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Best of John Robison

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9/6 Jacks or Better machines that pay only 2,500 for a royal

6 April 2009

John,

I just got back from Harrah's Tunica. My wife and I have both been diamond players at Harrah's properties for at least 5 years. We both play video poker mixed in with some slots and I also play Texas Hold'em.

I was playing a $1 full-pay Jacks or Better machine and hit a royal flush. The machine asked if I wanted to double the bet and I said no. I told my wife that was great, I had won $4,000. She looked at the machine and said "what kind of kinky game are you playing?" Then I realized the machine had jackpot $2,500.

I could not believe my eyes. I have played hundreds of machines at 8 or so Harrah's properties and never seen a machine with only $2,500 payout on video poker. I was very upset but to make a long story short they refused to pay me $4,000. This was almost a three-hour ordeal and ruined my trip. There were only three machines with a $2,500 payout, the other five games on these machines were 4,000 credit payout!

A young tech told me after looking inside the other two machines that they knew who programmed the machines wrong and that "he knew Harrah's would do the right thing and pay me." When the Harrah's supervisor came and I told him what the tech had said, he lied. I had been playing three other machines directly across the isle that were 9/6 full-pay machines and they paid 4,000 credits. The Mississippi gaming commission rep came out and gave me a report to fill out to send back to them.

Do you know of anything I can do? I have played hundreds of machines at Harrah's and thousands and thousands of games. I don't look at the jackpot payout on each because they have always been at least 4,000 unless of course a progressive that is more. Please respond as I feel they have stolen $1,500 from me.

Thanks,
Johnny

Dear Johnny,

You weren't playing a full-pay machine. As you discovered, you really have to check every line on the pay table to ensure you have a full-pay machine. We Jacks or Better players have had it easy because slot manufacturers didn't monkey around with our pay tables the same way they monkeyed around with those on all the varieties of Bonus and Deuces Wild machines. We only had to look at the full house and flush payouts to ensure we had a full-pay machine. Now that these 2,500-coin royal machines are showing up on casino floors, we have to check every line on the payout table too.

Dropping the payout on the royal flush from 4,000 coins to 2,500 coins lowers the long-term payback with perfect play from 99.9% to 98.9%. That's less of a drop than you get with 8/5 Jacks or Better, which has a long-term payback of 97.2%. It's also less likely to affect you because you only get shortchanged when you hit the royal, which doesn't happen frequently, not every time you hit a full house or flush, which does happen frequently.

Nevertheless, this is a sneaky way for casinos to lower their video poker paybacks. It preys on the uninformed players who don't know they really have to check every line on the pay table and not just the full house and flush lines.

Years ago, Caesars Palace had a video poker area with 9/6 and 8/5 Jacks or Better machines intermingled. I would see people playing the 8/5 machines even though there was a 9/6 machine nearby, if not even right next to them.

There's nothing you can do this time. There were no errors in the pay table, the machine was configured properly and the machine operated properly.

Next time, though, look at the entire pay table to ensure you have a full-pay machine.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


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

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