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Are Las Vegas's video poker machines random?

17 August 2011

John,

We live in Las Vegas and play the video poker machines off-strip. I've read that the machines randomly deal the cards, but do random number chips enter into the mix or is the deal/draw truly random? Seems like some machines keep dealing losers, and then I move to another that seems clearly more "friendly" at dealing winning hands -- sometimes winning boils down to finding the "right" machine. Or am I fooling myself; it's really all in the random draw/luck?

I read that the machines are programmed to pay out a certain percentage of coins in, and if that is the case, it seems like the number of winning hands would follow?

Put another way, and payout tables aside, are the chances of, say, being dealt four aces on any given hand the same from machine to machine, or for that matter one game to another (Jacks or Better or Bonus Poker)?

Mark

Dear Mark,

The cards you are dealt on the video poker machines in Las Vegas are dealt completely at random. The random number generators in the machines are used to randomly select the cards.

You're not fooling yourself. Machines do go through hot and cold streaks, but those streaks are just a consequence of randomness. It is all in the random draw, but you have nothing to lose by switching from one machine to another with the same paytable. The odds are the same on each machine.

The two things that affect the long-term payback on a video poker machine are the machine's paytable, which determines the maximum long-term payback possible, and the player's strategy, which determines the maximum long-tern payback the player can achieve. The number of winning hands players get is a result of their luck and their strategies.

The cards are dealt at random without regard for the paytable. Your chances of being dealt four aces -- or any hand -- are the same on every machine. The cards must be dealt from a fair deck.

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