Royals', which goes both ways, however that game I have yet to analyze." I remember seeing Reversible Royals in Atlantic City many, many years ago, but I haven't seen a sequential royal machine in years.

There's one sure way to determine whether sequential royals can go in both directions -- check the paytable. Even if the answer is not on the glass, the paytable screens have to explicitly describe all the ways to win.

Finally, here's hoping you get better paytables. Unfortunately, I think the trend is distinctly down for video poker long-term paybacks.

Can casinos program their slot servers to pay different percentages according to the time of day, day of the week or time of the month? It seems to me playing random number generator slots that this is the case.

Also in Washington State they play a form of slot that uses a scratch ticket base. So every spin is actually using a scratch ticket. Do you have any information on how these work?

The Washington State Gambling Commission's website ( to have a very good description of how the machines in the state work, but the page was removed a year or so ago. In any case, you're correct. The result of a spin in Washington State is determined by a central computer. When you hit the Spin button, the central computer conceptually chooses a scratch-off ticket from the pool of electronic tickets remaining and uses its electronic quarter to scratch-off the coating to reveal your result. The central system then sends the results to your machine. When the central computer runs out of tickets in the pool, it unwraps a new packet of tickets and starts over.

According to a FAQ sheet on the Washington Recreational Gaming Association's website, "In principle, there is no difference between sitting at a slot-style machine and repeatedly buying scratch tickets at a convenience store counter...."

Why do tribes in Washington and other states have to forego relatively simple RNG-based machines (Class III) and go through the machinations of Class II, in which a central system imitates a bingo drawing or scrach-off ticket pool? Because politicians wrote the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Native American tribes can offer bingo and scratch-off tickets and other Class II games if those games are permitted by their states for any purpose. To offer Class III gaming, tribes must negotiate a compact with its state. According to the Wikipedia page for the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, restricting the tribes from offering Class III gaming was a compromise resulting from concerns about casino-style gaming. As if gambling on a bingo drawing is somehow purer than gambling on a Las Vegas-style slot machine.

Actually, the concern wasn't for purity of the players, but for crime. States were concerned that all the cash flowing back-and-forth in casino-style gambling would attract criminals, so they wanted stricter regulations on those games.

With one exception, it doesn't matter whether your 92% long-term payback machine has an RNG or gets its results from a central system. The long-term payback is the same with either method.

The one exception is video poker. Because a central system has already determined the result of your play, strategy is useless on a Class II video poker machine.

To answer your first question, regulations require that the RNG be completely free from any outside influence, so it can't be influenced by time. The RNG, moreover, has nothing to do with determine the payback percentage. The RNG just chooses results randomly from a pool of possible results. The pool of possible results created by the layout of the symbols on the reels determines the payback percentage of the machine.

Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert™, at Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't reply to every question.

Copyright © John Robison. Slot Expert and Ask the Slot Expert are trademarks of John Robison.


Ask the Slot Expert: Two People, One Slot Club Account

10 September 2014
I occasionally play at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Tampa, Florida. Can you tell me what kind of slot machines they have there? Are they Class II or Class III? Also is the video poker a random play or are they Class II? The Seminole tribe has a compact with the state of Florida, so the Seminole Hard Rock can offer Class III machines. ... (read more)

Ask the Slot Expert: How Video Poker Machines Deal

3 September 2014
On the IGT video poker machines I play in Atlantic City, they used to deal you 10 cards, five you could see and five cards behind them (I've heard them called shadow cards). Now they deal you five cards on the initial hand, and the next five are continuously being shuffled by the RNG. I've talked to some players that say it doesn't matter how they're dealt. ... (read more)

Ask the Slot Expert: Sequential Royal Video Poker

27 August 2014
I am currently in Cripple Creek Colorado. I was in Johnny Nolon's Casino a few hours ago. They had a 25-cent video poker machine that had a payout for a sequential royal. The current value for the sequential royal was $12,994.57. I looked at the pay table but I didn't write it down so I am not sure what the percentage was. ... (read more)

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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